By: Trygve Bergsland
According to Gerd Bang-Johansen, after a long battle Solveig Irene Jacobsen (86) has had her case approved in the NAV system.
“Jacobsen is one of those likely to have been most exposed to copper amalgam, since in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s she was part of a peripatetic dental service that operated along the coast of northern Norway from a boat. Working conditions were tough and ventilation was almost non-existent,” states lawyer Øyvind Vidhammer, who has assisted ThsF in a number of mercury cases.
More positive rulings expected soon
In addition to Jacobsen, Bjørgunn Isaksen has also had her case approved, and Bang-Johansen believes that many others are set to have their cases re-examined.
“In this latest case, the earlier verdict of the National Insurance Court has been overruled and she is having her case reconsidered by NAV,” explains the head of ThsF, who expects more good news in coming days.
A Supreme Court judgement delivered before Christmas that directed the National Insurance Court to change its practices forms the backdrop for the positive decisions that NAV is now making. Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Robert Eriksson has monitored the Supreme Court judgement and says that compensation cases for dental assistants with mercury poisoning are being given highest priority within NAV.
“We expect NAV and the National Insurance Court to quickly process all their outstanding cases, and we are pleased to see the positive outcomes of the recent cases. It is now down to NAV to implement the Supreme Court’s guidelines and comply with the Minister’s demand to quickly process all these cases,” says Bang-Johansen.
Previous mistakes by the National Insurance Court
According to Øyvind Vidhammer, before the judgement from the Supreme Court only an extremely limited collection of symptoms was approved as an occupational disease by the National Insurance Court.
“The cases that have been before the court have largely related to impaired attention spans, memory and manual coordination, plus tremors and neuropathy. It was also required that all these symptoms were present more or less simultaneously. This meant that most people had their cases rejected,” he says.
In its judgement, the Supreme Court writes that there may be a much broader spectrum of health issues that could be caused by exposure to mercury. The judgement mentions increased tiredness, impaired concentration, dizziness, arthritis and blurred vision, as well as anxiety and depression. The Supreme Court also specifies that there must be no requirement for the symptoms to be present simultaneously.
“The Supreme Court ruling thus confirms that a wide range of health problems, and the collection of symptoms that many dental assistants suffer from, may be a consequence of mercury exposure,” says Gerd Bang-Johansen.
What about those who were previously rejected or never submitted a claim?
According to Bang-Johansen, a number of dental assistants have previously recorded various health conditions, but have never submitted a claim to NAV.
“One of the reasons for this was that many could not face a battle with the State, because they knew that NAV’s assessment system was so strict that success was practically impossible. Now that the Supreme Court has declared this practice too strict, we are seeing some people wanting to have their claim considered, or to have their case re-examined,” she explains, and urges those concerned to submit a formal claim to their local NAV office. Alternatively, they can contact ThsF for additional help.
Although the Supreme Court has stated that NAV and the National Insurance Court have been too strict in mercury cases, it is important to be clear that claimants will not automatically have health conditions approved as an occupational disease even if they have previously worked with mercury. There remain a number of conditions that must be met in order for an illness to qualify as an occupational disease.
The claimant must present a characteristic collection of symptoms, such that one or more typical symptoms can be documented: increased tiredness, reduced concentration, impaired memory, dizziness, arthritis, blurred vision, anxiety and depression or suchlike. It is required that the claimant has worked with mercury or been exposed to mercury vapour – chiefly from copper amalgam – over a prolonged period. Symptoms and illnesses must have occurred within a reasonable time after exposure. There must also be an examination by an occupational doctor who concludes that the disease may have been caused by mercury poisoning.
In terms of resubmissions, the case will still be assessed against these conditions, but more leniently than before.
If you have any questions about this – contact ThsF directly by e-mail: email@example.com, or call +47 21 01 36 00 / +47 984 88 100.
NAV administers a third of the national Norwegian budget through schemes such as unemployment benefit, work assessment allowance, sickness benefit, pensions, child benefit and cash-for-care benefit.
NAV was established on 1 July 2006. The local authorities and central government cooperate to find good solutions for users through 456 NAV offices in municipalities and city boroughs. Each local authority and NAV agree on what local authority services their office should provide. The services provided by a NAV office will thus vary from local authority to local authority.
NAV, or the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, employs around 19,000 people. Of these around 14,000 are employed by the central government, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service, and around 5,000 are employed by the local authorities.