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Sunday Star-Times, New Zealand
September 26, 2004
by David Fisher

ACC pays millionaire hundreds a week

A millionaire property investor who collects $124,000 in rent each year is getting $640 a week from ACC for total disability.

Jeff Page, of Auckland, is one of only 14 people in New Zealand receiving weekly ACC payments that date back to 1974 - the result of 30 years of injury by medical misadventure through prescription drug addiction.

He says the money he collects from tenants is counted as a return on an investment rather than income, so ACC is not able to count it against the weekly payments.

Page also says the type of agreement he reached with ACC means he could return to work tomorrow if he was able - and still collect his compensation payments.

His "Section 60" disability guarantees his weekly compensation - about $640 - until retirement age, regardless of the activities he indulges in.

"I could go to work tomorrow. My Section 60 is guaranteed. I am one of the only people in the country who is guaranteed. Legally I can do what I want tomorrow because I am not in the ACC system any more."

As one of the longest-term claimants, Page is receiving earnings-related compensation dated back to 1974, when ACC began. He was found to have suffered an injury by medical misadventure - the prescription of benzodiazepines when he was a management cadet, aged 21.

His compensation is based on an estimate of his eventual earnings, which he says were pegged at about $130,000 a year.

Page claims he has since worked with other claimants addicted to benzodiazepines - once known as "mother's little helpers" - and claims to have assisted in cases resulting in payments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

ACC did not want to pay people and it was only after a lengthy battle he received his due, he says.

"We fought them tooth and nail. We just kept them accountable . . . and didn't give up."

Page, who lives in a $720,000 home, now spends his weeks playing tennis, managing his property portfolio and counselling other victims of benzodiazepine addiction.

According to Page, his disability finding was on psychological grounds and does not stop him from carrying out physical activity. He told the Star-Times he was still incapable of working.

Page is ranked in the top third of senior players with Auckland Tennis, and is highly regarded by officials at the Campbell Park Tennis Club, where he plays three days a week. "I hit the (tennis) ball against the wall every day and every night. It's a different sort of concentration."

He says he has faced questions over his ACC status. "I can't concentrate for working. I can never plan my next day, because I can't sleep at night. If you can't plan the next day, you can't work in any form."

Page says his health also plays havoc with his skills as a landlord. He has 12 flats, which he says each bring in about $200 a week.

While he attempts to solve problems for tenants, he says he rarely completes tasks. "It's no good trying if you get nowhere. It's better to have a peaceful life."

A spokesman for ACC said a claim with a Section 60 entitlement could not be reduced by any increase in the claimant's earning capacity.

He said the Section 60 was possible under legislation that had since been repealed.

When it was in force, ACC had to be satisfied the medical condition had stabilised and all practical steps had been taken towards retraining and rehabilitation.

ACC data showed only one ACC claimant on "benzodiazepine-related problems".

Another 16 claims came after adverse effects from drugs, medicines or biological substances used in therapy.

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