WCB: Gatekeeper to Dignity

For 20 or so years I’ve heard only one good story of someone’s WCB experience. Last week a friend told me his brother, injured on the job and now a paraplegic, had received a great deal of help from the WCB. I’m sure more good stories exist, but in general, the WCB has a lousy reputation.

Patrick Clayton’s recent trial for his hostage-taking of WCB workers has seemingly put its administrative operations into a softer, more vulnerable light. Unfortunately the trial failed to address the real issue that drove him to take such drastic action.

The WCB operates from the premise that injured workers try to screw the system by overstating their injuries, exaggerating their recovery time, and claiming financial support for things to which they are not entitled. The result of this adversarial approach can hardly be anything but abusive to honest people who are most vulnerable.

I have watched a close acquaintance of mine, injured in 2008, deteriorate from a strong, active, outdoor Alberta man, to one who can’t walk without a cane. What makes it most difficult, however, is the constant fear he lives with that stems from his dealings with the WCB.

He has learned that any disagreement with decisions or logic will be met with a threat that his money will get cut off. So the best way to proceed is to nod his head in agreement – even when he knows what they are doing may cause him further grief.

Alberta’s WCB has a stated goal to return injured workers to work. What they don’t say is that the opinion of WCB doctors supersedes the diagnosis of independent doctors and other specialists outside the WCB. So the WCB can say you’re ready to go back to work, when outside specialists say you are not. This is an inherent conflict of interest and so it makes sense when some workers, including my friend, claim the WCB pushed their rehabilitation so hard that they actually aggravated their injury.

My friend has told me that after being further injured as a result of his WCB driven rehabilitation, he learned that it is within his rights to acquire a copy of all documents about his case, but the WCB will not offer this information to him unless he fights for it. Yet how many people who live under the threat of having their financial support taken away will stand up to this? Perhaps if more lawyers got injured on the job then the WCB would treat their clients more fairly!

As part of my friend’s aggressive back-to-work program, he’s required to apply for 15-25 jobs weekly in a town of less than 25,000 people. It doesn’t matter that there are no jobs that fit his ability. His task is to pester businesses with multiple resumes. This black and white obsessive policy, he claims, was demonstrated when astonishingly, his  job-developer demanded he give her his personal email address and password. As if this pushy breach of privacy wasn’t enough, she then proceeded to apply for a job on his behalf. She submitted his resume knowing it had incorrect information, using his email, signing his name, all without telling him. When confronted, she dismissed his concerns. Fearing being cut off financially, he dropped the matter.

So at what point do we take off our blinders and consider the possibility that the multiple complaints we hear from regular people we consider trustworthy are actually true? We cannot assume that just because a place is run by policy, that wrong things don’t happen.

The WCB system is fueled by an interlocking and flawed combination of three forces: money, control and secrecy. Although it presents itself as a system of rehabilitation, it is actually a self-serving, powerful, monopolistic organization that is seemingly untouchable, even by the Ombudsman who can speak to the matter but has no power to act. For vulnerable workers subject to its control, it is an unjust intimidator.

The time has long passed for the WCB to be dismantled and replaced by something that works and for victims’ stories to be validated. For the sake of the hard working honest members of our society, would someone please stand up to this bully.

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10 thoughts on “WCB: Gatekeeper to Dignity

  1. One has to remember that the WCB is simply another government insurance agent. How many insurance agencies let you call the shots, or allow outsiders to suggest to them how they should manage the claim? WCB is no different.

    On the other hand, maybe if there were fewer people trying to take advantage of the system, maybe WCB would start to act in a manner that is more sympathetic to the injured worker and less suspicious.

