11 Dec 2018

Former cop left waiting for months for post-traumatic stress payout

1:14 pm on 11 December 2018

A police officer was forced to resign when police declined his request for a desk job due to post-traumatic stress caused by the job.

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Photo: 123rf

The man witnessed two events that severely affected his mental state within the space of a month. During one of those incidents, he watched a man die before him.

It took more than seven months for the police, and the company which deals with their Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) claims, to accept that he had suffered from post traumatic stress, and was eligible for a payout.

His wife, who pushed to get her husband compensation, said the way the police acted wasn't good enough.

"He would never have ever been able to fight this establishment [on his own]," she said.

"He at one point was just like, 'I need to be swinging from the rafters to show them what they've done to me'."

It was 2015 when the man went through the two events his wife said altered his mental state.

She said the change was evident overnight.

"He was differently effected, and in a way (he's been a policeman for a long time) that he hadn't been before.

"I noticed that it was different. I can't even tell you what it was.

"It was just the fact that you've known this person for a really long time, and seen them go to difficult jobs in the past, and seen them deal with that, and then see the impact that this one did for some reason."

The man asked to be moved away from the front-line and into a desk job while he dealt with his issues, but the police declined.

Three months later, he handed in his resignation because of the constant flashbacks, severe anxiety and other symptoms he was suffering from.

It took a further two years for the man to lodge an ACC claim, after seeing a landmark case in the Wellington District Court in which a Defence Force soldier was found to have developed post traumatic stress during multiple workplace incidents.

A psychologist, a psychiatrist and a GP all gave the same diagnosis of post traumatic stress, and ACC accepted the man's claim in March this year.

But the police, and the company which handles ACC claims on their behalf, Gallagher Bassett, delayed the payout while seeking a fourth opinion on the state of the man's health.

During that time they failed to communicate properly with the man's wife, which she said led to his condition worsening.

"That was the point for me, that was the turning point where I went, 'my gosh, I'm fighting so hard, I'm not getting answers'.

"I'm not talking about being unfair, I wasn't emailing them on the daily or harassing them. I just had a fair and reasonable expectation that I'd get a response to an email within a few working days.

"I emailed the managing director of Gallagher Bassett and I said your company is failing my family."

The lump sum payment finally came through last month.

However, due to the delays, his weekly session with a psychologist was cut back to once a month as he waited in limbo, because the doctor felt he couldn't improve with the case unresolved.

Those sessions are back to once a week and his health is improving.

ACC lawyer Hazel Armstrong worked with the couple during the case, and said the police and their third party administrators acted poorly throughout.

"Gallagher Bassett, they were acting like an insurance company; Deny, delay, defer," Ms Armstrong said.

"They seemed to just use any kind of tactic to avoid a cover decision in favour of the person who had PTSD."

Ms Armstrong said speed when dealing with a Post Traumatic Stress claim is vital - allowing the victim to move on and get the treatment they need.

She said the case also shows the police don't have a real understanding of how to deal with mental health issues.

"I think their poor process ends up being malicious from the point of view of the client," she said.

"This person was serving us all, and we want the police and the people that they employ to do the best for their staff."

Gallagher Bassett have been approached for comment, while the police declined to comment citing privacy concerns.

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