CPP Disability Claims Advocacy Clinic
 
 

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Hey Canada Pension Plan Disability

by Allison Schmidt 23 January 2015 10:15

Here is a brain wave for you.  How about you fix your problems in the processing departments?

Over the last several weeks I have been phoning Service Canada to advise the CPP medical adjudicators on file that there is additional information coming to help support a client's request for appeal.

Consent to Communicate has been sent to the department some time prior - in many cases up to six weeks prior - I have just been told today, that the processing time to add a consent to a file is two to three months and that is because they are so busy. 

So does this mean it is taking two to three months for any new information to get to the CPP disability adjudicator?  No wonder appeals are being denied when the adjudicators do not have the totality of the information on file for them to review.

If the consents are not added to the file, then I cannot even advise the case-managers that there is additional information to support the appeal.

No wonder the Social Security Tribunal has such a back log of appeals.

There was a recent study commissioned to determine how to reduce the backlog. The report was supposed to have been presented to the SST on November 28th,  Perhaps they should have just consulted with the people who work in this system.  But why would they want our opinions?

Hey Canada Pension Plan you need to start increasing your processing times and ensuring documents received are added to files in a more timely fashion. This may indeed stop people being denied. 

The next step is to start appealing these decisions under Section 66(4) of the Canada Pension Plan Act which states that:

Where the Minister is satisfied that, as a result of erroneous advise or administrative error in the administration of the Act, any person has been denied:

a)  A benefit, or portion thereof, to which a person would have been entitled to under this Act.

Thank you Mr. W.


 

Scheduling of Hearings at the Social Security Tribunal

by Allison Schmidt 20 January 2015 09:40

A quick entry to update those people who are currently waiting for appeals at the Social Security Tribunal.  I am speaking to those appellants who are Legacy Appeals - they are those who were at the Review Tribunal at the time of changeover to the Social Security Tribunal.

I have over the last two weeks received dates for hearings for individuals whose appeals are numbered 122 - 123.  

So these individuals had probably applied to the Review Tribunal to have their appeal heard in around early 2012.  These hearings are also being scheduled for the May - June 2015 period. 

Still a huge back log  waiting - all of the remainder of the legacy cases - they are numbered up to 125 and all of the Appeal GP-13 and GP-14.  But progress - finally  progress.

I would also like to caution people on two things - firstly - if you have an appeal scheduled at the Social Security Tribunal please get help with this.  It is just plain foolish to try to manage this type of appeal alone.  There is too much at stake and with very limited appeal rights if you are denied - you may just be done being able to apply for CPP disability again.  Also, be careful who you choose to help you.  There are individuals out there who claim to be able to do this work - I have written in prior blogs about the questions to ask if you are looking for someone to help you.  If you like, you can call this office and ask me.  I would rather help you decide than you rely on someone who does not have the expertise.

Secondly, try not to get to this level of appeal.  If you have been denied CPP disability, get help at the initial stages of application and for sure at the reconsideration appeal.  My staff and I can help prepare and audit your CPP Disability applications.

Statistics of Reconsiderations

by Allison Schmidt 07 January 2015 15:57

Yesterday I received information concerning Reconsideration appeals to Canada Pension Plan.  If you are a follower of the blog, you will have read my complaints about the stupid denials I have been receiving from certain regional offices.  I decided to request information to determine whether the trend of denials could be supported by actual figures and that is the what I received yesterday.

In 2013 -2014 fiscal year, there were 13,841 requests for reconsideration received by Employment and Skills Development Canada.  This is your first level of appeal.

Out of the 13,841 appeals received 8,564 were denied - this is a 61% denial rate.

Now that is not really surprising to me because that is what the denial rate seems to hover around.

What is surprising to me, is that in the Ontario region, they received 7,586 requests for appeals and they maintained the denial of 5,216 of them.  That is a whopping 68 percent denial rate.

So back to the stupid denials.  Many of those DCAC has received in the last several months, the Medical Adjudicator - has not waited for the additional information they were advised was being submitted in order to add more support to the appeal.  They have simply denied them without waiting, without contacting the client, without contacting anyone to ensure that the client is ready to proceed with the appeal.  And I do not have to tell you where these denials are coming from - you guessed it - CHATHAM ONTARIO.

In documents I have reviewed, it is noted that part of the Federal Government's response to reducing the horrendus 11,000 appeal back log at the Social Security Tribunal is to ensure proper adjudication at the administrative level - that is the reconsideration level.  So may I suggest to the Ministry that they check this issue out.  The client I am looking at right now there is no indication in the file that the client was even phoned to ask if there was additional information and despite a letter that had been sent to contact my office, there was no phone call to me either.  The decision to deny this benefit was made on November 28th this was despite a phone call to Service Canada to advise them that additional infomration was forthcoming and was sent on December 4th.  Is there miscommunication between the Service Canada office and the CPP Disability office?

