Why a family of 6 in Oakville is living on $36K a year The WSIB refused to compensate Steve Rescan, 40, after back issues forced him to stop working

By Lisa Xing, CBC News Posted: Mar 22, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 22, 2017 8:36 PM ET

As he’s packing lunches and serving up waffles for his young daughters, Steve Rescan stops to rest every few minutes. He’s hunched over, with his hands on the counter to steady himself.

“I’ve got to lean on something or my hips start to give,” said the 40-year-old. “It’s a sharp constant pain.”

Four years ago, at the age of 36, Rescan was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, mild scoliosis and osteoarthritis shortly after he stopped working his construction job. He spent 17 years installing aluminum siding for new subdivisions.

“I was having trouble bending down, standing, doing anything,” he told CBC Toronto. “I stopped [working] at Christmas, hoping my back would get better. Never did.”

Workers’ Compensation

Rescan applied for workers’ compensation through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), but was denied, and the family has spent the last few years trying to fight that decision.

His doctors said his conditions were exacerbated by his construction work.

The WSIB appeals tribunal said “there is no significant dispute … the worker has a disabling low back condition” and it accepted that “the worker’s duties were reasonably physically demanding.”

But the tribunal said it was not “persuaded on a balance of probabilities that the worker’s back condition is the result of his work duties.”

Rescan says he can’t believe that 18 years of construction work didn’t worsen his condition.

“You have to lug ladders around, unload equipment, materials, a couple hundred pounds a box,” Rescan told CBC Toronto. “There’s 30 pounds on your hips, your tool belt. You’re at awkward angles, leaning. They shot me down saying it wasn’t work related….”

In a statement to CBC Toronto, Christine Arnott, spokesperson for the WSIB wrote, “A claim for a work-related injury will not be denied because of a pre-existing condition, but the WSIB has an obligation to assess the ongoing work-relatedness of claims.”

Family of 6

Because he stopped working and did not qualify for workers’ compensation, Rescan’s wife, who was a stay-at-home mom, went to school and got a job as a personal support worker, making $36,000 a year.

The family of six currently lives with Rescan’s mother to make ends meet.

“[Steve and I] haven’t been to the dentist in two years. We make sure our kids go, because we want to make sure they’re taken care of, said Rescan’s wife, Danielle.

“To be young and physically fit for so long to being 40 years old and run down, it’s not something he chose to do,” she said. “Having the two older children, 19 and 16, you see a big difference in his level of activity with them. He would go out and play soccer in the fields with the older ones. With our eight and five year old, he couldn’t pick [our daughter] up.”

WSIB policy change

The WSIB confirmed to CBC Toronto Tuesday it changed its practices around workers’ claims in 2010. From then on, it became harder for workers with pre-existing conditions to get compensation.

That became official policy in November 2014. WSIB figures show the percentage of claims in which it has recognized a permanent impairment has decreased from 9.3 per cent in 2010 to 5.9 per cent in 2015.

Maryth Yachnin, a lawyer with the Industrial Accident Victims Group (IAVGO) in Toronto, calls many of the WSIB decisions “unjustified and completely unfair” to workers.

“They don’t want to be forced out of work because of disability, but that’s their reality. And compounded on that reality, which is bad enough, but now they’re forced into poverty. We see tons of it,” she said.

“This system, which is supposed to support workers. is actually doing the opposite.”

Danielle Rescan agrees.

“For a system you’ve been putting money into for 20 years, for them to turn around and say, ‘Sorry we can’t help you,’ none of it makes sense,” she said.

“We want help. We want answers that make sense.”

One thought on “Why a family of 6 in Oakville is living on $36K a year The WSIB refused to compensate Steve Rescan, 40, after back issues forced him to stop working

  1. Hello

    I just wanted to shared how sad these stories are and how disheartening the WSIB process is. I am in the same situation with multiple injuries to my hand, elbow, shoulder, from repetitive strain injuries. I had to be loud and upset at the ER Dr for at least an X-ray, my results osteoarthritis, bone spurs, and disc spacing in my neck. These are additional injuries recently reported to WSIB and I have had neck, back and shoulder issues for 5-6 years. I have medical paper trail from chiropractor care to physiotherapy appointment from the times I started feeling symptoms. I’m having a lot of anxiety because I am aware of how WSIB deny injured workers. Even while you’re still injured with work related injuries waiting for test and surgery, with limitations to the dominant hand, you still need to agree to work or you do not receive that 2 hr of pay. I had many people warning me about WSIB and I was naive. My pain is real, it has been for years and I worked a long time with chronic pain. I have attended my own professional Heath care services, massage therapy, chiropractic care as well as therapy, not to mention all the additional equipment for care at home. WSIB has been the most stressful and disheartening process I have ever had to deal with. The Specialty Clinic did not acknowledge any of the pain I mentioned about my neck, upper back or shoulder, they said “humm”. Then they wrote in the report “we explained to the worker that because she is experiencing pain does not mean she is doing harm”. I have been employed for 19 years as a child protection worker, the last 8 years as an Intake Worker, repetitive keyboarding and mousing for hours with minimal breaks without proper ergonomic set up. I’m still working at the same desk waiting for my ergonomic equipment to come in, the employer does not know how long it will take. So in the mean time, I bring my own accommodations, pillow for extra lumbar, my electric hand heater, I wear a tension band on my elbow, and I am considering getting a cervical brace to help stabilize my neck when I am sitting upright.
    I can go on and on with many other stories, it has almost become comical at some point just because I never imagined the process was this harsh. I pray each day that they will recognize my inability to manage at this time. I am exhausted to no end (I believe this is the process) they exhaust you to see if you’re truly injured, so I was told as a way to “weed” out the fraudulent people. All this does is cause more anxiety and depression while already unable to manage with worker related injuries. I have nothing nice to say about the WSIB process, the case manager who has denied my carpal tunnel and nerve entrapment injuries; however, has refunded me for wrists braces and elbow stabilizer brace. She advised it was an oversight for the wrist braces but approved the elbow brace as “another oversight” I’m guessing.
    The wording in the letters from the specialty clinic with WSIB “They will explain how you are doing and what treatments they recommend to help you recover and feel better”. This is a joke clinic “paper doctor” had no interest in how I was feeling or what kind of pain I had!! If I would not have taken the initiative to look into my injuries on my own, I have absolutely no clue how my case would be turning out right now. Most likely, I’d be forced to work with chronic pain.
    Thank you for allowing me to share and vent and mostly, for your understanding!!

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