Tuesday December 11, 2018
Saturday, 09 June 2018 06:54

Burns victim Roger McKernan in battle with ACC

Roger McKernan with his daughter. McKernan, living in Christchurch, is in a battle with ACC Roger McKernan with his daughter. McKernan, living in Christchurch, is in a battle with ACC STACY SQUIRES/STUFF

Burns victim Roger McKernan says he is being screwed over by ACC because he suffered his injuries when he was a child.

He now wants a law change so others do not go through the same stress.

ACC has agreed to review his case.

Burns victim Roger McKernan has overcome tough times to turn his life around, but now he is in a battle of a different sort. Photo: STACY SQUIRES/STUFF

McKernan was just 13 when he received horrific burns to his face, neck and hands in a go-karting accident in Invercargill in 2002.

The 29-year-old still carries the scars of the accident and has endured about 50 scar release and reconstruction surgeries since.

He  endured some tough times after the surgery and made mistakes as a teen, serving a two-year prison sentence for a 2006 armed robbery of an Invercargill dairy, but now works as an asphalt maker and provides for his partner and two children in Christchurch.

In 2014 he had time off work to recover from a surgery related to his burns, and received 80 per cent of his income from ACC.

He was expecting the same after his latest five hour "scar release" surgery this month.

However, after the surgery, he got a shock to learn from ACC he would not be paid 80 per cent of his wages, which would have been about $850 a week, but would instead get a much reduced loss of potential earnings payment of $427 a week after tax.

With weekly rental payments of $300 a week, there was just $127 left for food, power, heating and other costs for his young family.

He wanted 80 per cent of his earnings like other injured workers on ACC received, he said.

"I am a hard working man and I pay taxes and ACC levies like everyone else."

A Givealittle page was set up for McKernan by his friend to help his family through the next six weeks of no work and small earnings.

But McKernan indicated he would prefer moral support over money in a bid to push authorities into making a law change.

The ACC loss of potential earnings policy was not considered for people like him who required ongoing reconstructive surgery into adulthood, he said.

"This isn't right ... a government backed company is screwing me over.

"I am damn sure other people out there will be going through this as well."

He was concerned for the future, saying if he was earning $150,000 a year by the time he turned 45 and needed time off for more surgery, he would receive just the $427 a week loss of potential earnings payment, rather than 80 per cent of his earnings.

An ACC spokesman said they had a lot of sympathy for McKernan's situation.

"As a result we are having a detailed look at his claim to see if there are any options we have overlooked that would allow us to provide him with weekly compensation based on his current earnings.

"Unfortunately we will not have an outcome today."

ACC had this week written to McKernan saying when he was injured at age 13 he was classed as a non earner as he was not in paid employment.

As such, he met the criteria for the loss of potential earnings payments when he had subsequent surgery for his burns injuries, as he was employed at that time.

The loss of potential earnings entitlement was based on the minimum earner rate which was $504 before tax, the letter says.

ACC had "made a mistake" in 2014 by paying him 80 per cent of his then earnings.

However, ACC was providing a one off discretionary payment of $1000 to McKernan, to get his affairs in order for the next 10-12 weeks off work for his most recent surgery, the letter says.

McKernan said it was "roll over money".



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