A.L. Medical Adjudicator in Chatham office, that is just not cool - do your job - develop the file - it is not at all fair to this client who will now be stuck in the SST back log.

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Appeals

Some News for the New Year on the Social Security Tribunal

by Allison Schmidt 06 January 2015 13:58

Happy New Year to my clients, colleagues, and friends.

I just wanted you all to read this recent article in the Globe and Mail.  Some may suggest that only 1/3 of the Social Security Tribunal members having ties to the Conservative Party means that 2/3's of the members must have ties to the other political parties - but you will note in the article it states:

"According to the analysis, there's scant evidence any tribunal member has donated to ANY OTHER PARTY other than the Conservatives."

Here is the link:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/one-third-of-social-security-tribunal-members-have-ties-to-conservatives/article22315771/

Why???

Do you know that under the prior system we had tribunal members and judges who were well-experienced based on years of work with the appeal system - it begs the question as to why this was changed,  The old tribunal ran under the Conservative government and those appointments seemed to be appropriate and I completely disagree with Kenney's spokeswoman who suggests that this is a "marked improvement over the former system which had no comprehensive selection process whatsoever."  Hmm????  I am sure the well-experienced Federal Court judges and previous Tribunal Members who sat on the previous Tribunals would disagree with her comments and frankly find them insulting- give me a break and nice spin- yeah "you changed it" alright.

So have a think about who is hearing your appeals?  The tribunal members that I have dealt with under the new system have been very good.  I cannot complain.  But I also find it interesting, that all of the tribunal members DCAC has had at the SST hearings, have been previous tribunal members under the old system (what few there are). 

Get help please, do not proceed alone.  In my last blog, I talked about how experience matters when dealing with CPP applications and appeals.  We have the experience here at DCAC of that I am confident. The quality and experience of the staff includes prior tribunal members, paralegals, legal consultants, and prior CPP disability employees.  I have been very blessed to have a group of people who care about the clients and who have sought me out to work with this office because they have seen first hand, how the benefit of excellent case-management, ensures that the client has the best possible information to present when they apply for CPP disability or have to appeal the decision.

If you are at the Social Security Tribunal level, you know that you are going to be in for a very long wait.  I would take this time to make sure that your case is managed, all the information is marshalled, that you have the best possible opporutnity to convince the Tribunal Member that your appeal should succeed.

The staff here at DCAC are very happy to provide a free case assessment.  It will cost you nothing to make sure that you are heading in the right direction.

 

 

Experience Counts - Choose wisely

by Allison Schmidt 23 December 2014 09:27

I am now entering my 17th year of case-management work for individuals who are applying for or have been denied Canada Pension Plan disability benefits.

It was recently suggested that people like myself, were "taking advantage" of people with disabilities because we charge a fee for the services that we provide and that most people could do this work for themselves for free.

Some agencies have suggested that they know the proper terminology that needs to be used in order to get results, or that they were experienced in directing doctors on what words to use in medical reports in order to get results.  As well, that the CPP disability adjudicators need to see the "proper" words in order to be approved.

There are also some agencies who feel they have the capacity to do this work with little or no experience.

It takes a very long while of working within this system to know how to manage applications and appeals.  Before you decide or who it is you are going to get to help you with this process, please ensure that you have done your homework and determined that the service provider you engage has the necessary experience to help you.  You should ask any agency or service provider what there experience is in the system, how many appeals and applications they have completed, and how many appeals they have attended and what their success rate is.  You should ask them how they plan to approach the management of your file, and how they are going to engage your medical health practitioners.  You should ask them if they have any experience dealing with your medical condition, and if they have, how have they managed this appeal.  Ask them how many years they have been working in this system and what can they offer to help you through the process.

The government and constituency offices who suggest that service providers are taking advantage of people with disabilities well that could not be further from the truth and perhaps those haters should remember that it is their own political party that are taking advantage by not approving the applications and appeals and continuing to maintain a 60% denial rate.  If the government adjudicated these applications appropriately, why would a service to help be needed?   Best to not throw stones.

This process is very complex and it is best not to try and manage this alone.  Saying that people could do this alone - well it is true - but it is not smart. Especially now with the new appeal system and the significant delays I would caution most people to get help with this process.

I would also like to say that having doctors use the "proper terminology' is not the greatest way to manage a medical report - if a letter states that a client's disability is "severe and prolonged" I feel that this provides little help to the overall application or appeal.

Also the information on this website and posted on this blog is copyrighted.  If you would like to use this information in your literature or websites please contact my office.

