Injured Worker Support Websites

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There was an unexpected outcome from my last post about Medical Panels. There were comments about whether a particular injured worker support site really represented injured workers and achieved the goal of empowerment for injured workers.

On the one hand it was argued that such sites provide practical useful information to workers to help them understand and negotiate the system, while on the other the argument has been put forward that such sites do more harm than good. Concerns have been expressed that sites can spread misinformation and conspiracy theories and contribute to ‘victim behaviour’.

An almost universal feature of our compensation systems is ‘loss of control’. Any reasonable action that returns a degree of control to injured workers would be expected to be helpful to deal with an injury and the associated stress.

The focus of the Insult & Injury website is to provide a medical perspective on the effects of our compensation system on recovery from injury. The intended audience includes injured workers, doctors and other participants in the compensation systems, but most important of all those organisations and people who design and control the system.

I believe that change is needed at a system level, hence my focus on topics such as improving IME assessment processes, promotion of Medical Panels, improving impairment assessment processes and encouraging support for research relevant to workers compensation.

Personally I am unsure about the best approach to empowering injured workers. Support websites almost certainly have a role, but I am interested in opinions about how they might work best. Better still research evidence about what works best, if there is any!

I hope this provides a forum for constructive discussion.

COMMENTS PLEASE!!

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About Tasworkdoc

As an occupational physician in private medical practice in Hobart, Tasmania - the southernmost state of Australia, I see workers referred by their general practitioners with various types of work-related injuries and diseases. These are mostly musculoskeletal injuries, both of traumatic and gradual onset as well as various associated psychological disorders. With interaction with patients for treatment and providing advice about rehabilitation, I have the opportunity, first-hand, to observe interactions between individual patients and compensation systems. I also conduct independent medical assessments, including impairment assessments for musculoskeletal injuries and asbestos-related disease compensation. This provides another perspective of workers within compensation systems.
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13 Responses to Injured Worker Support Websites

  1. Woowoo says:

    One is not obligated to read the messages, nor participate in aworkcovervictim site. Those that do are able to read others posts on how they have been treated by various medico’s and case workers and everyone else inbetween… Everyone needs an outlet, I’ve had a whinge, have helped others. At times its my one bit of sanity, being able to see its not just happening to me.
    My musculoskeletal specialist requested a treatment back in January, it took some 3 months for a rejection and a further 3 months to get to conciliation, only for the insurer to back track and approve the treatment one day prior to actually getting to conciliation. I have meanwhile, lost 2 jobs and all the good will/faith I had built up. So while not everyone may have a bad experience, many do.

  2. Mark says:

    Support groups can be an effective tool for the empowerment of individuals who share common issues and are challenged by similar life situations whom by coming together, people can provide mutual support and take the steps necessary to make positive changes in their lives. Support groups can also become banks of knowledge and experience, enabling people to cope and solve problems. Feelings of self worth are increased, isolation is reduced and doors of opportunity and optimism are opened.

    I think proper support groups websites certainly have a role in empowering injured workers but I would not put most of these existing websites in the category of a support group, well not a positive way anyway. These groups are negative and gloomy in tone, and reinforcing in their sense of victimhood.

    The workcovervictim website I don’t think is at all healthy and would put it in the harmful category, it’s very toxic and seems to have a dark side to it. Much of what goes on in many of these website groups is a festival of complaint, kind of pity-party. They are in fact very disempowering because of their negativity and their victimhood, conspiracy theory, persecution based focus.

    The claim was made that these website empower injured workers. However, they seem to confuse reinforcement for empowerment. Empowerment is a process that challenges our assumptions about the way things are and can be, to help people gain control over their own lives.

    Most of us find it very validating to share our troubles and receive empathy and understanding. The need to be seen, heard, and understood is what drives us to talk about our struggles, but the activity of sharing our complaints with the group serves to bolster our identification with and attachment to the very things about which we feel compelled to complain. And it increases our identification with and attachment to being a member of a group of ‘victimised’ injured workers.

