A senior lawyer representing former police officers, who are suffering serious psychological injuries, has slammed insurer MetLife for the damaging way it is handling their Total Permanent Disability (TPD) claims and has called for an independent panel to be established to review the more than 240 that are unresolved.
Senior police compensation lawyer John Cox, who is addressing a parliamentary forum tomorrow at NSW Parliament House, said urgent action was needed to reign in the insurer which was failing to promptly finalise compensation claims for psychological illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Mr Cox is calling on the NSW Government to immediately establish an independent panel to review outstanding claims, with a view to determining them without further delay, as well as determine better processes and clear decision making timeframes for future claims.
“Current processes show an absence of any proper management of claims by MetLife and this is causing great distress to hundreds of former police officers who are dealing with very serious psychological illnesses,” he said.
“Tragically, we have already seen cases of police officers take their own life as a result of their claims being delayed for years and this insurer undertaking invasive surveillance activities.
“Enough is enough – something substantial must be done before we see more families devastated by suicide.
“In many situations, delays and claim mismanagement has caused further deterioration of their existing psychological conditions which is unacceptable.
“It is time for the NSW Government to step in and establish an independent panel that has authority to make decisions on claims that are older than 18 months.
“It is estimated that there are more than 240 claims currently outstanding, some of which are more than four years old, which is just deplorable,” he said.
“To prevent this happening with future claims, I am also urging the NSW Government to impose clear and appropriate timeframes on decisions.
“Industry standard is that a these TPD claims should be turned around in nine months or less.
“Sometimes the complexity of a particular claim might require a little longer but they should not take any longer than 12 months – and there is certainly no excuse for a claim resolution to exceed 18 months.
“Both of these steps would greatly assist with claimants being able to move on with their lives and concentrate on their recovery.”
Mr Cox said it was vital that the overall approach of handling police compensation claims was also reviewed to minimize adverse effects on the claimant.
“Metlife’s TPD claims process should be an objective and open examination of the claimant’s eligibility,” he said.
“Instead, the process is quite adversarial and we’re seeing the use of covert, unnecessary, and at times unlawful, surveillance of claimants.
Mr Cox said it was also vital that the police force created greater internal awareness about the risks of psychological injuries and provided more education on recognising the symptoms.
“My clients have said time and time again that there needs to be a cultural change within the police force that drops the stigma associated with psychological illness such as PTSD,” Mr Cox said.
“Creating a supportive and understanding environment within the workplace will be the only way to ensure that these people who once put their own lives on the line to protect our communities will feel confident to speak up and get medical treatment before it’s too late.”