Letter: My police officer husband died from work trauma and WorkSafeBC won't pay me his pension

Dalila and Robert Vroom both grew up on Burke Mountain in Coquitlam. After his death, Robert was buried in the Port Coquitlam Cemetery, the same city where they met and “where all of the happiest days of our lives were,” his wife, Dalila, told the Tri-City News.

The Editor:

My husband Const. Robert Vroom, an Abbotsford police officer, was only 50 years old when he died. He absorbed hundreds of traumas as a result of his direct involvement in working on cases involving many incidents of gruesome domestic violence, murders, suicides and fatalities surrounding car accidents. 

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Over time, his psychological injuries accumulated until one day he dropped dead in our front yard. Following his death, I submitted a claim for the Widow’s Pension entitlement as provided by the Workers’ Compensation Act. Incredibly, WorkSafeBC recently sent me a letter notifying me of their refusal to respect my claim.

My husband served and protected the community of Abbotsford for many years. He was a First Responder, an expert collision reconstructionist and dealt with violent domestic murders and suicides. 

For years, he was kept on “On Call” status, 24/7. He was required to shoulder this excessive demand due to ongoing police staff shortages in his area of expertise. Repeatedly, and over the course of many years, he was directly exposed to a chain of horrific incidents, which inevitably took their toll on this highly dedicated veteran police officer. Robert was diagnosed with an extreme case of accumulative PTSD and major depression causing total disability.

In order to prove his injury claim, WorkSafeBC required my husband to be examined by different psychologists who had no previous treatment relationship with him. Even after his claim was recognized as work-related, WorkSafeBC required him to attend many examinations by different psychologists who had no familiarity with him. As a result, in meeting with a new psychologist, they would require that he start from scratch. He would have to relive every trauma, over and over again, with each newly introduced psychologist. This caused a serious re-traumatizing of my husband’s PTSD and major depression injuries.

In the end, the regimen WorkSafeBC required my husband to follow caused him much more harm than good. My husband described this WorkSafeBC process as “torture” not treatment. 

He would say: 

“They get me all wound up reliving my traumas and then say ‘time is up’ and so I had to go home where all I could do was retreat to my darkened bedroom, in solitary confinement for days, just to try to calm down. 

“After those sessions, I could not shut my brain off. The traumas kept repeating in my visual memory over and over again. It was a living hell with no escape. I could not sleep or eat. I kept seeing the burning bodies, the bloody body parts, from all those horrific incidents over and over.”

WorkSafe BC has shamefully abandoned me, a financially distressed widow of police officer, to a lengthy appeal process that can take years and with no promise of correcting this disgraceful denial of a widow’s pension. 

I am seeking everyone’s support in this terrible situation, including the B.C. Police Association. I ask all those willing and able to help to call the minister of labour and the director of WorkSafeBC to register their strong support. 

Dalila Vroom, Maple Ridge

 

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