In the blink of an eye....

Last week we experienced a solar eclipse, something that is a rarity and infrequently happens.  As I had my weekly staff meeting, we got to talking about what can happen in the blink of an eye.

Some disabilities are chronic and occur over a number of years - but sometimes disability happens quite literally in the blink of an eye - a fall off a ladder, being hit by a car, a stroke, a heart attack.  Quite literally in the blink of an eye - a life can be changed.

At DCAC, we have been privileged to help thousands of individuals with disabilties navigate an often frustrating, confusing, and lengthy process of applying for or appealing CPP disability benefits. Our initial focus was to help people who had been denied, however over the last several years, we have been assisting individuals with their CPP disability applications and we are proud to say we have over 85% success rate. 

A Facebook poster asked me why it is necessary for someone to pay for help in order to fill out government forms.  I agree it shouldn't be necessary - but like you go to an expert to fill out your taxes - at DCAC we are experts in case-managing Canada Pension Plan disabilty applications.  The CPP disability denial rate on initial applications is around 55% - our success rate illustrates why it is smart to obtain professional assistance to navigate the waters.

There are individuals who can manage on their own, but there are people who find the process completely overwhelming - those individuals who have brain injury or cognitive deficits - maybe English is their second language - maybe they do not have a great education so the forms are just daunting. 

I feel that it is only a smart idea to get help right from the very beginning of the process.  At DCAC provides value in the following ways:

  • On the website we include a Canada Pension Plan disability Application kit which provides helfpul suggestions on making your application
  • Our staff are experienced - you can see the level of accumulated experience when you read about our team.  We understand the CPP disability legislation
  • We have worked on thousands of cases and we understand how a disability application or appeal should be managed
  • We provide all the service that you need seeing you right through the process - from application to appeal our work together will benefit you by achieving earliery approvals and assisting you to avoid common pitfalls of doing this alone
  • We have all the available technology to support clients across the country - we have representatives across Canada
  • We have years of accumulated contacts within the Canada Pension Plan - and we know who to call when help is needed

At DCAC - we have you covered - call us if you need help.





Hello Again!

Thank you all very much for staying in contact with DCAC over the last couple of years.  It has been a very busy time for us all here at DCAC and I now finally have some time to focus on keeping the blog entries current.

I would like to welcome you all to the new website - we hope that you like it and are able to get the information that you need to help you with your CPP disability matters.

My goal for this blog is to keep you updated on what is happening with CPP disability and to provide education and outreach if you are struggling to apply for CPP disabilty, or if you have been denied and need to appeal.

Over the last couple of years, there have been a number of newspaper stories on CPP disability which I would like to share with you all in the hopes that you will be well-informed to deal with the program.

In February 2016, the Auditor General of Canada, released its' findings on the Canada Pension Plan disability program - it was very scathing and a blessing to those of us who work within this system.  Shortly after that report was released, the Minister instructed the reconstitution of the CPP Disability Roundtable and I was fortunate to be offered a seat at this table.  This means, that I am able to speak up on behalf of the Canadians who have to deal with this system - and to offer my opinions on how the program can be more accessible.  From the lengthy and complex application process - to the large denial rate  - there are many good folk who are working towards change.  I am looking forward to sharing some of the information on participation in this process. The Social Security Tribunal has recently been reviewed and we await the findings of the report due in Fall. 

There is much to write about and over the next weeks I will be posting entries that I hope will be informative and interesting.  Thank you for being here.  Allison



CAUTION - Notice of Readiness Form - CAUTION

If your appeal is at the Social Security Tribunal and you are currently waiting for a hearing - you would have likely received a Notice of Readiness form in the mail. 

Please read this article carefully.

In December 2015, the Social Security Tribunal, decided that they were going to implement the regulations concerning the Notice of Readiness process.  If you have filed an appeal and received an acknowledgment from the Tribunal, you will receive a Notice of Readiness form.

This form will be located in the letter you receive from the Tribunal outlining your next steps in the appeal process.

 It says in the letter  that all parties to the appeal are allowed one year to send to the Tribunal any documents they want the Tribunal to consider.  And they will give you a date in which this 365 day period ends.

However, you are given the option, that if you do not need the one year and want the Tribunal to decide the appeal sooner, you can complete the Notice of Readiness form and send it to the Tribunal.

What is the Social Security Tribunal Notice of Readiness Form?

Well it is a document that is named Notice of Readiness:  Form for the Appellant

This form is very important - as once you complete this form and return it to the Social Security Tribunal  it means that you are stating that there are no more documents you wish to file in support of your appeal.

I know that many people will be keen to get the Appeal heard - and a Tribunal date - but it is a very bad mistake to sign this form without consulting an expert to ensure that you are indeed ready to proceed.  In fact, it is a very big mistake to send this form in before your case is reviewed and your appeal is managed.

If you sign this form it says that you have nothing further to add to your file. 

