I have been writing some blog posts about my experiences and what I have learnt from going through the whole process from being assessed and treated for my mental injury of post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD right through the review and court appeal hearing process for compensation.
In this blog post, I want to focus on the assessment itself. The process is biased right form the start, as Accident Compensation Corporation, ACC, chose the assessor and they spend millions each year on doctors and lawyers to avoid paying out claimants for more complex and potentially expensive injuries.
(Update: I didn't notice I kept saying the word 'process' until I read this out on my vlog. Repeating myself is one of the ways my disabilities affect me. I will leave this minimally edited as it takes a lot of time and energy for me to do tasks).
I have been through the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) process all the way to a District Court hearing. My case involved conflicting impairment assessments by psychiatrists for my mental injury of post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD (sensitive claims). I am writing some blog posts to process while I am in the process of archiving the files from a 2 year battle with ACC. Before, I go for round two. To be reassessed, yet again, even though I have little confidence in the process. Hopefully sharing some of my experiences will be helpful for others who are making a decision whether to go though this process. I will outline the process I went through, which may or may not be applicable to others.
The most frequent question I get when I talk about my experiences with Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) for my mental injury is 'What is ACC?' ACC has information about their history and what they do on their website. However, I want to provide a persective from someone who has been through the assessment and compensation process for mental injury. This blog post is a combination of my research plus my experiences.
People from overseas get ACC confused with a disability scheme they may have in their country. ACC is a Crown entity scheme in New Zealand to compensate for no-fault accidents and injuries that take place in New Zealand. So it does NOT cover pre-existing disablities or medical conditions that are not directly linked to an event resulting in injury.
My understanding of a Crown entity is that it is set up by the government but operates independently from other government functions. All earners in New Zealand are charged a compulsory levy, similar to a tax.
Mental injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from sexual abuse or sexual assault may be compensated for under the Accident Compensation Act 2001.
I have been speaking up about my experiences going through the compensation process for mental injury of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with Accident Compensation Corporation, ACC in New Zealand. Mostly on my vlog, Bipolar Courage.
Two psychiatrists assessed me and had completely different 'Whole Person Impairment' (WPI) percentages. Even if they were to be averaged, I would have still met threshold for compensation. The way things are done, legally, one report has to be chosen over the other. A third psychiatrist reviewed the two reports and chose ACC's one which had a pile of errors in it (so bad that I made a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner, who was next to useless, as they told me to deal directly with this psychiatrist).
I represented myself (even though I qualified for legal aid) and went all the way to the District Court. The Judge ruled against me. There are laws that protect the superpower of ACC, who are law experts themselves. I have also cut and pasted the relevant law used by the reviewer for the first hearing and the relevant law used by the judge for the re-hearing, so others doing this process can know what they are up against. A corrupt system, in my opinion. An abuse of power.
Below is a copy and paste of the relevant law section from the report for the independent reviewer when I disputed an impairment assessment. There were two conflicting impairment assessments done for purposes of lump sum compensation for mental injury of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This overlaps with what I cut and pasted from the relevant law section of the District Court report, which was a rehearing.
I expect this is pretty generic for such a case. I have reformatted it slightly for clarity.
I will also write a few blog posts about what this all meant for my case, in plain English. Hopefully, this will help others who decide to appeal against an ACC lump sum compensation decision. "The Act" is the Accident Compensation Act 2001. The first part makes reference to the Act. The rest is 'case law' (law estabilished from the outcome of former cases).
Below are copy and paste extracts from a court document from a District Court judge in New Zealand. It's from my lump sum compensation appeal hearing for mental injury (PTSD). It's pretty generic and most of the same parts were used for the relevant law for the independent review hearing stage. The first part is from the Accident Compensation Act 2001 and the rest is from previous cases ('case law').
In plain English, it means that an impairment assessment can only done by a doctor trained by ACC (using what some doctors say are outdated and biased assessment tools) and it is almost impossible to challenge it, as it's protected legally. My case involved two conflicting impairment assessment reports two psychiatrists, then a third psychiatrist acting as a peer reviewer chose the report that went against me.
I will write a few plain English blog posts about what was involved with my representing myself in an independent review hearing and then to a rehearing at the District Court. Hopefully, this will help others who are navigating this.
I have reformatted this copy-and-paste extract slightly for clarity.
Yummy Potato Salad
I had a few requests online for my potato salad recipe. Potato salad is versatile with many possible variations. I prefer potato salad cold with a creamy dressing. It tastes best after chilled in the fridge overnight, so all the flavours develop. Proportions are not exact, so adjust to suit your tastes. Can also be scaled up or down. Recipe below is for one medium to large serving bowl of potato salad, which can be served as a side dish with warm or cold sliced meat and salad, or eaten on its own.
It's something I make occasionally when I have the craving for it. It's quite relaxing chopping all the ingredients up, without a time pressure. Like a form of active meditation.
It's already 2 weeks into 2023. I'm not one to make New Year's Resolutions. I'm always a work-in-progress with short-term and longer-term projects to keep me busy. I haven't blogged on here for a while as I have mainly focused on vlogging but I want to move away from that. In this blog post, I will sum up some of the past year and also where I feel I'm headed. I don't make super long goals, as things are pretty unknown for me. I switch from one activity to another, all headed in the same general direction.
Art as therapy demonstration
I finally got around to editing some videos where I improvised painting Flossie Fluff in October 2020. To make one video with some of the main points. I paint when I feel the need to and paint abstracts when I feel like I need to shift something (often start off feeling shutdown, down, burdened) and during the process, with the music, go temporarily elevated.
My current main diagnoses are bipolar disorder (type 1) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Movement to music helps me to process and move on when triggered (I tend to freeze and shutdown and dissociate when triggered). Music also eases the pain and helps me to let go of the painful emotions, plus claim back the good memories.
Depression in the workplace
When tidying some things, I found an undated essay I wrote around 2009. I was diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression and generalised anxiety disorder and fibromyalgia at the time. Now diagnosed bipolar 1 disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and coeliac disease. Although the generalised anxiety and fibromyalgia diagnoses are still current.
Also, now divorced. The essay was called 'Struggling to Find My Niche' (retyped below unedited, other than changing to indented paragraphs, plus read on video). I have self-published two books since.
Xanthe finds creative expression including writing and painting to be therapeutic and helps her to manage her diagnoses of bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).