    And it also worries me that these websites are not representative of a broad range of injured workers but are in fact a magnet for the die-hards, the drama queens and the disgruntled at the extreme end of the spectrum, as often is the case with social media sites, and there purpose seems to become more about likeminded people getting together seeking validation, and thus reinforcement, of their existing sense of victimhood and unhealthy ways of thinking. The website are not about learning or growing or skill building but reinforcement of existing unhealthy ways of thinking and mindsets. Support groups that are healthy empathise with each other’s feelings rather than with the facts about their situations.

    I don’t think websites run by injured workers who are entrenched in their own sick roles or victim roles themselves, will ever be healthy or empowering to other injured workers; its like leaving the lunatics to run the asylum and wondering why no one is getting any better. However, these seem to be the very people who tend to set up these websites and facebook groups.

    Without an appropriately skilled person facilitating or moderating these support websites and focusing its members on positive mind-sets and positive skill building, they devolve into an orgy of victimhood, toxic behaviours and one big pity-party.

  3. Claire says:

    If there was an injured workers support website that was professionally run it might be better. But for me personally…who wants to hang around sick and injured people.

    As an injured worker I find sites like Workcover Victim downright depressing and demoralizing, I want to feel better and not worse. They’re like a bad bout of groupthink. From a mental health aspect I dont think they’re a good thing.

    In the online world the groupthink mentality carries people down a path that’s clearly not going to be beneficial, and yet onward they trod. Unplugging from these websites is a great way to aid the think-for-yourself prescription.

    If you’re going to engage with these support websites I think the best thing is to take care of your own garden, weed what you don’t like, water/feed what you do.

    And remember…untruths, gossip, myths, rumours, misinformation, conspiracy theories travel online at lightning speed and pick up momentum so fast that it’s easy to think that something is “true”, simply because it’s so pervasive. My thoughts? Think for yourself. Take things in stride by injecting a healthy dose of questioning and/or skepticism about what you read on these websites before jumping off the bridge and splashing into cold water with all the others. Cheers

  4. Adam says:

    It’s really not that hard, the system needs reform. The Government commissioned a study to investigate the issues. It came back and highlighted many of the worst faults with some very good recommendations on how to change the system for the better. The Government chose not to act on those recommendations. WorkCover is a cah cow for the Government, why would they be interested in changing it? It needs to come from the people. We need to force their hand and soacial media is a great tool. Some convictions or Class Actions would also not go astray.

  5. fucgu says:

    I have a totally different opinion to that of Claire and Mark.
    I do not find that aworkcovervictimsdiary was in any way depressing or that it contains substantial untruths, gossip, myths, rumours, misinformation, conspiracy theories!
    I was relieved to find aworkcovervictimsdiary as I realised that I was not alone in how I was being treated by my WorkCover Insurer, or more accurately, in my case, their appointed rehabilitation consultants and later IMEs.
    I was a senior manager and when I was injured, I genuinely believed that Workers Compensation existed to support me through my injury and assist my rehabilitation back into the workforce. I was not expecting to be misled and lied to by the consultant appointed to help me.
    The first time I spoke to a lawyer was when I had to force the insurer to commence a return to work trial, when my rehab consultant was pressuring me to resign.
    If the endemic corruption can be eliminated from the system (and there is just as much, if not more corruption on the employer/insurer side of the fence), then the need to engage legal counsel could be reduced and injured workers could focus their attention on rehabilitation rather than keep looking over their shoulders waiting for the next insurance company dirty trick to be played.

