Jan 18 2007
Kirsteen Verhey has won a
four-year battle with the Workers Compensation Board on appeal.
formerly the WCB must reinstate Verheys full pension and repay
some $45,000 taken from her since 2003.
Wrist pain ended
Verheys 13-year bus driving career in 1998, at age 34. It was diagnosed
as chronic regional pain syndrome, a rare, debilitating disease that has a
limited affect on mobility but requires strong medication to treat.
When all avenues of
vocational rehabilitation were exhausted, she went on a full disability
pension. In 2003 WCB cut her pension in half. She took it to an appeal tribunal
The tribunal said her
pension couldnt be cut without an employability assessment, so WCB hired
two experts to assess her: Dr. Ron Penner, a psychologist, and Dr. Stu
Gershman, who specializes in sports medicine.
Gershman said she is
physically employable, but Penner identified cognitive problems too severe for
her to work.
WCB sided with Gershman and
decided she could become a bingo caller. Verheys husband Paul thought
that sounded reasonable until he started looking into the job requirements.
high-stress job, because youre talking about peoples money,
theres no reason for her to go back to work. Shes not going to be
further injured by using her arm, but she still has to deal with the issues of
pain and the effects of the disease, which make her further unemployable. And
that proved to be inconvenient for WCB, who didnt want to pay a full
The Verheys kept up their
fight, which got a boost when the News Bulletin published a story on their
plight in 2005.
The new tribunal decision,
released this month, is a vindication.
Im over the
moon, Kirsteen said. If not for Paul, I would have given up. I
never thought I would have won.
Paul Verhey calls it a major
victory on several levels.
Obviously, David can
beat Goliath, and hopefully that decision will inspire other people in the
midst of a fight to keep it up, he said.
And it sends a clear
message to the board that they cant do things just because its
convenient for them.
Paul Verhey said the board
should have backed off when Kirsteen was found to be psychologically
But Pam Cohen, director of
disability awards for Worksafe B.C., said this decision makes no difference in
how the board would deal with future cases.
Every case is taken on
its own merits, she said.
The province originally
created the WCB to avoid lawsuits when workers are injured, but Paul Verhey
said the system is too concerned about saving money, rather than treating
I would like to see a
greater amount of accountability with officers of the disability awards
system, he said.
As a taxpayer, I
expect the board to be vigilant, but I cant tolerate them being
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