I would like to wish all the followers of this blog a Merry Christmas.  It has been a challenging year but it is my hope that 2015 brings some welcome changes to the CPP disability landscape.  Take care. Allison

 

Ask for an inperson hearing at the Social Security Tribunal

by Allison Schmidt 19 December 2014 09:51

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/fewer-in-person-hearings-being-heard-by-social-security-tribunal--286276871.html

It has been statistically shown that appellants are more successful in their appeals if they have an in-person hearing rather than a hearing held over the phone or by video-conference.

I think what is missing from this article, is also the level of experience of the Tribunal Member.  I know this spokesperson from the SST continues to espouse how trained and proficient the tribunal members are, but in my experience any new tribunal members lack what I call "seasoning" which is in my opinion, a detriment to the appeal process.  I hope that the new hires to the tribunal will include many more of these "seasoned" and experience members who do not require "mentorship".

As well, it is noted by Richard Beaulne spokesman for the SST - that the type to hearing held had NO BEARING on the final decision.  I can tell you right now Sir, that is a load of rubbish.  Your statistics do not support your statement. 

You say that "Members make their decisions following a complete analysis of the evidence, submissions and applicable legsilative provisions presented by the parties."  HOW CAN THE MEMBERS MAKE A COMPLETE ANALYSIS OF THE EVIDENCE WITHOUT HEARING FROM THE APPELLANT?  ARE YOU TELLING ME THAT A TELEPHONE CALL IS AN APPROPRIATE WAY TO DO THIS? The statistics your office provides seems to illustrate that there is a significantly high number of denials when a Member holds a hearing by telephone compared to the in-person hearing.  Why is that?

If you had bothered to review the previous Pension Appeals Board cases that discuss the importance of being able to receive and consider the information provided by an appellant in person - you would soon realize how ridiculous your statements are.

So listen up people......  If you are told that your hearing is to be via teleconference - then you say NO you want to have an in-person hearing - so the totality of the information concerning your appeal can be assessed by a Tribunal Member. 

If this request is denied, please contact my office and I will pass your information on to some legal professionals who are developing a challenge concerning your right to chose the type of hearing you are given and the denial of the principals of natural justice. 

I will also tell you that most of these disability cases are complex - and the contents of a CPP disability file - NEVER - contains the totality of the information.  The CPP decision makers are required to consider the TOTALITY of the information - and how do you get that without hearing from an appellant.  I am just reading a letter that was sent to CPP Disability and this is what they write "I don't understand how somebody in your office who I have never seen, spoken too or been treated by apparently has this supernatural ability to know what I am or am not capable of doing based entirely on a couple of forms consisting of questions and answers and notes.  This person has the power over my life to decide on whether I should be or shouldn't be receiving a benefit for which I have paid into all of working life."  Note that this client is now stuck in the Social Security Tribunal line up due to the denial of his disability benefits by Canada Pension Plan.

Speaking to this point, it is noted in this newspaper article that the Feds pledged to "improve and rigourously monitor departmental processes, including reconsideration to minimize the number of cases proceeding to appeal."  YEAH RIGHT.  This week has been at least five denials where the Feds did not even wait for the client to submit the additional information before they chose to deny the claim.  One denial occurred a mere 37 days after the client submitted a reconsideration - and how is that not rubber stamping?  This was despite the client advising the CPP that they had additional information to submit.

On the last statistics received by my office, it is noted that the Ontario region had a 62% denial rate.  And according to the information in previous newspaper articles this is one of the highest denial rates in the world.

MP Jinny Sims says that government cannot be "insensitive"  I would like to say that it is not insensitivity but rather abuse of people with disabilities who have paid in to the CPP for years and who continue to deny their applications without following their own adjudication guidelines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backlogged by Design

by Allison Schmidt 17 December 2014 13:46

http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/harper-pco-approved-15-month-hiring-process-for-social-security-tribunal-1.2152053

 

Seriously - who puts a 15 month hiring process in place for an appeal tribunal that is going to open in 6 months?  I wonder if any thought was given to the numerous Canadian people whose lives are in turmoil while they wait for an appeal by the PMO as well as the "boys in short pants" boneheads who thought that this appeal system would be more efficient, fair, and transparent.  '

Minister Kenney blames the rigourous hiring process for the delays - yet he knew that there was a huge back log coming down the pipes and did not start hiring until six months before the tribunal opened knowing that the rigourous hiring process would take 15 months.  It just stinks. 

I feel extremely bad for the Chairperson and the staff at the SST who were some how supposed to manage this screw up on behalf of the bureaucrats.  Must have been real cushy gig for the rigourously-appointed newly-hired tribunal members getting their six figure salary while Canadians with disbailities suffered?   

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to the Editor

by Allison Schmidt 16 December 2014 15:15

The backlog of disability claims with the Social Security Tribunal is not caused by the SST; the tribunal only examines appeals which have been referred to it after those applications for a disability pension have been refused by two medical adjudicators working for Employment and Social Development Canada.

