Man wants WCB to fund invention

by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 26/97) - Most of the requests the Workers Compensation Board receives for lump sum payments on pensions are from workers who want to start up businesses.

But as Yellowknife handyman Daniel Lafond's case shows, the requests aren't always successful.

Trevor Alexander, director of corporate services with the WCB, says the board receives about one or two such applications each month.

Alexander says there's a policy in place regarding lump sum payments "to ensure workers have a stable income."

The policy is for the workers' own protection, he explains.

Workers whose permanent disabilities are rated at 10 per cent or less -- based on a scale of injury severity -- have a choice of a lump sum or monthly payments, he explains.

However, in Lafond's case, his pension was assessed at 15 per cent. He also had a 15 per cent disability from a pre-existing back problem, says Steve Westcott, pension specialist with the WCB.

The board is only responsible for a 15 per cent disability pension, which Lafond has been receiving in monthly payments. He'll continue to receive payments on this basis.

He does not meet provisions of the lump sum policy, in that he has no independent source of income, says Westcott.

The guidelines are strict. "He has to have a stable income for at least five years and it's part of very specific criteria," says Westcott.

Lafond however, says he believes he should be able to access a lump sum to finance his new invention for backs.

Lafond is a 35-year-old former handyman who says he suffered a back injury when he when he tripped over a cord at work while carrying a television.

It was recommended by doctors that Lafond should have back surgery, but Lafond refused for fear of complications.

Lafond told doctors at the time he couldn't do much. He told them he can't walk for longer than five or 10 minutes or sit or stand for longer than five minutes. Climbing stairs, bending and squatting are difficult, as well.

Due to the problems with his back, Lafond decided to invent a device to help himself. The invention, called the Power Builder, exercises the upper body.

"In five minutes or less you can get your muscles pumped up," says Lafond, "and there's no lifting required."

Lafond says he found an American company to help market his invention so he can help others and hopefully turn a profit. But he needs $4,950. (U.S.) for the company to market his new product. The company is called American Invention Associates out of Miami, Fla.

He has already put $595. (U.S) into a product review.

Lafond is angry with the WCB for "telling us what we can spend our money on for our pain and suffering. They have no right."

The WCB, however, is just following policy, according to Westcott.

Lafond has other areas he could pursue. He could go for rehabilitation or on-the-job training, says Westcott. "We'd prefer he take something like that to secure full-time employment."