Criminal Injuries Compensation Board: The hearing

We submitted our application to the CICB around May 2015 and were granted a hearing in early December 2015. Jason spoke to his case manager intermittently throughout that time and he always seemed nice, but we were still afraid of the hearing.

We told few people about it, I had already heard from some people in TBI support groups that we shouldn’t be flaunting how lucky we were to be able to apply to CICB (it’s a funny sort of luck when you hang out in TBI world). Our parents knew and one set of friends, who we planned on celebrating with that evening regardless of the outcome.

We had the choice of meeting in Barrie or Toronto but because the detective on Jason’s case was based in Toronto we opted for that location. It meant an early morning train ride to the city and some added anxiety being back in the city where Jason was assaulted but our detective had treated us so kindly over the last year and a half we were happy to make life easy for him. We arrived at the CICB building ridiculously early , with tea and coffee in hand, which allowed us to get ourselves even more worked up and nervous.

Part of the stress lay with the fact that in general Jason and the detective were the only ones allowed to speak in the hearing. I feared things missing from our story because of Jason’s memory or pride. As soon as we entered the room the committee, two lovely people, chose to swear me in as well so that I could help with the parts he forgot. Already a prayer answered because they chose to be compassionate.

Because Jason has no memory of that night the detective spoke first, sharing his information and affirming that Jason was not the cause of the incident.  I am certain this would have been a wasted day if the detective hadn’t shown up and stood up for us. I can never explain to him how grateful we are. Following his statements, Jason and I took turns answering questions about the effect this has had on our life and why certain treatment decisions were made. I think in all we were in the room for less than the longest 40 minutes of my life. Despite what I read in various news articles we were always spoken to respectfully, we were given time to come up with articulate answers and clarify ourselves if emotion got in the way of our words.  Both members were kind when they questioned us. It was the loveliest possible conversation for the situation we were in.

After all the discussions were done we were asked to leave the room while the committee came to a decision. A funny quirk of the system, that I don’t think either Jason or I realized until we were in it, was that they still had to determine if Jason WAS a victim. Because the men that did this have not been caught and no charges have been laid, the first step was deciding if a crime had been committed against him. So we were happy, in the weirdest sort of way, to learn that they agreed he had been a victim of a crime and then they walked us through all their justifications for awarding certain amounts of money and not awarding other things. We did end up receiving some money to help pay medical bills but we had already decided that we would write a blog post about the compassionate side of CICB before we knew that. We were blown away by the kindness we were shown.

We write this post not to flaunt our “luck” but to offer a different perspective on the CICB. So much of what is out there vilifies the people on the committee and we want our story to offer some hope to those going through the process, there are some really extraordinary individuals involved with this committee and it can be a peaceful experience.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Board: The application

Sometime last year, when we had already spent thousands on medical care for Jason and were facing the reality of losing thousands in his income, we decided to submit an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB). We had discussed the idea shortly after he was injured but pride, and I’ll admit laziness, got in the way. It wasn’t until we were 7 or 8 months into life with a traumatic brain injury that we decided we needed to ask for financial help.

It was a scary experience, most of the information available online suggested that asking for help from the CICB left victims re-victimized and embarrassed. The fear of the “hearing” with the CICB board was trumped only by the crushing desperation I felt filling out the paperwork. Weighing in at 15 pages this document requires describing the “incident” and revealing all the ways your life has been affected. Once you’ve torn your heart out to mail to them, you also need to include ALL your medical records, invoices, treatment notes, bills, insurance receipts, mileage records, and pay stubs.

A less brain injury friendly process I don’t think I could imagine. A less man friendly process would be hard. I think it’s fair to say both Jason and I barely survived the day we filled out that application. We worked on it for about 4 hours straight (sorry, OTs!) and then cried and had a nap followed by a drink.

Looking back, it’s another experience where I am so grateful that Jason is the man he is. It could not have been easy to hear my versions of how the injury had affected us – beyond the crappy pre wedding stress and long lost honeymoon, I had to detail the angry nights he couldn’t remember, the sadness I felt when he had to sleep all weekend (literally, awake for meals only) to recover from a week at work. He had to acknowledge the loss of friendships and skills at work, the changes in our relationship. If anything could make a 30 year old man feel like a failure I think it would be this application. We had already accumulated all the medical notes we needed but as we set about creating the binder to send in we made the mistake of reading his files. Facts we hadn’t been aware of became details to add to our nightmares – the fact that he had been unconscious in the ambulance, that the police had called in the Forensics team because they assumed this would be a homicide investigation, that there were 5 areas of bleeding instead of the 2 we’d known about. We survived and sent in our application, in all it was a full 3 inch binder of supporting documentation.

AND THEN…

We had to continue to send in paperwork any time Jason had appointments or had his disability extended. We were supposed to run our trips to Michigan for behavioural optometry by his case manager before leaving but we didn’t know that and so they could not be covered.

It was a terrible process, and yet even with that criticism I don’t know of an easier one – perhaps only having an online portal to upload files so that we don’t need to kill so many trees for every application. And fortunately the application and the fear of the process was the hardest part. Next week I’ll detail our experience with the actual hearts and souls of CICB but basically we were blessed to meet some very compassionate and kind people.

If you know of anyone that needs to apply to CICB please give them our information. Having lived through the process once we are happy to share our experience and I happen to LOVE organizing when my heart isn’t being ripped to shreds. If they don’t want to reach out to us as random strangers, please offer to help them. Whether acting as a scribe or driving them from medical office to medical office to pick up their files, this process can wear people down and you can be an amazing gift to them as they struggle with identity and fear post victimization.

Treatments we’ve tried

A few weeks ago we spent some time outlining the traditional treatment options (OT, SLP, etc) that we pursued in Jason’s recovery.

Over the next few weeks we’re going to discuss some of the other treatments we’ve sought out such as osteopathy, Matrix repatterning and Naturopathic medicine. Of course we’ve already shared our story about how behavioural optometry has helped Jason and will continue to update how we see changes from that intervention.

It’s important to us to outline that not every treatment is right for every person and none of our stories should be taken as prescriptions or orders to seek out a new treatment. We’re lucky that I work in the health field and have called in favour after favour to get Jason seen by people I trust and refer to often. Within my practice I treat many individuals with traumatic brain injuries and we share stories and names of practitioners on a regular basis but that is no guarantee that results will be consistent. Every brain injury is different, every individual is coming into treatments at different levels of functioning and health and results will always vary. If a certain treatment story resonates with you I encourage you to read the links I include in every post and find a good fit for you. Geography and financial limitations will also come into play during your journey with TBI and you always need to make your own decisions that suit your lifestyle.

On the note of financials, there are a lot of studies that show that those with TBI often have to file for bankruptcy or are faced with financial troubles. In just over a year we’ve thrown about $40 000.00 at brain injury treatments (including lost income because that is part of recovery in my mind). No one, including us, can tell you what your financial investment should be in your brain or how you decide that. We’re gut reaction people, if research resonates with our story and the practitioner seems like a good fit that listens to both of us, we tend to try our hardest to afford the treatment. If a treatment doesn’t seem to change Jason’s quality of life within the first few sessions we will always discuss with the practitioner but then decide for ourselves when to stop treatments. We try our best to not regret our decisions but there’s never any clear answers.

I am sure you are doing your best with recovery and we only want to share our experiences to offer options. This remains a very individual journey so please make your own decisions with care and be gentle to yourself.