The disability pension system is part of the Canada Pension Plan; all working Canadians pay into it, and anyone who becomes disabled under the legal definition qualifies for a pension until age 65.

The applicant sends in completed forms to ESDC. His or her doctor likewise submits forms. After several weeks a decision is made by a medical adjudicator. If the MA turns down the request, the applicant may apply for “reconsideration,” wherein a second adjudicator takes a look at more forms. It is only after the second MA denies the application that one may appeal to the SST. The tribunal is backlogged due to the extremely high refusal rate by the adjudicators at ESDC.

Over 60 per cent of applicants are turned down right away. Why such a high rate? How would you feel if you found out your private insurance company refused most claims? Perhaps a few applicants don’t meet the criteria, but it surely cannot be 60 per cent. Those people do, after all, have the approbation of their personal doctor.

A large number of the applicants are later accepted at reconsideration. Furthermore, most appellants with the SST are successful. So why were they not accepted upon initial application with ESDC?

Since the entire procedure is difficult, frustrating and time-consuming, the process of fighting for a disability pension is not for the faint-of-heart.

After many years of bureaucratic combat with the soul-less vortex of federal government, I can seriously state that the medical adjudicators with Employment and Social Development Canada are uniformly failing in their responsibilities. They lack adequate medical expertise. They fail to apply their own Adjudication Framework guidelines. They do not follow the laws of the Canada Pension Plan Act, nor the precedents set by the Federal Court with regard to that Act. And the Social Security Tribunal is left trying to cope with the result of the profound failure of ESDC’s medical adjudicators to do their jobs properly.

Meanwhile, sick, suffering and dying Canadians are dealt a sentence of deep poverty because the program into which they have paid during their entire lives is ignoring them.

Craig Schindler

Cardston

 

 

What a disgrace.

by Allison Schmidt 06 December 2014 10:40

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/social-security-officials-were-idle-in-tribunals-early-months-says-official-284908491.html

 

I have been calling the appalling treatment dished out to Canadians with disabilities by this government a national disgrace for months now - and all of these news articles only illustrate why.

 

I personally know how this is affecting people who have worked hard only to be the recipients of this utter calamity that they Feds have called the Social Security Tribunal.

 

It is quite clear from the people who have spoken out, that there may indeed be a strong motive for denying Canadians the benefits they may be entitled to - because they have PAID in to this system for their working lives.  And but for a stroke of miserable misfortune, they find themselves begging - while the fat cats espouse how wonderful they are for Canada. 

 

But for the grace go I........

 

I hope that all of the 11,000 who are waiting - and it is likely more now - given the people phoning and the stupid denials I received this week (one said the lady should have better posture and then she could work) there is no doubt that this backlog will continue to grow.  This is just as much a Canada Pension Disability problem as it is a Social Security Tribunal problem.  Like Mr. Prince said - if they fix the front end - maybe the back end would do better.  And Minister Kenney is also responsible for that as well.  As Minister Kenney and his bureaucrats sit there and say that they now have a hundred members to hear 11,000 appeals - how is that going to help?  That is at this rate 1100 appeals per person - and further how are you going to staff the government so that the Ministry can look at these existing files to make sure that they have the opportunity to make submissions on their position - perhaps reversing their ridiculous decisions to deny? I just do not understand.

 

This week I have been inundated with phone calls and email messages, I have received offers of help from so many people, I have been offered help with legal support, volunteers have offered to help, old panel members and Federal Court judges have sat with me,  and Mr. Rabot.  Thank you Sir, I tip my hat.  To Ms. Goodman and the people who spoke out in the papers thank you. 

 

Allison

 

 

 

 

Backlogs could have been avoided

by Allison Schmidt 05 December 2014 13:20

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/social-security-tribunal-backlog-could-have-been-avoided-critics-say-284796661.html

 

This is the latest of many newspaper articles on the Social Security Tribunal. 

I recently helped a lady this week who had an in-person appeal.  She made her application to CPP disability in June 2010.

Stay tuned for more news to follow.

Of course the backlogs could have been avoided

by Allison Schmidt 04 December 2014 17:51

You know I really think that the Minister needs to get his facts straight.  

To the people who were in the lastest newspaper article published today, I thank you for speaking out.  

I wonder who will come forward tomorrow?  There are those out there who believe that this delay was by design so that the government could balance the budget.  Think of the fact that 11,000 people (the backlog grows daily) are waiting for appeals to be heard - does anyone have any idea how much money the Feds are saving by not paying these people their benefits? Not to mention the benefit payable to their children? And the back pay that is owed to them?  My guess is hundreds of millions. 

If there is interest I believe a lawyer should look at coming after the government for punitive damages for those people who have lost so much while these dicks have done this using money that people have contributed out of their working incomes.  If there is any interest please contact me and I will help any way that I can.  

It is an absolute shame. 

