Nova Scotia WCB Pays Workers With Chronic Pain

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HALIFAX, Nov. 29, 2004 – The WCB has begun to issue decisions to injured workers with chronic pain and make payments to those who are eligible to receive benefits. Over 4000 injured workers have contacted the WCB in recent months asking to be considered for these benefits. Over half of these people currently are receiving other income replacement benefits not related to chronic pain.

In October 2003 the Supreme Court of Canada issued a decision that requires the WCB to individually assess injured workers who have developed chronic pain since April 17, 1985 (the date the equality provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect) as a result of their workplace injury and to provide them with the same access to the workers’ compensation system as all other injured workers.

In response to this decision, the Government of Nova Scotia enacted new Chronic Pain Regulations in July 2004 and the WCB passed policies to support the Regulations shortly thereafter. In order to receive benefits, workers must meet the eligibility criteria defined in the Regulations and be assessed to determine the impact chronic pain is having on their life. The WCB will develop a plan that focuses on the worker’s return to work, if that is appropriate. For workers who will not be returning to work, the WCB will provide additional services and benefits.

“We have trained a team of twenty staff to do this work. Many are new to the WCB and they have significant experience in the health and social sciences fields,” explained Nancy MacCready-Williams, Chief Executive Officer. “Chronic pain claims generally, and the older ones in particular, can be very complex. Twenty years ago, the medical community didn’t really refer to chronic pain. To look at these claims now and begin to determine the impact that chronic pain has had on a worker’s life over that period is very difficult.”

The WCB’s priority is to start assessing three groups of workers:

  1. Those with claims currently in the appeal process.

  2. Those where workers are able to return to work.

  3. Those with the oldest claims in the system because these people have waited the longest for a decision.

“At this point, we can’t accurately predict how long it will take to adjudicate all of these claims other than to say that it is likely to be a couple of years,” said MacCready-Williams. “Over the next 4 – 6 months we will gain broader experience with these claims and we will be in a better position to estimate how long it will take to adjudicate all chronic pain claims next spring. We have been writing regularly to chronic pain clients over the past year to keep them up-to-date on our progress. We will continue to do our best to make our way through all claims as quickly as possible.”

The Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia provides comprehensive workplace safety information to all employers and workers in the province, as well as full workplace injury insurance coverage to over 18,000 registered employers and 300,000 covered workers in Nova Scotia.