  6. Pingback: aworkcovervictimsdiary-are we doing more harm than good to injured workers? - A Workcover Victims DiaryA Workcover Victims Diary

  7. Tasworkdoc says:

    I have not personally experienced the negativity of a compensation system as a claimant, but as a doctor seeing many people who are, I often consider what is the best means of providing support, in addition to my usual responsibilities of organising and monitoring treatment, issuing certificates etc.
    Some patients seem to find it particularly helpful that their health practitioner is there to talk to them about the frustrations and provide a stable rational reference point irrespective of what else is happening around them. As a treating occupational physician, another important aspect that seems to be of benefit is to offer a co-ordination role i.e. developing a coherent treatment plan in conjunction the patient with the other treating health professionals and being proactive in putting that plan to the insurer. I find that disjointed treatment and rehabilitation plans are a significant source of frustration. An insurer receiving various treatment and rehabilitation plans from different people can become confused. This can contribute to rejections or delays in approval.
    I have been uncertain about the role of ‘Injured Worker Support Websites’. I rarely recommend to patients who attend my practice that they look up such sites. There are a number of reasons for this.
    Quite a few people are still not computer-savvy. The existing sites don’t provide information specific to the state system I work with, but more importantly I am concerned about the possibility that exposure to additional negativity might not be of any real assistance to them. I do however refer people to ‘Worker Assist’ a local help line for injured workers that can provide specific advice about legal issues. This service is jointly funded by Unions Tasmania and WorkCover Tasmania.
    On the other hand, I find looking at the various injured worker support sites helpful to my understanding of the issues around Australia. There seem to be many conspiracy theories out there, but my own view is that the problems that currently exist in our compensation systems represent an entrenched response by many insurers and some employers to the false assumption that many claims are false or undeserving along with the goal to make the schemes as affordable as possible to industry. A system has evolved whereby there is a whole industry (including IME assessors, rehabilitation providers, surveillance operatives) who are financially dependent on the status quo.
    There is also a lack of appreciation of the negative consequences of our compensation systems. It is becoming increasingly clear that the way claims are managed is a major factor in whether an injured worker can recover or not.
    The response on this site to the topic of Injured Worker Support Websites has been polarised, particularly in relation to the WorkCover Victim site. There wasn’t any comment from other professionals, such as psychologists to know what they think. Some comments I have hesitated to post on this site due to their personal comments. I couldn’t say there is an overwhelming view put forward about the best approach to providing support. I also raised this subject on LinkedIn and from that I was made aware of additional sites such as http://www.wirc.net.au.
    My focus is on putting forward constructive solutions. I think Injured Worker Support Sites have a role in creating an awareness of the problems. There might be injured workers who gain great benefit from just knowing that there are other ‘in the same boat’, but I would like to see more emphasis on provision of factual information and what individuals can do to help themselves recover rather than just knowing how to survive within the system. Injured workers are the ‘consumers’ of our compensation systems, but have little representation in the overall design and oversight of their operation. Representation is a priority.

    • fucgu says:

      My WorkCover claim was in Tasmania. From my experience dealing with WorkCover Insurers as a manager when my departmental staff were the claimants, and in my own personal claim, the system is really geared to deal with the minor to medium term workplace injury – under 3 months maximum.
      From my experience, the dirty tricks only really come into play for the more serious injuries, or those injuries where the injured worker has not been able to return to the workplace or is struggling with their rehabilitation.
      From a business perspective, I understand the problems of a seemingly never ending expenditure – however the management of these longer claims needs to be reassessed.
      A similar analogy is coaching a team or raising children. You can try to control everything or you can give people the tools and the guidance to help themselves to get a more beneficial outcome.

      • Tasworkdoc says:

        I think your comments about the system being geared to short-term injury are spot-on. One of the reform ideas I support is to have a different management process for longer-term or poor-prognosis injuries.

  8. Twice suicidal now, is it third time lucky ? says:

    Claire is on another planet, the workcover system there is obviously much better.

    Adam was pretty much spot on, but alas people will read it an think cynical negative Adam, because thats how people these days are conditioned to handle certain truths.

    Fucgu totally agree with aswell, “endemic corruption” “workcover” you say, really, oh my ! (that was dripping with sarcasm for those short of sight).

    Workcover is essentially a corrupt government cash cow. Who seriously thinks that will change ?