I would also like to say that this is not the staff at the Social Security Tribunal who have caused this problem - for the most part they have worked very hard to manage what has been dealt to them and my hat goes off to what they have done to try and get this all going smoothly - to the new Commissioner of the Social Security Tribunal - hang in there. 

 

Baloney Meter On the Social Security Tribunal

by Allison Schmidt 04 December 2014 08:46

CPP Disability amoung the highest rejection rates in World

by Allison Schmidt 04 December 2014 08:33

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/12/03/cpp-disability-benefits-denied_n_6257988.html

 

If there was not such a high denial rate by Canada Pension Plan disability then there may not be 11,000 appeals waiting to be heard.  When I opened my mail yesterday, I received two letters from CPP disability Chatham office who had denied individual's requests for reconsideration, despite letters on file from myself and client noting that there was additional information we were waiting to receive from the client's medical practitioners and asking for some time to submit this information.  Further, there was notice on file asking CPP adjudicator to call before making a decision. 

It says in the letter:

"A letter was sent from Service Canada to your physician on March 25, 2014 that acknowledged receipt of a medical report, however, the physician stated there was supporting evidence; however there was no documentation attached.  He has not sent in further information and in the letter from your representative on August 25th, they state that additional information is forthcoming.  To date, no further information has been received by Service Canada."

This person was denied and is now in the SST backlog - yet not one person from Service Canada called the client or my office to ask where the information is?  If they had bothered to do so, they would note that the information had been received and on its way.

So why Service Canada?????  There are many good adjudicators who work with the clients to ensure that all the information is sent in.  It is the client's responsibility to ensure that they proivde the information - but BLB RN in Chatham a phone call would have saved this client being stuck in appeal.  You could have called.

 

 

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Story Response

by Allison Schmidt 02 December 2014 11:19

Thank you for all your emails and phone calls - it has been a surprise to me how many people have contacted me and offered their support, offers of help, ideas on how to proceed, and all the professionals of various stripes who have stepped forward to offer their assistance.  Thank you to those who have offered their opinions and ideas on challenges that may be applicable.

What I would like to say is that I just want to help these people navigate their way through this appeal system.  Plain and simple.  I have worked for 15 years with the prior system and had an excellent relationship with the staff and the management - same goes with the adjudicators at Canada Pension Plan disability.  Although we were on opposing sides - our goals were to make sure that the appellant had an opportunity to have the best appeal that they can to get to get the correct result - win or lose - at least the appellant had a chance to tell their story. 

I would like just to get on with my work.  I would like to be left alone to do my work.  I would just like to get this backlog sorted so that the Canadian people can stop hurting.  Let's focus on what is important and that is the people who are suffering.

 

 

Please share with your networks

by Allison Schmidt 01 December 2014 15:39

http://www.brandonsun.com/national/breaking-news/social-security-tribunal-backlog-includes-terminally-ill-others-deep-in-debt-284386951.html?thx=y

 

There are very good people in the world - thank you to everyone for your help and support.

Please share with your networks - and thank you very much to Lee-Anne and Mr. G.

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Head's up - I need your help

by Allison Schmidt 30 November 2014 11:31

In recent months, the  work that I do, along with many good and dedicated advocates in Canada. is coming under attack by the bureaucrats at the Social Security Tribunal.  I realize that attack is a strong work but after almost 17 years of dedicated work,  I say attack because that is what it is.   I believe it is likely under instruction from the Ministry it is supposedly independent from and likely due to my speaking out.  We all know what the pattern is for people who speak out by this government. (Google Sean Bruyea, Cindy Blackstock and you will understand).

So I am asking for your help.  If my work helping people with disabilities who have been denied Canada Pension Plan disability is coming under attack, this means that people who are faced with repeated denials are also under attack. I never believed it before because I am naive - someone recently scolded me on that - funny I did not think I was but I guess in workings of the government attack - perhaps that is so.

I know that there are a lot of people who read this blog, some who are influential, some who have a vested interest in this process, government folk read this blog, people who are dealing with this abhorrent appeal system,  and who are being denied access to justice under this new appeal regime. 

The basic security of the people who unfortunately find themselves stuck in this system is under attack, not only them but their families, as they received the CPP disability child benefits.  By denying this benefit, many people are unable to meet the basic necessities of life.  Poor and disadvantaged people with disabilities, as well as their cash-strapped families and going to be denied justice - I know of what I speak. It is noted that 48% of Canadians simply lack the literacy skills to even complete appeal forms or to review self-help information.  The complexity of this system also helps to deny access to justice to the most vulnerable in our communities.  The appeal lines are horrendous - 11,000 people waiting - what is the saying JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED.

And now folks, you can imagine what is happening here to Allison Schmidt, expert in her field, who has worked passionately, speaking out and assisting those in need, going above and beyond the call of duty - and who has national support from all kinds of people  for her work.  If you do not believe me - read the testimonials on this website- they are just a few.

