Tuesday December 11, 2018
Thursday, 04 October 2018 10:54

Disabled Lower Hutt man has ACC compensation re-instated, avoids eviction

John McGough was facing eviction from his Pomare, Lower Hutt, flat as the papers piled up creating a fire hazard. With help the tetraplegic has started cleaning up and has dodged eviction. John McGough was facing eviction from his Pomare, Lower Hutt, flat as the papers piled up creating a fire hazard. With help the tetraplegic has started cleaning up and has dodged eviction.

A disabled man cut off from ACC payments for seven years has had his weekly compensation re-instated and avoided eviction from his bedsit. 

John McGough,49, of Lower Hutt, suffered spinal cord damage from a diving accident in 1996 and was dependent on ACC for income. 

The accident left him with a permanent limp, spasticity in his upper and lower limbs, and periodic pain and numbness in his arms and hands.

In 2011 the corporation cut off support for "non-compliance" when he would not attend a neuropsychiatrist appointment.

McGough wanted to ensure the doctor had received a full list of his medical records ahead of the appointment. 

He complained about basic errors in his ACC records, including an incorrect description of his disability, C4 incomplete tetraplegia.

When the information was not supplied he refused to attend the appointment and his payments ceased.

The case was reviewed, but ACC's decision was upheld.

Stress from the conflict caused further anxiety and depression for McGough.  

By July his home was out of control, swamped by piles of papers and household rubbish. McGough was told he had to leave by September 1.

Dunedin ACC barrister and researcher Warren Forster acted as an advocate for McGough and asked ACC to attend conciliation.

At the meeting ACC agreed to provide the information originally requested to the specialist and re-instate weekly compensation when McGough attended the appointment.

McGough agreed to attend the specialist appointment.

An ACC spokesman said the appointment was necessary to assess McGough's needs.

A specialist appointment was not available until late October and ACC agreed to re-instate the compensation immediately, backdated to July 11.

In addition ACC made an $8000 payment to help McGough fix his living situation.

Forster said he understood this was to be paid back in future, but did not expect ACC to enforce a repayment.

"I'm pretty confident ACC is going to work collaboratively from here and try to solve the problems."

McGough said he was extremely relieved.

With the help of friends he threw out "40 to 60 large black garbage bags" full of excess household items.

"I couldn't be a happier man that my floor is clean, my bed is free and I can sleep a lot better now."

He credited Forster with helping him negotiate with ACC and his landlord.

"Warren smashed into this situation to get an outcome."

But McGough was still bitter about the way ACC had treated him over the years.

"It was just the Groundhog Day from hell that would never resolve, and there was no way out of it."

McGough said he received an apology from a regional ACC manager, but considered this "an empty gesture".

He had no hope things would change in future and described ACC as an "evil and abusive" system. 

"I'm just psychologically haggard from the whole damn experience."

ACC declined to say if it would offer a formal apology and pay McGough for the unpaid weekly compensation since 2011. 

"We are continuing to work through the issues with Mr McGough and his advocate in a positive way, and at this point we don't want to say anything publicly about what has been agreed."

Forster, who has represented hundreds of ACC claimants, said cases of poor treatment like McGough's were common and staff needed to take a more problem-solving approach.

"It shouldn't need escalation to get lawyers involved before ACC does the right thing."

He said a culture change within ACC was badly needed, but there was little recognition of this "at a senior level".

"No-one has stood up and said these cases go to the heart of ACC's culture and need to be fixed."


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