My Old WCB Injury is So Bad I Can't Work What do I do Now?

If you have an old work-related injury that you are receiving a WCB pension for, and you are continuing to work, the pension you are getting is likely a PFI (permanent functional impairment) pension and it is meant to compensate you for the odd day here and there that you may miss due to the injury.

The WCB calls this "normal fluctuations" of the condition.

So for example if you have a 5% pension for a back injury you had some years ago, you would not go back to the WCB to seek wage loss benefits if you missed two days from work due to a minor flare-up.

If however your back gets so bad that you are off for the next 3 months, or if it gets so bad that you will never work again, this is called a "reopening." In this case you need to see your doctor FIRST. You need to have the support of your doctor in order to get a reopening.

Your doctor should be prepared to use the magic WCB words, that there has been a "significant change" in your condition; that is, that it is something beyond the normal fluctuations to be expected, and for which you got your PFI pension.

Here's an example:

Shirley has a 2.5% PFI pension for chronic pain in her right arm. She got modified duties at work and while she does suffer with pain and takes pain medications, she has managed to continue working for the last 4 years.

Over a few weeks however Shirley's arm has started aching more than usual. If it is just sore for a day or two, that will not get her a reopening, but Shirley needs to keep working and her arm gets worse and worse. She goes to her family physician who says she needs to take two weeks off to rest the arm and get physiotherapy.

At the end of two weeks her arm is no better and her doctor sends in a Physician's Progress Report saying that Shirley needs to see a specialist and asking the WCB to expedite an appointment.

At this point the WCB will need to adjudicate whether Shirley is entitled to a reopening. Hopefully, with her doctor's support, she will get one and will receive wage loss benefits for the period of time that she is off work.

(This is a totally different situation than one where Shirley had a new injury to her already sore arm; this would be a new claim, not a reopening.)

Here's an important point: if your pension is just for chronic pain, the WCB may often say that "pain is pain" and so it's "just a fluctuation." This is just plain wrong, and it is NOT their official policy. If you have pain that is bothersome but you are able to continue working, and then it eventually gets so bad that you can no longer work, that is a "significant change" and you should get a reopening. We have to argue these appeals all the time. Remember, don't take no for an answer. If your condition has become disabling and they won't give you a reopening, appeal it!

One other warning however: if you have a WCB condition, for example a bad back, and you do something outside of the workplace that aggravates it, like picking up your 25 lb. dog, the WCB will say that is not their responsibility. Even though you could pick up your 25 lb. dog without hurting yourself before you got injured on the job, if the activity that irritates it happens away from work, the WCB will not cover it. So be careful!

Reproduced by Permission of Rush Crane Guenther, Barristers & Solicitors

Rush Crane Guenther, Barristers & Solicitors
Suite 300 -111 Water Street | Vancouver, B.C. V6B 1A7
Tel: (604)687-5611 | Fax:(604)681-0912 | E-mail:
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la/CUPE-3338

[1] Legally, it's still the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB). In 2002, sweeping changes were made to the workers' compensation system (see our paper: Insult to Injury), which significantly reduced benefits for injured workers. It was at that time the WCB rebranded itself to be "WorkSafeBC", which is a marketing name, not a legal name. For us, "WorkSafeBC" represents the erosion of benefits for injured workers and the name, in our opinion, puts an onus on workers to 'work safe' rather than on employers to provide safe work. So for us, it remains the WCB.

 

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