Things are in the works - I cannot speak of them yet - but I need your help.  Those people who read this blog, please email me at info@dcac.ca  I need help to tell this story of what is happening to people in Canada because of this system.  I also need help from all of the people that I have helped.  I know that many of you have said if there is ever anything you can do to help me, just to ask, well I am asking now. 

Big things are coming down the pipes. What is happening is going to be laid out in the COURT of public opinion.  Who do you think will win??

Stay tuned folks it's going to get interesting.

If you need me, you know where to find me. 

Evidence given by the SST Chairperson to a Government Committee

by Allison Schmidt 30 November 2014 11:27
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and esteemed members of the committee.

    Thank you for inviting me here today to address the committee on Bill C-43, and more specifically on clause 252 regarding the appointment of members to the Social Security Tribunal of Canada.
    The tribunal began its operations on April 1, 2013, and is mandated to provide a fair and impartial quasi-judicial process for appeals under the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.
    It was created to simplify and streamline the appeal processes by providing a single point of contact for all those appeals. All decisions are made by one decision-maker called a “tribunal member”, who is appointed by the governor in council after a rigorous competency-based selection process.
    At the outset on April 1, 2013, the tribunal had 28 full-time members, including me. The three vice-chairpersons were appointed in May and June 2013, and to this date, the tribunal has grown to 73 full-time members. The government recently announced the appointment of 21 part-time members, who will help the tribunal process its large volume of appeals.

    Bill C-43 would allow the appointment of an unlimited number of full-time and part-time members and would remove the time limits that are in effect in the current legislation for part-time members. These new provisions will enable the government to appoint additional members as needed in either of the tribunal's divisions, depending on the fluctuation in the caseload over time.

  (1215)  

[English]

     I will now give you an overview of the tribunal's structure and where things stand with our caseload. The tribunal has two levels: the general division and the appeal division.

    The general division has two separate sections: the income security section and the employment insurance section. The second level, the appeal division, hears cases from both sections of the general division, employment insurance cases and income security cases. It is therefore important to recognize that the tribunal deals with four very different caseloads.
    I would like to start with the general division's income security section. When we began operations on April 1, 2013, more than 7,200 appeals were transferred to us from the Office of the Commissioner of Review Tribunals. Roughly 24% of these appeals have now been concluded. Approximately 5,500 new appeals have been received since April 1, 2013. Overall about 2,000 cases have been concluded to date.
    We are currently developing assumptions and performance expectations for members to estimate when the backlog will be completed with the number of members we have and the remaining caseload. The magnitude of these income security cases represents the greatest challenge to the tribunal.
    Second is the general division employment insurance section. The board of referees continued to issue decisions until October 31, 2013, at which time about 320 appeals were transferred to us. The majority of these cases are now awaiting a ruling from the Canada Revenue Agency or a decision from the Tax Court before the tribunal can deal with them. As of September 30, 2014, close to 5,000 new EI appeals have been received, and nearly 3,000 have been concluded to date. Almost half of the remaining cases are part of group appeals and are being dealt with separately. The other half are assigned to members and are at various stages of their progress.
    At the appeal division we have two different caseloads: income security and employment insurance. Let's start with the appeal division's income security caseload. On April 1, 2013, more than 460 appeals were transferred to us from the Pension Appeals Board. By the end of September 2014, around 95% of these appeals had been concluded. For the majority of the remaining appeals, a hearing date has already been set or the appeal has been postponed at the appellant's request. As of September 30, the appeal division had received 258 new income security appeals of which 163 have now been completed.
    Now that the majority of cases transferred from the Pension Appeals Board are concluded, we are focusing our efforts on these new cases, which we expect to address within a reasonable period of time.

 

    I'm sorry, Madam Brazeau, but I'm going to have to ask you to wrap it up fairly quickly if you could. We have your notes, which is a good thing, but if you could wrap your comments, I'd appreciate that.

 

    Okay.
    I want to assure the members of the committee and all Canadians that every tribunal member and all of our staff are fully aware of the difficulties that appellants may face while waiting for a decision. This situation makes each and every one of us at the tribunal want to do our utmost to process these appeals fairly and as quickly and efficiently as possible.

[Translation]

    Thank you for your attention.

 

[English]

Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I thank the witnesses for taking part in our deliberations. My first question is for Ms. Brazeau.
    To our knowledge, the backlog of cases at the Social Security Tribunal keeps increasing. There are currently 14,677 pending cases.
    According to you, how long will it take the tribunal to catch up with that lag and process those 14,677 cases?

