A Long Dark Road, an Injured Worker’s Story – A Long Awaited Update 2016

It’s been awhile and while things with any injured worker take time, it’s been a long time for any noticeable movement to happen. The system is definitely designed to deter a worker from fighting for their rights. It is depressing and frustrating at the very least. Therefore any movement can seem spectacular when it comes through. Movement has finally begun and it’s early January, perhaps it bodes well for the year, time will tell.

Mid-December we did reach an agreement on Long Term Disability, LTD, which amounted to a small pay off. I did agree not to talk about the insurance company or the arbitrator, so I won’t. I will however talk to the policy that ArcelorMittal Dofasco does have with their insurance providers. It is very biased and is structured to force you into an early retirement situation whether it was something you wanted or not.

The policy for long term disability simply states that if you’re entitled to the benefit they get to deduct any CPP disability, whether you’ve applied for it or not, which cuts your payout by about half and then if you happen to have the magic retirement numbers they will take your pension amount off. So a healthy long time career that would have lasted possibly 40 years is mandated to cut you off and have your pension disappear before you are able to earn enough to retire comfortably. Add to this the fact that the retirement benefit from AM Dofasco uses your best 5 years out of the last 10 and that can leave you with minimal monies if they can drag out your benefits in any way.   As of this date I’ve been off for 6 years. That’s 6 years of potential earnings that are gone and will never be part of a retirement benefit and will eventually make it more difficult to be financially secure in my “golden years”. It’s no wonder things get dragged out for such a prolonged period of time.

At least there was money for my needs, like prescriptions, even though I was still relying heavily on family for my living arrangements and basic needs. At least being able to participate in my own care was a morale boost if nothing else.

As we came to summer 2016, another hurdle came into view. I finally got a date for my CPP Disability Tribunal. It was far more informal than the other tribunals I’ve had to be a part of. A quick review of the facts and a few questions filled the 90-minute time slot. It was interesting to see someone other than the legal advocates finally understand that all of this isn’t about lung capacity, occupational or not, but about pain. About pain that feels like the lungs are tearing apart when I try to exert myself even a little. Its about a pressure and tightness that’s constant and suffocating creating a sense of being unable to function as I was used to.

It was a relief to see the understanding dawn on the chairperson and it brought back memories of every visit to ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s Medical Department. Every visit seemed to go the same way. “(Nurse) What’s wrong?” …. “(Me) It hurts to breathe.” …. “(Nurse) You’re short of breath?” …. “(Me) No, it hurts to breathe.” …. “(Nurse) You’re short of breath.” …. “(Me) NO, it HURTS.” But never seeing what is written makes it hard to fight what you don’t know.

At least waiting for the CPP decision was easier than waiting for the WSIAT decision. My first WSIAT Tribunal took 11 months and 3 weeks for their decision. CPP sent their decision in 3 weeks and my claim has been approved. Now for the first time in 4 years I will be able to at least afford a place to live and have food on my plate. It’s a blessing to be able to finally be able to meet some of my needs and to feel like an adult again. It sounds strange but to be hobbled by circumstance for so long and to finally see a bit of justice, a bit of possibility, and a bit of relief to an unbelievably hard time released torrents of frustration and tears.

 

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