Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Living with a Disability and Suffering a Work Related Injury

Many of you might not know this but before starting the My Becker's Story blog I used to work a full-time job at a local call centre. I was hired in July of 2005 and was employed to offer assistance to customers of a popular directions and connections service. This job opportunity enabled me to break free from relying on the income support I received from something known as the Ontario Disability Supports Program. A Government program which at that time was only provided me with very little in the form of financial support. So when I was hired and given a full-time job you could imagine how much it changed my life. This was actually my very first full-time job and in no time I was even able to go on to become one of their top rated Customer Service Representatives. At this time life was great and best of all I was making a pretty good living. Sure from time to time I would have to deal with irate customers but one thing I was really good at was calming these types of customers down. Things were great then one day everything changed when in my second year of employment I suffered a work related injury in the from of Tendonitis. A condition that is caused by repetitive use and for me this resulted in me feeling excruciating pain in both my shoulders. I didn't know it at the time but working at a different work station everyday played a major role in this. Unfortunately I didn't realize that this employer was neglecting their employers by providing us with broken chairs, desks and computers. Long story short my work related injury led to me having to deal with the Workplace Insurance Safety Board also known as the WSIB. This is when I learned a valuable lesson on how some government programs are failing workers with disabilities who are injured on the job. At this time I firmly believe that this program needs a complete overhaul.  

Dealing with the Workplace Insurance Safety Board 

When my injury was reported to the WSIB with in a short period of time I was connected with someone known as an adjudicator. This person would become my point of contact with the WSIB and they are just there to make you aware of your rights and responsibilities. From day one my adjudicator treated me as if I was simply making my injury up. So the first thing the WSIB did to me was deny my Loss of Earning benefits for the days I missed from work related to my injury. At the time I didn't appeal the decision since I was still working full-time and making a decent living. So at the time I requested Health Benefits from the WSIB so that I could get physiotherapy to help aid in my recovery. Over a two year period my hours were reduced and I went from working full-time to part-time due to stress related to dealing with my employer and my injury. You see the stress was affecting me quite a bit and for those of us living with Becker Muscular Dystrophy this can have an affect on us physically. Continually going to physiotherapy and having acupuncture done only to see no improvement with my injury was really frustrating - not only to me but the Workplace Insurance Safety Board who eventually sent me to be assessed by their team of Medical Consultants. A few weeks later I received the results of my assessment from my adjudicator. I was surprised to learn that they came to the conclusion that my injury was not work related but due to my pre-existing condition of Muscular Dystrophy. In my own research over the last few years it has come to light that tendonitis is not related to Muscular Dystrophy and is strictly an injury that is caused by repetitive strain resulting from over use.

In the end as you can see the Workplace Insurance Safety Board decided to blame the fact that I had Muscular Dystrophy for causing my injury. This resulted in them cutting me off from receiving health benefits which meant I could no longer receive physiotherapy. It wasn't too long after this when I happened to miss a few days of work when my employer sent me a letter advising me that they assumed that I had resigned from my position. When I told them they were wrong and offered to provide them with a doctors note they refused so at this point I found my self un-employed. I guess they were waiting for the perfect opportunity and they found it. Thankfully I was able to go back to receiving income support from the Ontario Disability Supports Program. Still it's nothing close to what I was receiving when I was working full-time but it helps. Unfortunately though even four years later I am facing major issues with tendonitis and dealing with excruciating pain that comes along with it. Still today I am so very disappointed with how the WSIB treated me. From the start I should have been receiving Loss of Income Benefits but they denied me and when my condition didn't improve I was cut off from receiving the health benefits I so desperately needed. It's sad to say but it's starting to look like the WSIB might not be set up to handle the unique needs of workers with disabilities. All I can say is if they chose to blame my injury on my disability whose to say they won't do the same to you?

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