 

    First, allow me to specify that the tribunal is divided into three distinct sections and that it has four case loads. At this time, the backlog of approximately 11,000 files comes mostly from the General Division, which deals with questions regarding income security. At this time, these 11,000 files are the biggest challenge for the tribunal.
    However, thanks to the 21 new part-time, recently appointed members, and to the new process in place since last April that allows us to give precedence to the oldest files, we expect to make great progress in this regard over the coming months.
    At this time, we are working on developing performance standards for the members. With these standards, the number of files to be processed and the number of members available to process them, we will be able to estimate a date for the completion of the study of all of the backlogged cases. Because of the lack of sufficient experience in the processing of these files, it was until quite recently difficult to develop performance standards. Now, after a few months of experience, we can begin to develop performance standards for our members. In the near future, we should be able to determine the date on which we will have processed all of the backlogged files.

 

  (1230)  

 

    So, what you are explaining to us is that concretely, at this time, you have no idea of what the impact of the new part-time members will be on the processing of the accumulated files? You really have no idea of the capacity and the number of part-time hours needed to process these 11,000 files? Have you seen some kind of progress? If yes, what was that progress? Apparently you have not, is that really what you are telling me?

 

    Obviously, with a greater number of members, we will be able to take bigger bites out of the backlog.

 

    Excuse me, but with more members, how much can you do? Do you have a target?
    That is important. After all, there are 11,000 cases in the backlog and behind those files, there are people who are waiting.

 

    Absolutely; there are people.

 

    As Mr. Birch mentioned, these people, who are living under the poverty line, are waiting for their files to be processed. As professionals, it is important for you to assess the response time needed.
    But since that does not seem possible, I'm going to ask another question.

 

    Very well.

 

    What is, to your mind, a reasonable time frame for the tribunal to examine an appeal and hand down a decision?
    Has that time frame been estimated?

 

    Are you talking about the program regarding income security?

 

    In terms of...

 

    Are you talking about employment insurance or the Appeal Division?

 

    Let's talk about the Appeal Division.

 

    You are referring to the Appeal Division?

 

    Yes.
    In your opinion, what would be a reasonable time frame that would allow you to answer these people in an efficient way?

 

    The situation at the Appeal Division is different from that at the General Division. At the Appeal Division, in order to be heard, the parties must submit a request to obtain the permission to make an appeal. That request must be heard by a member, who renders a decision according to certain specific criteria, and determines whether the appeal can be heard. The criteria are set out in the law.

 

[English]

 

    Madam Brazeau, I think we're going to have to end it there. We're over the time and we want to keep it on track today. If there's more to be added, possibly you could add it to another questioner's time.
    Mr. Armstrong.

 

 Ms. Brazeau, could you tell us a little more about the qualifications of SST members, the rigours of the assessments, and how the employment process as a whole has worked?

 

     The appointment of members is a prerogative of the Governor in Council, but it is done following a very rigorous selection process whereby members are assessed based on education, knowledge, and experience. After they pass this rigorous process, the Governor in Council makes the recommendation. They are screened in and there's a whole detailed selection process to qualify them.

 

  (1235)  

 

    Thank you for that.
    Second, to turn back to our discussion on the backlogs, could you explain where the backlog is currently and when you expect the backlog in income security to be completed? Let's just focus on income security because that seems to be the main point of contention here.

 

    We have a few months of experience in working with the income security backlog. With this experience, we are now able to start looking at and defining a reasonable amount of time that members should take to complete the different types of cases, because even in income security we have different types of cases.
     With this information that we are working on right now, we will be able to come up with an estimate, looking at the remainder of our caseload and the number of members who we actually have or would potentially have in the future, and we will be able to determine a precise date when the backlog could be completed. We are working on that very actively right now.

 

    Do you know what the timeline is for that process to actually set these performance standards? Is there a timeline for that process to be completed?

 

    This is my priority. I am working on it and I hope to have it concluded in the coming...very soon.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    I thank all the witnesses for their testimony. There were some excellent points brought up.
    Madam Brazeau, could you share with us what type of performance measures are in place for the SST?

 

    Right now, we don't have specific performance measures. We are a new tribunal. We have new members. We have 73 full-time members right now, and some of them were named a little over a year ago, but some of them were named throughout the year. They are at different levels of understanding of their responsibilities. Some have more experience than others in dealing with caseloads, so it's a bit early—

 

  (1240)  

 

     The board of referees had performance standards, and the Pension Appeals Board had performance standards. Do you not think that, from the outset, there should have been some established standards put in place?

 

    It would have been difficult to put standards in place from the outset, because we are dealing with a totally different legislative regulatory framework, and we are also working with different processes that follow those regulations.

 

    Is it a conscious decision not to put in performance standards?

 

    It's a conscious decision to announce that we will have performance standards. Our members are being consulted in the development of these performance standards because we want to have realistic performance measures and performance standards and we want them to be monitored.