    It will take copious numbers in that of people to the power to fight such a corrupt cancerous cretin filled government. The system is so rotten, that surely if we hit it hard enough, it shall crumble and fall upon itself in a rotten toxic heap of heinous crimes committed.

    – Action may not always bring happiness: but there is no happiness without action.

    • Claire says:

      ‘Twice’, ‘Adam’, ‘Bert’ et al, what do you hope to achieve by all this? Mate rather than coming up with yet another new name to go by, as I suggested to you earlier, I think you really need to consider taking up a hobby or something, it would be far more productive and healthy than what you’re currently doing.

      I have to say I’ve found the comments back and forth between this website and workcovervictim website over the past few days to be very insightful as to how the workcovervictim website really does operates and how unhealthy it really is. How much the websites is really about one person filtering, or worse manipulating, information to suit their own agenda or mantra and unless people visiting such websites are cognizant of this fact and approach what they read with healthy dose of skepticism, they are liable to be mislead or worse manipulated.

      2 examples:
      Some ‘David’ bloke posts a comment on this website about medical panels or something. Workcovervictim basically declares a fatwa on this ‘David’ on the workcovervictim website. One of the members of the workcovervictim website agrees and calls for ‘David’ to be ‘taken out the back and shot like a dog’. As ‘Macky’ pointed below, this truly shocking. Then some other person posts a comment in reply suggesting that perhaps it would be best if she workcovervictim didnt set out to provoke people to go and fire her own bullets for her. This comment was quickly deleted by workcovervictim, but the one calling for ‘David’ to be shot was left up and remains.

      Similarly, a minor query had been posted on the workcovervictim website early today by Peter Sharman asking about the volume visitors/website traffic that workcovervictim had quoted as coming to her website. Another poster ‘Pete’ , who obviously innocently thought he was only being helpful, posted the below comment in reply. Amusingly his post to was very quickly deleted by workcovervictim. When I read ‘Pete’ comment I only took it to be workcovervictim didn’t understand what the stats meant and ‘Pete’ was trying to be helpful by explaining how to read the website traffic statistic and I thought nothing of it. But when the ‘Pete’ post was quickly deleted by workcovervictim it only served to highlight that she in fact knew she was manipulating the information. If she had just left the ‘Pete’ post there no one would have though anything of it, after all website traffic statistics are hardly a topic dear to all our hearts, but the mere fact of her deleting it spoke volumes about the way the website is operated.

      A truly bizarre form of censorship goes on on the workcovervictim website.

      If injured workers support websites are to be effective they have to run in manner that does not leave them at the mercy of one person filtering or manipulating factual information or comments or cajoling people to suit their own agenda, mantra or ideology. This sort of behaviour makes them a very unhealthy environment.

      “Pete” comment on workcovervictim website that was unbelievably the subject of censorship:

      Pete August 24, 2014 at 2:58 pm
      Reply
      i can help out a bit here.
      the web stats are being misunderstood
      website traffic analytics mind blowingly complicated and unless you understand them and what they are actually measuring its real easy to misunderstand them.
      ‘visitors’ does not mean individual people. In the above example it does not mean 11,747 unique individuals visited the website during the month
      1 person can account for 1000s of ‘visitors’ per month, or if your unlucky 1 spammer can account for 10s of 1000s or millions of ‘visitors’ per month.
      a way to understand it is a website that is a forum for footy followers to talk about their footy club that has only 25 heavy users would generate ‘visitors’ stats of in excess of 20,000 ‘visitors’ per month and ‘views’ somewhere round 60,000 views or more
      a crude way to understand it is
      ‘views’ is clicks of the mouse
      ‘visitors’ is a session of roughly 15mins
      Pete August 24, 2014 at 2:58 pm
      Reply

  9. Macky says:

    I have seen injured worker support websites and I have to question their value. I certainly would not recommend website such as WorkCover Victim. In particular WorkCover Victim in my opinion much of the commentary is silly to the point of being childish. Further, a large cohort of injured workers are from low skill, blue collar workers, little or no computer literacy and often from non English speaking backgrounds, web based support sites are neither accessible or viable for this group.

