Notice of assignment of benefits

The worker suffered injuries to his shoulders in February 1998. He was assessed with a 25 per cent non-economic loss (NEL) and involved in a labour market re-entry program (LMR) in computer training. He developed carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) related to excessive keyboarding. The stress of the schooling and his disability resulted in psychological problems. He was granted benefits for CTS and psychological disability and received full loss of earnings (LOE) benefits.

A new adjudicator was assigned to the file in November 2004. She reconsidered the decision to allow CTS and psychological disability. The worker’s LOE benefits were terminated in December 2004. The worker applied for social assistance and appealed the decision to terminate his benefits. The ARO overturned the decision. The worker underwent an NEL re-assessment and was granted 15 per cent for the CTS for a total NEL of 40 per cent.

The worker was asked to choose between receiving the NEL in a monthly payment of $57.75 or a lump sum payment of $8,839. No one explained to the worker that the assignment of benefits would require the WSIB to pay all the money directly to Ontario Works. Had the worker chosen the monthly option, the monthly payments would have been paid to Ontario Works, but only for so long as he was receiving welfare. Once he was off welfare, the monthly NEL would be paid to him until age 65.

The Commission looked into the issue. WSIB policy allows for the diversion of payment to another agency, but there was no provision to give the worker prior notice of this outcome. The WSIB undertook to review its letters about NEL decisions to ensure that workers know in advance that an award will be used to satisfy an assignment.

The Ontario Works office refunded the lump-sum payment to the worker as it was considered a “pain and suffering” award.