Stories

28 November, 2023

Disability Credit and Benefit for All: Even those in the ‘Grey Zone’

By D.F. Valentina

Text in LH corner: Disability Credit and Benefit for All. Even those in the 'Grey Zone'. RH side: Dog wearing 'service dog' harness is looking at camera. Behind the dog is a woman with curly shoulder length hair. She is wearing glasses and has a nose ring. She is wearing a grey long sleeve top.
D.F. Valentina and service dog Wolfie

Hello, I’m Valentina and this is my Service Dog, Wolfgang Moonbeam, ‘Wolfie’! Some background information for you:

I have experienced multiple traumas and therefore have a large range of disabilities and medical needs. I will break them up into three crucial events. Before that, one should take note that there are different types of disability benefits (provincial, private insurance, WCB (Work Place) and CPP Disability). Not all disability recipients have the same medical benefits for their medical needs. This is an overview of my three crucial events leading to multiple traumas, Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI’s) and many other disabilities.

In 2010, 2012, of no fault of my own, I was in two car accidents. Diagnosis includes: chronic pain, soft tissue injury, TMJ, tinnitus

Private employment medical insurance covered many treatments for these conditions, such as visits to the TMD Dentist, medical devices such as a splint, all pharmaceuticals, such as pain medicine, chiropractor, acupuncture, physiotherapy, massage, some naturopath and holistic treatments.

However, now that I am no longer employed, I have no benefits to cover medical needs for these conditions.

2. In 2016, in Alberta, I was involved in a ‘workplace incident’ a sexual assault. I was granted CPP Disability during the long 16 month unpaid gap waiting for WCB. WCB stepped in and after 6 ½ years of compassionate care, in attempt to re-enter me into the workforce, it resulted in the conclusion of me being “Totally Disabled”.

Diagnosis includes: Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), Dissociation, Night Terrors.

I’ve had a positive experience with WCB, however they are bound by guidelines and only cover pharmaceuticals medication related to managing the above noted diagnosis.

They do not cover any other pharmaceuticals, or holistic treatments or health supplements. I pay for all these myself.

3. 2014-2017: In the process of receiving financial compensation for my automobile accidents I became a targeted victim of sexual violence, hate crime, spiritual abuse, identity theft, and other crimes by individuals in the Alberta neighborhood I resided in. Due to amnesia, most injuries were not discovered until 2017-2021. Many medical professionals completed formal assessments: neurologist, neuropsychologist, eye surgeons, concussion physiotherapist, osteopath, TMD dentist, reconstructive surgeon. Despite all the medical assessments as proof, the RCMP never arrested the individuals who committed these crimes. No arrests meant no restitution for my financial losses, medical needs or trauma therapy.

Diagnosis include: Multiple Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI’s), Injury to my left eye, Vision Impairment, Inability to focus or read for years, Chronic Migraines, injury to neck and spine, injury to cranium, face, teeth, cheeks, scar tissue in cheeks, problems forming words, extreme nerve pain throughout my head, neck, face, nerve pain down my left arm, left leg and left foot, problems with executive functioning, inability to multi task, memory problems, problems with fine motor skills, internal injury to colon, Night Terrors, Claustrophobia, Agoraphobia, ….the list goes on.

I’ve had several surgeries due to these injuries.

The overwhelming shock of discovering these injuries, and trauma memories returning, caused me so much despair in 2021 that I applied and was granted M.A.I.D. for the purpose of termination of life. M.A.I.D. deemed my injuries, suffering and pain to be ‘intolerable’. They have pain medicine I can try but I can’t afford the travel expenses to Vancouver, nor can I afford the medicine.

And now that Medical Professionals are against prescribing pain medicine, for various reasons, I live with chronic pain.

I have not slept through the night since 2010.

Moving to Victoria, BC, and discovering Victoria Brain Injury Society (VBIS) saved my life! The knowledge I’ve gained from VBIS staff, and their courses on TBI, and the support I receive from other TBI survivors, keeps me going one day at a time.

As I previously mentioned, there are different types of disability coverage.

I make a bit more money on WCB but I am in what I call the ‘Grey Zone’. There are a lot of benefits I don’t receive because I’m on WCB.

*I pay a monthly portion of my WCB benefits to a WCB lawyer

*I pay current market price for a safe 1 bedroom rental: $,2,100.00

*I don’t have a budget for the 3.5% 2024 rental increase

*I pay for a professional security system due to fear of future stalking and assaults

*I have no coverage for vision

*I don’t get a free bus pass

*I don’t get a discount on internet

*I do not have coverage for my Osteopath, Chiropractor, Physiotherapy, Reconstructive Surgery, Orthopedic footware

*I do not have dental coverage. Recently $7, 000.00 of emergency dental work was completed. That did not include teeth cleaning. My current credit card debt was my previous food budget.