Sending the Notice of Readiness Form without consulting an expert is a mistake

This is my opinion.  Many people believe that they have submitted what is needed in order to support their Canada Pension Plan disability application - many people assume that because your doctor says your disabled - and because you are disabled - that you will qualify.  Well the recent news stories and the Auditor General's report has unfortunately highlighted that this is probably not the case.  Many people think that they have submitted all that they need to be successful -but in my experience - this is most often not the case.  Many people assume their doctors have submitted what they need, or think that CPP disability have collected what they need - but no. 

Most people have no understanding of the Minimum Qualifying Period or how that impacts an appeal.  There are so many reasons not to sign this form without expert consultation. 

If you sign a Notice of Readiness Form without consultation you could be preventing the opportunity to prepare your for your appeal.  And I like to follow the five p's - Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance  (excuse my language).

So don't sign it without knowing for certain that you are prepared and that you have at least had someone look over your case as once you have signed it - well you may have difficulty submitting any more documents that could be critical to your appeal.

Think of it this way - if you have got the Notice of Readiness Form  - and signed it - and then you are diagnosed with another condition or perhaps you have more medical testing - who knows - but these may not be allowed to be submitted in order to support your appeal.

The last kick at the can

If you are a follower of this blog, you will know that the SST General Division appeal is pretty much the last opportunity you will have to submit information in order to support your appeal and it is your best shot to being successful and securing your disability benefits.  If you are denied at the General Division you cannot submit new documents on appeal - see why the you have to be so careful with the Notice of Readiness Form?

Some suggestions to follow

I would review the blog here to learn information about Canada Pension Plan and how to prepare your appeal.  I would make sure that you review all of the information in your file and ensure that all the documents are in there.  I would certainly wait until you receive The Minister's submission as to why they feel you are not entitled to Canada Pension Plan disability - and then review that to see what they find deficient in your case - at least make sure you prepare to respond to that. 

I would review the medical information and make sure that you have submitted everything before the time of the Minimum Qualifying Period and continuously to present.  I would make sure that your doctors have written letters of support - recent letters of support.

I cannot say it enough but I would make sure I had a professional expert review your file to ensure that your appeal documents are ready to go.  Do not leave this to an untrained person - it is a bad foolish thing to do.

Please contact me for further information - I am always happy to help.  We are currently evolving here at DCAC again - and have exciting changes to announce shortly.






Rants, Road blocks & Rubberstamps

It has been quite a long while since I have been sufficiently annoyed to write a blog entry.

For the most part, since then Minister Kenney pledged to eliminate the backlog at the SST, my year has been spent running from one end of the country to the other, working with clients whose appeals had finally been scheduled.

There were a large number of clients whose files were settled by Canada Pension Plan prior to the hearing.  But for those who did have to attend the Tribunal, I will say that they have been very well managed and the Tribunal Members have really been great ensuring the client has had a very good hearing experience.  Each Member has a differnt style, some more relaxed than others, but the clients had all left the hearings feeling a lot more positive than how they felt going in.  The clients are nervous and I have found the Members do their best to put the client at ease.  At least this is my experience and perspective.

I understand that the Tribunal are very close to completing all of the legacy files that had come over from the old Review Tribunal.  They have really worked hard - and whilst what happened to many clients caught up in the back log mess was very discouraging and frankly just bad - I do want to tip my hat to the staff of the SST.  They seem to be hitting their stride and almost remind me of the Tribunal of days gone by. 

Now let me speak of the road blocks and rubber stamps......

I have always maintained that if CPP disability actually adjudicated the applications they received utilizing the CPP disability adjudication framework - they would not have the large denial rates they seem to maintain year after year.  The Tribunal at one point, said that they had overturned and allowed more than 50% of the appeals they heard - which means that CPP disability - or the government - had got it wrong 50% of the time.

I cannot tell you how these denials so negatively impact the clients - they go without medication - they cannot afford their bills - their families suffer - the doctors getting pissed off because CPP disability do not listen - and it is just negative overall - not to mention how the clients become sicker due to the finanical stress they are put under.

I received a denial letter from CPP disability yesterday - the client had requested a reconsideration of the initial decision on September 4th advising CPP they there was additional information that the client was planning to submit to support his appeal - and today I got a copy of another denial letter dated October 22nd, 2015 denying him again.  THEY DID NOT WAIT FOR ANY INFORMATION THAT THE CLIENT WANTED TO SUBMIT.  FP Winnipeg.

I have sent letters to the CPP Medical Adjudicators - those particularly in CPP Chatham - and advised them that the client was waiting for a copy of their CPP disability file to come from Privacy so that they could prepare their appeal - and to please wait until they have had the opportunity to review this and submit additional infomration - ONLY TO BE DENIED WITHOUT ANY CONSULTATION.

That my friends is RUBBER STAMPING by Canada Pension Plan disability. 