 

    Great, thanks very much.
    Obviously you knew there was a problem a number of months into the process, when you saw the backlogs and what's been identified through past questions about the backlogs. I know that some of the cases that had been transferred over were almost two years into the process. When was it that you realized that we have to do something about this, that the backlogs are too great? When did you realize, and would you have gone directly to the minister or somebody in the minister's office with the problem?

 

    We realized that there was a backlog on day one when we received the backlog. I was appointed about a week before the tribunal opened its doors, and on day one we received the backlog. We have had discussions with the minister throughout, probably as of last fall.

 

    Did you say last fall?

 

    It was probably last fall.

 

    What was the response then?

 

    The response was very supportive. We now have almost all our full-time members and almost all our part-time members. I expect I'm going to see significant progress in dealing with the caseload now that I have 73 members plus 21 part-time members who are almost fully trained.

 

    Eighteen months is a significant period of time. Have you gone through that performance appraisal already? Has your tribunal gone through an internal performance appraisal?

 

    As I explained, in the first 365 days of the tribunal we were limited by the 365-day period in which parties were allowed to exchange documentation.

 

    Eighteen months in now, is there any kind of performance appraisal?

 

    We are looking very closely at all the aspects of our caseloads. So we're looking at when a document comes in, how long it should take through the regulations, how long it should—

 

    So where does this go? Does that go to the minister?

 

    It goes to me.

 

    It goes to you.

 

    I'm looking at this so that I can make recommendations.

 

    You answer to whom?

 

    I answer to the minister.

 

    You answer directly to the minister. Do you think that SST should be accountable to Parliament?

 

    Well—

 

    I guess that's not a fair question to ask you.

 

    I hadn't thought about that.

 

    That's not a very fair question to ask you.

 

    Go ahead.

 

    On a point of order, the SST is the fully independent body, separate from Parliament, right? You operate independently at arm's length.

 

    We operate at arm's length from the department.

 

    Just a second, that's not a point of order.
    We're entering questions here. I believe Mr. Cuzner has realized he kind of overstepped that one.

 

    Oh yes, it wasn't fair for me to ask that question.

 

    It wasn't fair that he asked that, and that is what resulted in your point of order.
    But we need to wrap up here very quickly, sir. You have five seconds.

 

    Thanks very much for coming.

 

 

 

Pants on Fire.

by Allison Schmidt 30 November 2014 11:23

Back Log of 11,000 CPP cases at the Social Security Tribunal

by Allison Schmidt 30 November 2014 11:21

Here is another story on the Social Security Tribunal

 

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/more-tribunal-members-hired-for-backlog-of-11000-social-security-appeals/article21816120/

 

Do you honestly thinK and are you proud to say that 100 Tribunal Members is going to be able to manage 11,000 back logged cases??  That is just ridiculous.

Why do you need a productivity model to determine what to do?  Why study the problem further?  How long is that going to take?  Each day that passes is another day that a person with a disability is denied access to the benefit that they PAID in too.  It is not the Fed's money.

Questions in the House of Commons

by Allison Schmidt 19 November 2014 14:27

Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims (Newton—North Delta, NDP): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the chair of the social security tribunal told the human resources committee that she had been in continuous contact with the minister regarding the backlog.

Yet, for 18 months now, that backlog has continued to grow while the tribunal has been understaffed and working without performance standards. More than 14,600 Canadians are now waiting for a hearing.

All of this begs the question: Why did the minister not take action sooner to address the enormous mess at the social security tribunal?

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, CPC): Mr. Speaker, again, in fact our ministry did take action by introducing a new approach towards reconsideration of EI refusals. That now happens quickly, by a public servant who, remarkably, actually picks up a phone and calls the person who has asked for a reconsideration, and sorts it out, often getting additional documentation.

This means that we are now resolving about 90% of those refusals at a reconsideration stage in a matter of weeks, without having to go through a lengthy multi-month quasi-judicial process.

In terms of the CPP cases before the tribunal, we are adding additional decision-makers and taking other administrative measures to speed up the process.

Mr. Mike Sullivan (York South—Weston, NDP): Mr. Speaker, behind every one of those numbers is a person who needs to put food on the table and pay the bills.

People cannot wait years for the government to get its act together. Nearly 10,000 Canadians still waiting for an appeal are living with a disability. In many cases the uncertainty and stress of financial insecurity makes their medical conditions worse.

Will the minister commit to eliminate the backlog and finally give these Canadians the justice they need and deserve?

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, CPC): Yes, I will, Mr. Speaker. That is, in part, why we have legislation before the House in the budget implementation act, which we hope the NDP will support, which would allow us to hire up to an additional 22 decision makers at the tribunal.

I am very pleased to highlight that the faster informal reconsideration process for refused EI applications would mean a 90% reduction in the caseload for EI, which would mean that we could reallocate those decision makers over to the income security division, which would mean that we would get at that backlog of cases so that we could provide the kind of service that Canadians expect and deserve.


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