*I have to run around town gathering food hampers to compensate.

WCB takes great care of my Service Dog, Wolfie. He has pet insurance. And I respect that they have guidelines they must follow, are solely responsible for my work place injuries; and I appreciate all they have done and continue to do for me.

But my financial stress is 24/7. I call this ‘Survival Stress’. I’ve learned that this constant stress changes brain chemicals. The prefrontal cortex doesn’t function well. Happy chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, diminish. Stress chemicals like cortisol increase and the ‘primitive brain’ takes over. This puts a person in a constant state of fight/flight. ‘Survival stress’ diminishes cognitive functions. It also triggers what I call the ‘Trauma Groove’. Traumas loop through the mind repetitively. All medical and psychological symptoms flare up: Night Terrors, Anxiety, Migraines, Pain….It leaves one in a ‘Brain Fog’.

Financial Stress is with me whenever I have to spend money on essentials or pay bills.

*I keep a log of every penny I spend.

*I don’t spend money on entertainment or travel.

*My clothes are free or second hand, my furniture too.

*I eat only one meal a day.

‘Survival Stress’ makes it almost impossible to overcome trauma, or heal at a healthy rate from TBIs or other injuries. Once the ‘Trauma Groove’ sets in, it can take me back to when I was a single mother in Alberta, living in unsafe environments with drugs all around myself and my son. I was always on the edge of poverty and homelessness.

Alone with no support system. The ‘Trauma Groove’ will also cause me to relive the assaults.

ALL SYMPTOMS INTENSIFY with ‘Survival Stress’:

Complex PTSD (C-PTSD), blurred vision, migraines, dissociation, confusion, clumsiness, disorientation, anxiety, pain, digestion problems, night terrors, self isolation, fatigue, Brain Fog, the inability to have healthy relationships….the list is long.

Many people with disabilities have to take more time doing tasks and have to rest more in between tasks. For example, I have trouble holding things, I drop my keys, my eye glasses, pens, Wolfie’s leash, I fumble peeling potatoes, writing, typing, tying my shoes.

It takes longer to do everything now.

Needs that are not being met due to lack of money or support are:

*Medical treatments mentioned above, like Osteopath, Chiropractor, Vision, Dental, Reconstructive Surgery, Orthopedic footware, Trauma Therapy, the pain medicine that M.A.I.D. suggest I try.

*Nor can I afford health supplements.

*Nor can I afford to hire a lawyer to try and have the people who caused my TBI’s arrested so I can receive restitution–and justice.

Everything previously mentioned keeps me from working. I can’t read more than a couple of paragraphs, I can’t retain what I’ve read, I can’t focus on a computer for more than an hour, I can’t sit for too long due to pain, I can’t write more than half an hour without my letters becoming scrambled, I can’t multi task, I get claustrophobic, I avoid groups and noisy, busy places, I have flashbacks, I dissociate, I seem ‘odd’ to ‘normal’ people so I self isolate, poor sleeps mean I can’t plan my days.

I can’t commit to a schedule because my state of being is unstable.

If money was not a concern:

*I would still enjoy long nature and beach walks with Wolfie

*I love to oil paint, I’d buy more art supplies

*I’d get my teeth cleaned

*I’d get a vision exam and better eye glasses

*I’d get better footware

*I’d see my osteopath more frequently

*I’d get the pain medicine M.A.I.D. suggests

*I’d have the reconstructive surgery to help me heal from my facial trauma

*I’d hire a lawyer and pursue having the people responsible for many of my injuries arrested

*I’d take my compassionate adult son out for sushi, our favorite food

*Mostly, I’d save, more than I spend.

If I didn’t have ‘Survival Stress’ worrying about money:

*I would tell more jokes

*I would laugh more

*I would live in the moment more

*I would work on creative projects more

*I’d be more generous with my friends and my kind-hearted son

*I’d buy more treats for my service dog, Wolfie and our kitten Peek A Boo.

If I had more money each month, I’d save more than I spend. I’d get the medical treatments I need AND I’d give back to the community and volunteer at an organization like Victoria Brain Injury Society (VBIS) to help others on their healing journey.

That, in a very intricate nutshell. Is my story. Respectfully,

Valentina and Wolfie

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