  2. I disagree with the above post. I believe that when WCB knows someone may not be able too return too work, they suggest multiple pain narcotics and try too keep people as stoned out of it as possible so they just go along with what WCB says. WCB needs too have a heart and I wish some of thier own would be get as injured as others have in Alberta, if that happened would they deny their own claim? I bet 95% of injured people would love too be out of pain and go back too work as quickly and normally as possible! WCB is famous for out and out lying about MRI results and let thier Drs look at you for 10 mins and base a decision on that whether you able too go back too work. Its not fair. They leave you with an injury so long, that long term health issues arise, they work you so hard at thier so called rehabilitaion centre, they injure people worse than when they come in. No amount of money can make a person not feel pain, it doesnt matter, if you are in constant pain, how much money you have sitting in the bank. Who Cares about the money? All most injured workers want is too be able too pay the bills when they are off work, and when we cant, the stress causes even more pain!!! They need too focus on fixing the injuries, and not second geuss so many of thier “clients”. They try and convince you that your pain is in your head, well if that were the case, give us a tylenol and our headache would go away!!! The pain is in a body part, they dont recognize or know how too grade a persons pain tolerance. Well geuss what?? Isnt pain the bodies defense mechanism too tell you something is wrong? Most people are lucky enough too work thier whole life and never file a claim. These case workers act like every dime is coming out of thier own bank account or off thier own pay checque at the end of the month. We only want too make ends meat, get out of pain, and get back too work, no more, no less!!! I believe that most people that file a claim are not looking too get rich quick, or be off work for life with a pay checque. How boring a life do they seriously think we want too lead?? Something needs too be done about WCB. If you have medical evidence stating you have an injury, why the heck are they so quick too deny coverage for everything? Its sickening and my heart goes out too those who are hurting daily and getting nothing done about it!!!

  3. Oh my ! How dare someone try and help someone get back to work. I am so tired of all the ridiculous posts about wcb and how they push people to go back to work. As a single mother who has had rheumatoid arthritis since the age of 20 I understand pain and I choose to live a productive life and maintain a job and support my family. Pain is subjective if its affecting your life then there are many things out there other than drugs or whining about how unfair it is. How would wcb be doing anyone any favours by allowing everyone to just sit at home feeling sorry for themselves? I love the story about my friend who was screwed over by the bullies… Do you really think your friend told you the whole story or have you actually taken the time to look at the entire picture. I mean it’s not as if people exaggerate to have people see their point of view…. Just another point of view.

  4. Thanks, Betty.
    While your story is compelling, your experience is not universal. I am happy that you have risen above adversity to overcome your difficulties. You seem to gain strength from it.
    I caution you, however, in making the assumption that because you were able to do it, you are now qualified to judge strangers’ ability to do so. It’s also rather absurd that you suggest I don’t know my friend well enough to determine if he’s lying or not. Dear Betty, your accusation is arrogant and misinformed. Trust me. He’s not lying. Trust me, there are many stories out there of people who are authentically trying to do their best but are working against a mammoth opponent. Trust me. Although your journey is inspiring, it is not equal and identical to everyone else.
    As I mentioned, I genuinely respect your ability to manage what must be a very difficult situation.
    But other people’s situations have just as much validity as yours, and I will not be silent just in case I offend someone.
    Best regards,

  5. Betty having rheumatiod arthritis and having a work related injury is like comparing apples to oranges. Yes you may feel pain, but you have no idea what its like to be in constant pain, when you want nothing more but to go back to work just to be able to pay the bills. Be under constant survelliance, under the scrunity of WCB. How many phone calls do you get in a month asking you or even trying to prove that you are lying about your arthritis. Have you ever had a case manager tell you that she could have the same pain as you and probably not even feel it? Have you ever gone to a rehabilitation program whether you wanted to or not, just to be injured worse, so that you need 2 surgeries in under 6 months? Or have a WCB surgeon screw up your surgery, so that you need it all re-done, and no other surgeon will even look at you because he screwed you up so bad, so you have no option but to go back to the same guy and pray for the best!! I believe that 85% of people that have ever had dealings with WCB are left, or cut off, unhappy, and just do suck it up and go back to work. But there are some of us out there that cant do that! I did not ever intend to injure myself at work just so that I could get free money. And believe me with the hell the WCB puts you through, I hardly call it free! Yes I am sure the odd person has ruined it for the rest of us that are honest by taking advantage of the system, but that happens with every single program out there, and I am resentful that I am the one that is suffering because of those people. I have worked since I was 14 years old, and planned to until I retire. Maybe WCB should check into a persons track record and see how much someone worked. I loved my job and am now being told that at 40 years old I have to reconsider my career. I may even have to go back to school for some training. Not only has WCB set me back about 2 years financially in my home life, but as well what about my retirement fund etc? Even my personal life has suffered, as well as my overall physical health, not only from not being able to get around like I would have normally done, but the emotional stress as well. Some one that has never dealt with these people has absolutely no idea what any of us go through day to day, and has no right to judge us in any way, shape or form. Its sure opened my eyes, and Im sure alot of people feel the same way I do!!

