Ron Smart was a baker in the Okanagan for many years before doctors discovered a tumour that was located six centimetres into his brain near his brain stem in 2018.
It was possible for the doctors to remove most of the malignant tumour, but a small part of the brain tumour remained.
“It was a very large tumour, and on my medical reports they wrote, ‘non-survivable,'” Smart said.
But Smart survived the surgery and now he and his wife live in a quiet Penticton, B.C., neighbourhood
He is unable to work, though, due to the intense surgery. He has been living off both federal and provincial disability funding which totals just under $23,000 a year.
The problem is that the provincial funding is capped and his wife can only make a certain amount of money a year.
“Once your spouse hits $15,500, you’re cut off,” Smart said.
“The way that the government explained it is that it’s based on your spouse’s income. Because we did everything by the book, by the rules, we got the impression we were being punished for being married on disability.”
Smart’s wife makes less than $24,000 a year, working part-time at a local gas station.
He tells Global News that she needs to send in her pay stubs each month once they hit that cap amount of $15,000. His provincial payments are suspended until he is reassessed again early the following year.
“So it works out to six to seven months of coverage a year and then that’s it,” Smart said.
Global News reached out to the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. In a statement, minister Sheila Malcolmson said that, “Many people are facing real challenges around the world with global inflation.”
She also mentions that the B.C. government has raised income assistance and disability assistance rates four times.
“We’ve also increased earning exemptions for those on Disability Assistance, from $9,600 a year in 2017 to $15,000 a year in 2021, so that someone can make up to $15,000 in addition to what they receive in disability assistance,” Malcolmson said.
Smart said he’s tried to reach out to several people in the provincial government, including former premier John Horgan when he was in office.
He said he either gets no answers or is ignored. He said he would like to see some changes made to this system so that fewer people suffer who are just trying to survive.