Department of Human Services panic attack compensation claim rejected

Department of Human Services panic attack compensation claim rejected

Two legal appeals have not stopped a Department of Human of Services employee who said his workplace caused him "panic attacks", losing his bid for compensation.

The man said ongoing exposure to management representatives acting unprofessionally caused his condition.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal affirmed Comcare's​ decision to knock back the compensation claim by ruling the man's employment at DHS was not a significant factor in the development of his claimed condition.

The man alleged one of his supervisors bullied and harassed him and unreasonably rejected his leave applications.


He alleged she required him to account for his working hours to an unreasonable extent, essentially out of spite, and that DHS' internal complaint resolution processes about the behaviour of his supervisor and others had failed him.

One supervisor told the tribunal the man was intelligent, methodical, thorough and principled.

A doctor said the man suffered adjustment disorder and panic attacks - considered psychological conditions - and that the man's workplace led to the man's anxiety.

The doctor said the man was now "not able to cope and not tolerant at all with any form of bureaucracy".

The same doctor told the tribunal the man had not told the medical professional he had already been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after a non-work related incident.

Three doctors said they did not think the man had ever suffered a psychiatric - as opposed to psychological - illness apart from from PTSD​.

"There is no doubt that he suffered physical symptoms of anxiety, and there is some evidence that those symptoms continue," senior tribunal member James Popple said in his decision.

"But there is not sufficient evidence for me to find that [the man] suffered a physical condition arising out of, or in the course of, his employment which caused those symptoms.

"Accordingly, I find that he did not suffer such a physical condition."

Phillip Thomson is a Public Service Reporter at The Canberra Times.

Most Viewed in National