If this rubber stamping did not occur, then the SST would not have such a large number of appeals being received each year. 




Bad time to pick a fight

It has been a while.  I have been very busy.  As you know the mandate came down from then Minister Kenney to wipe out the SST backlog.  The SST has been working hard to put the Tribunal on a more stable footing.

Things were going along fine, until last week.  It is a bad time to pick a fight.

I will further elaborate as things unfold.


Whose hearing is it?

The Social Security Tribunal regulations indicate that the format of the hearing is decided by the Tribunal Member.  As you know, there are several different formats in which a hearing can take place.  There are in-person appeals that include a video-conference hearing, a teleconference appeal format, hearings on the record as well as in a question answer format. 

According to the statistics that I have received, there seem to be a higher chance of being successful, if the client has an in-person hearing.  I believe I have noted these statistics on this blog in previous entries.  

Then Minister Kenney indicated that the back log of cases at the Social Security Tribunal would be elimiated by August 2015.  That is just around the corner.  I would like to say that the Tribunal and the Ministry has worked really hard to get this back log sorted. 

However, I am now becomming very concerned about the recent influx of Notice of Hearings that I have been receiving with only a teleconference hearing format offered to the client.

When I have written requesting that this type of hearing format be changed - on two occasions now the request to have this changed has been declined.  I believe that this particular Tribunal Member has denied both requests.  This is very surprising to me as usually most of the Members are very accommodating to the clients and from what I have observed they are certainly doing what they can to ensure the client has a good tribunal experience. 

I just wonder exactly whose hearing is it?  I think that most people would agree that it is the CLIENTS.

If the client wants to be seen and heard - then this request should be accomodated.  What difference does it make to the Tribunal Member if they are sitting on a phone - or sitting before a video conference screen?

I am just reading through a file - and it says right in the medical report "on examination he LOOKS in pain."

I just attended a hearing where the client SHOWED the Tribunal Member her hands that were extremely deformed from Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Another hearing, the client was unable to get up out of her chair.  Another a client sat on the floor with cushions because of the pain she was in.

How exactly Tribunal Member is a teleconference hearing helpful to a client? I can understand if it is the client's request to have a teleconference hearing but if the client requests the format should be changed this request should be accommodated?  It is the CLIENT's hearing and they have waited for several years to what they feel like is being "blown off" with a telephone call?  Perception is everything Tribunal, and it makes the client feel that the playing field is not even when THEIR simple requests are denied.

Two clients have been denied the opportunity to have an in-person appeal by videoconference.  It says in the letter that:

The Tribunal Member has detemined that a teleconference is the most appropriate form of hearing and states that:

  • The form of hearing provides for the accommodations required by the parties or participants, and
  • Credibitliy is not a prevailing issue.

But if the client is REQUESTING that the appeal be in-person - then who exactly is being ACCOMMODATED?

I just do not get it.  It's time to speak up and make sure that the clients are receiving the hearings that they are asking for.




Some Updates and Information

I cannot believe it is June 5th and the last entry I made was April 1st.  It has been a very busy two months.

My time has been consumed moving the office as well as managing all of the recent appeals and the push that the Minister has been undertaking to ensure that the backlog of cases at the Social Security Tribunal would be eliminated by August 2015.

I still think that is a very big stretch, but definitely most of the legacy cases that came over from the Review Tribunal have either been settled or are on their way to be scheduled by the Social Security Tribunal.  Based on my recent experience, I believe that they are starting to work on the appeals that were filed in 2013.

I had the great pleasure of hosting the Social Security Tribunal Chair and her colleague at my office here in Saskatchewan.  They both came a great distance to meet with the stakeholders here in Saskatchewan, and it was a very positive meeting.  Madame Chair shared the work that the Social Security Tribunal have undertaken in order to ensure a good appeal experience for the Appellant.  I believe that Madame Chair and her staff are working their very best to ensure that the Tribunal is efficiently run and despite the rocky start they have had, I am finally feeling a lot more positive that the Tribunal is getting on to stable footing.  It is very unfortunate that they were dumped on to begin with all the back logged appeals and that was very poorly planned from a Ministerial perspective - and hat's off to Madame Chair and her staff who have had to plow on through.  I do feel much more confident - it is a relief to say that.

I have also shared with Madame Chair my appreciation to the Social Security Tribunal members.  I have been able to attend a lot of hearings and would like to say that those I have recently attended have been excellently managed.  I would particularly like to compliment the most recent Chairs this last week.  The hearings were a very comfortable experience for the Appellants and greatly appreciated.


A change

After 17 years of working in my current office location, DCAC is on the move!

This means that starting Good Friday, the office is going to be "off the grid" for a couple of weeks.

We will reopen in the new location on Monday April 20th, 2015.

I will still be available to be reached by phone and email but you may have to leave me a message.

Happy Easter to you all.