Heroes short-changed

Heroes short-changed

5 March 2007

published by www.news.com.au

Australia — Injured bushfire volunteers are being left thousands of dollarsout of pocket by a stingy WorkCover scheme that is a nightmare for the theself-employed, farmers and stay-at-home mums.

An investigation by The Daily Telegraph into the WorkCovercompensation scheme has revealed gaps in compensation for injured volunteers whodo not have a straightforward income history.

Of the 956 Rural Fire Service volunteers who lodged claims over the past fiveyears, 411 ended up with less than $1000 in payouts, documents obtained underFreedom of Information show.

There were 88 volunteers who made an injury claim yet got nothing.

In total, $5.869 million in medical costs, lost wages and legal payments havebeen paid over the past five years.

Much of the money went in payouts to a few with catastrophic injuries – themajority got little.

For State Emergency Service volunteers, just $41,617 was paid out to 354people. Forty others got nothing.

In one case, RFS volunteer Nikki Madden, 53, – left with a broken leg in2005 during a bushfire training exercise – received just $2500 from WorkCoverfor all costs.

She was in a metal leg brace and on crutches for four months.

Because she had previously taken time off from employment to build a house,she could not show an income so did not get weekly income support.

Dairy farmer Sid Clarke, 64, who was left with serious back injuries afterattending the scene of a rolled truck near Wagga, ended up $22,000 out of pocket.

He got some WorkCover income support but was left to pay for outside labourto keep his farm going.

Volunteer Fire Fighters Association spokesman Andrew Scholz said hisorganisation had concerns about the effectiveness of the scheme, especially fornon-PAYE workers.

Volunteers are covered by the Workers Compensation (Bush Fire, Emergency andRescue Services) Act 1989.

Under the scheme, the self-employed must provide evidence of past incomebefore claiming weekly payments.

A WorkCover spokesman said volunteers who were self-employed were covered byWorkCover’s Weekly Compensation for Self-Employed Volunteers Policy.

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