  6. Don’t try to walk in someones shoes until you have experienced the HELL that WCB puts you thru. I am 64 yrs. old and homeless thanks to the crooks at WCB and there lies and phony doctors, the bullying, the threats, the mis- info put in a injured persons file, words twisted, injuries down play to make yoy look like some freakin criminal, because you GOT INJURED!!!!!!

  7. WCB is as corrupt as it gets. They pay doctors to lie! The appeal process is a sham! They alter documents and conveniently shred legal documents and records. Only WCB paid doctors are accepted as opinions! Opinions that are directly contrary to substantiated international Medical Knowledge and Medical norms of practice and understanding! Substantiated medical studies are not accepted by review panels. So only paid unscrupulous medical opinions are accepted. Blatantly obvious work related injuries are denied because WCB and appeal processes do not accept medical standards of knowledge! They make up their own ideas of medical terminology and knowledge. Paid for by your local Government. WCB can be sued and any government official that ignores clear common sense knowledge. This is deemed as abuse of a position and can be deemed as professional negligence!
    Life long disabilities are deemed healable. Clear medical evidence is interpreted falsely always in favor of WCB.
    Innocent people with no way to work or make money are left with out any help after sustaining significant work related injuries. These people are vulnerable and the wolves at WCB deny their claims nearly 100% of the time. It is left as the severely injured workers responsibility to fight for benefits using an appeal process that is corrupt and is essentially a division of WCB paid for by the Gov. Nearly all appeal cases are ruled in favor of WCB.
    When the employer files for cost relief because an injured worker clearly had a pre existing condition the WCB appeals panel rules in favor of WCB. When an injured worker claims for an injury but it is deemed that they had a pre existing injury their claim is denied. Seems very contradictory because it is.
    The only time WCB accepts injury claims is when they are very recoverable ex; Broken limb or strained muscle. Serious and debilitating injuries are always denied or deemed to be non serious and the worker is require to return to work. ex; worker with spinal damage (herniated disc, s) are deemed fit for work after 6 weeks physio. They are deemed to have been given the tools to cope with this condition and required to return to work defiantly ignoring Medical understanding that such an injury is degenerative and will always progressively worsen and that any physical activities will aggravate and cause further degeneration of the injury. The injured worker is now taking so many pain killers that they are intellectually incapable of working. Yet they are deemed fit for work!
    Panel members are paid by the provincial GOV. to come to these conclusions.

    WCB is a corrupt organization guilty of Fraud on every level!

    Rheumatoid Arthritis! Seriously ??? LOL Sounds like someone who works for WCB.
    Every injured worker who sustains a serious injury will in addition to their injury acquire Arthritis in one form or another as a result of their injuries. There is a large and vastly huge difference between some arthritis pain and not being able to physically move due to injuries sustained at work. The inability to unction as a human with dignity. The inability to wear clothes because they trigger muscle spasms!

    Rheumatoid Arthritis LOL Get a life Betty W. It is unwise to talk about things that you have no real knowledge of.
    ” It is better to be thought a fool than to open ones mouth and remove all doubt”

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