A couple of days ago I chatted with a lovely person via our Facebook page, who stated that Comcare is even worse than WorkCover and that they outright defraud their ‘clients’ (injured workers). After investigating the matter a little closer, we did find out that for example, last year, the Federal Court found that Comcare, had breached the relevant legislation in trying to short change workers on their 10% permanent impairment payouts!
Comcare is blatantly cheating injured workers
For those unfamiliar with Comcare, Comcare is the Federal Government equivalent of WorkSafe in Victoria, and is the fund under which all Commonwealth public servants and the workers of some large national companies are covered for workplace injury.
In 2006, the Howard Government tried to falsify the guidelines under which lump sum compensation payments could be awarded to injured workers, in particular those suffering from musculo-skeletal injuries.
Comcare scheme: how it works
Injured workers who are covered by the Comcare scheme are, like WorkCover workers, entitled to a lump sum payment as long as their injury has resulted in permanent impairment of 10% or more. This is the 10% impairment threshold. (In Victoria, the impairment threshold for injured workers under WorkCover/WorkSafe Vic is 5% for certain injuries).
This basically means that an injured worker who has been assessed as having a total body impairment rating of 10% (which is massive) would be entitled to a meager little lump sum of between $25 and $35,000. This is a one-off payment for the injured worker’s rest of his/her life! In addition to this “lump sum” (if an injured worker meets the whopping 10% threshold that is) weekly payments and medical expenses are also usually (read USUALLY) paid for.
However, as stated earlier, in 2006 the Howard Government, desperate to save money, introduced a new Comcare guide to assess the level of injured workers’ total impairment. Needless to say that the “new” guide was developed and introduced for the sole purpose of reducing the cost to the Government (and employers) for impairment claims, and in particular for the most frequent of injury claims, namely those for musculo-skeletal injuries. How convenient – not!
The Howard Government, however, made its move sneakily because they knew that it would be not very (politically) correct nor popular to simply raise the threshold on all impairment levels so that injured workers on a permanent 10% impairment would basically lose their compensation. So what they did instead was to make Comcare shift the impairment threshold by stealth as it were – the new guidelines were introduced which now included tables under which doctors (impairment assessors) were in fact prevented from assessing injured workers with a permanent impairment between 8% and 13% – how fully SICK!
What this really means is that the Government made it look that the legislation makes an employer (Comcare) pay a meager lump sum to any worker who has sustained a permanent impairment of 10%, but in reality the new Comcare guidelines really prevent doctors from making an assessment at that level.
Thanks God, the clever Federal Court OVERRULED the new Comcare guideline. In the matter of Comcare -v- Broadhurst  the Court determined that the Guide was invalid to the extent that it did not provide for a 10% impairment value.
Also see Comcare v Broadhurst  FCAFC 39
It appears however that there is still no sign of the new amended Guide, nor a new announcement of its release date!
While the Court did allow that injured workers could be assessed in the interim under another existing guideline, namely the AMA Guide to Permanent Impairment 5th Ed, this Guide -although “better” than WorkSafe Victoria’s ancient and primitive AMA guide 4th edition- is certainly not as “generous” in its assessment criteria.
Unless we have somehow missed the “new guideline” (we can’t find it anywhere – can you?) we believe that it may be in the best interest of injured workers, covered by Comcare, to sit tight and wait until the new guidelines are out before proceeding with their claim so that they can fairly (there’s nothing “fair” but any way, let’s say “fairer”) compensated for their terrible injuries.