    The concerns I have with these websites, in particular WorkCover Victim are firstly, the amount of information that is factually incorrect on the website worries me. It concerns me that that if injured workers are visiting the website they could rely on or act on that information provided, to their detriment. The problem is websites that are run by private individuals lack any accountably for the correctness of the information they are giving out and they are giving a lot out information of a legal or medical nature, when they have no expertise in the areas that they are giving out information on. Their interpretations of the legislation and their interpretation of legal cases much of it clap trap.

    Claimants are better consulting say their union or a like if they need information on the Workcover system or processes in their State. The information theses organisation give out is vetted for accuracy and there is a degree of accountability by the organisation providing the information to ensure that it is in fact correct. Likewise, if they have any queries of a medical nature they should be raising these with their doctor.

    Secondly, putting aside all the whining on these site, my other major concern is the entire focus is entirely on navigating the WorkCover system – to stay in the system. What is entirely absent from these forums is any focus on getting better, rehabilitation, recovering and working towards returning to work and exiting the system. Work is an important part of rehabilitation. But the focus of the website is to do what is necessary to preserve their claim rather than preserve their ability to return to their prior life.

    Thirdly, WorkCover Victim and a like sites from my reading of them seem to predominately attract participants that appear to be the sort of people that would be regarded as “difficult employees” in the workplace are now just move to become “difficult people” in the workers compensation system. I don’t think the people on these websites are at all reflective of the average injured worker and the issues they face in the system. The workers compensation system has many issues, but many of the problems the people on WorkCover Victim complain of in the WorkCover system, on further reading are often entirely at their own making. e.g. if you are directed to attend an independent medical examination or vocational assessment and you point blank refuse then the fact that your payments are then terminated is entirely at your own making. Equally, running around lodging formal complaints against everyone you come into contact with in the system for every perceived slight or error or wrong, is not going to do you any favours. This complaint making mentality is much advocated on WorkCover Victim. The way of thinking many of the participants on WorkCover Victim display is exactly the same way of thinking displayed by vexatious litigants.

    Lastly, I would say that any website that has comments calling for a person to shot, as far as I am concerned, is simply not deserving of being given oxygen. Likewise, some of the material on WorkCover Victim is highly defamatory. There seems to be a great hypocrisy in the behaviour of many of the people that inhabit this website in particular, they demand from others or ‘the system’ what they don’t practice themselves.

    • fucgu says:

      Hey Macky,

      Settle petal 🙂

      aworkcovervictimsdiary is a blog for Christ’s sake! Many of the comments come from injured workers who have been screwed over by an adversarial and corrupt workers compensation system. It is surely not a shock that a collective of people sharing similar treatment, injustices or outcomes, share a point of view.

      I’m sure if you had a blog frequented by bonus hungry Workers Compensation Case Managers – their rhetoric would have a common theme too!

      Dr Sharman agrees with my comment that WorkCover is really geared to address short term injuries. From my experience, those with longer term injuries are mistreated by the system.

      In my particular case, the insurer was not interested in rehabilitation but focused very heavily on trying to “break me” psychologically so I would just walk away. The insurer used the adversarial nature of the system to withdraw all payments for my rehabilitation and treatment. I was fortunate that I was able to keep funding my treatment privately – other injured workers may not be in that fortunate a position.

      So Macky, when the insurer is working against rehabilitating an injured work, what is that worker supposed to do?

      In my case, I searched the web and luckily found aworkcovervictimsdiary. Yes, there are some extreme points of view expressed, but surely that is the whole purpose of a blog – getting a variety of points of view?

      You comment regarding someone blogged “…calling for a person to be shot, …” if you take everything written on a blog so very literally, I’d love to see your take on some creative poetry or your interpretation of some of the grizzly bits of the Bible 🙂

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