DCAC is hiring.

Hi Everyone

The Disability Claims Advocacy Clinic is hiring Advocates to help individuals who have been denied Canada Pension Plan disability benefits.

I am looking for advocates across Canada from both an urban and rural setting.  The position will work remotely from DCAC head office in Regina, Saskatchewan.

I am looking for diversity in my applicants.  A strong background in disability, medical conditions, disability case-management, legal or paralegal backgrounds, bilingual, any second language is an asset.

I am looking for people who have a commitment to social advocacy who can help people with disabilities navigate the application and appeal systems. DCAC believes in access and assistance for those who need help with the CPP disability process.  Show me what you know about the process and tell me why you would be a good candidate for DCAC.

Please email your expression of interest to dcac@SaskTel.net

Thank you

Allison

 

CPP disability news.

Yes I am still here. 

I was in a meeting recently when one in the group of people stopped to ask me if I was going to blog again.  This person will know who they are as I was quite delighted someone enjoyed reading what I had to say.

The last six months have been extremely interesting in the CPP disability world.  It is hard to know where to start and I will endeavour to share what I have learned during the course of these months.

I have found that the Minister responsible for the Canada Pension Plan disability benefits, Minister Jean Duclos, is very receptive to making changes to the program in the hopes that it better serves Canadians.  He and his staff (of whom there are too many to mention) have been honest and diligent in their dedication to hearing from stakeholders to help them understand the barriers faced when trying to navigate a program that is inaccessible to many people with disabilities.

At a recent meeting I was at, Minister Jean Duclos shared his commitment to the work that is being done to the disability program and spoke eloquently about the responsibility of having a seat at the table.  I take this seat and opportunity seriously and have worked hard with all those in attendance to make recommendations that we all hope, will improve the CPP disability system that has unfortunately failed, in many cases, the people who need this benefit.

I have been very anxious to blog for sometime but my time for writing is sparse.

I have sat on the CPP Disability Roundtable now for two years my next engagement with the roundtable is in November.  I would like to say that we have a variety of people who attend the roundtable who again have worked very hard to ensure positive change.  Is the CPP disability program going to be perfect?  Unlikely. Is the denial rate going to change? I cannot say. But I do know there has been a lot of effort put in.  But in CPP disability world - I am not sure how this is going to translate to all applicants as we have such a vast country with divergent and multi-faceted needs.  Throw in all kinds of disabilities people deal with and accessibility to medical care, each case is a different case and one size never really fits all. 

So what I would like to tell you to start with - there is a new CPP disability application that was released in August 2018  You can find it here   https://catalogue.servicecanada.gc.ca/apps/EForms/pdf/en/ISP-1151.pdf  Also on this link, you will find the CPP disability medical report that can now be signed by a Nurse Practitioner.  

I had mentioned in previous posts about the Service Canada service standards.  It is 120 days for CPP disability applications - 5 days for terminal illness and 30 days for grave illness.  However, when I phone Service Canada the telephone agents state that the adjudication period at the moment, seems to be much longer and I would say it is closer to the 5-6 month range for CPP disability applications that are not of a grave or terminal nature. 

I would also like to encourage those who have been denied, to contact info@dcac.ca  Please do not give up - there are a lot of people who do - and it is prudent to have the denial reviewed.  Our office is great, if I do say so myself, at being able to help you navigate your way through the application and appeal system.  There is a cost - but at DCAC we do what we can to ensure that we try to help as many people as we can in a fair and equitable manner.  We understand that there are those who need help and we do what we can to ensure this help is accessible.  So don't be fearful to call us - we have you covered.

If there is something specific that you would like me to blog about - something that you think would be helpful - please email me at info@dcac.ca

Allison.

 

Following Up

On March 6, 2018 I wrote a blog entry about the problems that I had encountered recently.  I would like to follow up and say that I have had NO RESPONSE to my letters of concern from the senior administration of the program. 

I had reached out regarding the unfair adjudication practices and the routine denial of the appellants without waiting for the submission of their appeal documentation. 

I clearly outlined what had happened with two specific cases and advised that this was happening and CRICKETS..............

Today I have made at least seven calls to the 1-800-277-9914 number to try to obtain information for clients who are struggling to find out what is happening with their CPP disability applications - when I say struggling I mean unable to pay their bills and afford their medications.  I have been unable to get through due to increased call volumes.  This has happened all day. I continue to receive calls from Canadians who are trying to get service and who continue to be unable to get through.  What is wrong with the call centre???

 

 

CPP Disability and No Service Canada

I take my position as a member of the government CPP Disability Roundtable very seriously.  I feel having a seat at the table is very important so that I can express to the Ministry the difficulties that Canadians are facing as they try to navigate applying for or appealing disability benefits.

I am not biting my tongue today.  I have emailed the Ministry regarding these unfair practices. 

This one has to do with my least favourite adjudicator in the Chatham Region L.B. RN.  The management know who this adjudicator is as I have complained many times over the years. 

Client K.H. made an application to CPP disability and was denied (surprise!).  He contacted my office to get assistance with his reconsideration appeal as he has no money and did not want to be stuck in the Social Security Tribunal appeal line up.  So he wisely obtained help to have the best shot at reconsideration.

The client submitted the request for reconsideration - advising that he was obtaining assistance and that he wished to send in additional information in order to support his appeal.  Again he asked the department to wait on making a decision until all information was received.

On January 11, 2018 we received a letter (dated January 2nd, 2018)  from the L.B. at the Department stating that she wished to receive information within 30 days or a decision would be made.  At that time, we had not even received a copy of the CPP disability file from the department to see why the client was denied and what information we needed to obtain in order to help with this appeal.

On January 16th, 2018 we received a copy of the CPP disability file.  On January 29th, 2018 we submitted a request for additional medical information from the client's doctor to submit with his appeal and was advised that the doctor was away until February 5th, 2018.  On February 14th, 2018 we received a medical support from the client's doctor and a submission with additional information for the appeal was sent to Service Canada on February 20th, 2018. 

Yesterday in the mail I received two letters.  One was dated February 2nd, 2018 (which I received one month after the  letter was dated) which was a FINAL REMINDER saying we had 21 days to submit the information which by my calculation would have been February 23rd, 2018 and in a separate envelope another letter from L.B.RN dated February 22nd, 2018 denying this client's appeal.  This government employee did not even contact our office in person to determine if we were sending in additional information.  She just denied the appeal - if she had phoned our office - she would have been advised that additional information including additional medical information had been submitted on February 20th, 2018.

So now this is another client who has to appeal to the Social Security Tribunal because the department could not work with the client to ensure they have submitted all the that they can in order to support their appeal. Great meeting NO SERVICE STANDARDS.  I think this should be dealt with.  What is the rush to meet phony service standards when the way you are meeting service is to deny claims.

Speaking of which NO SERVICE CANADA - I have been phoning the 1-800-277-9914 number repeatedly - so far this week (it is Tuesday) I have called five times and been disconnected - cannot even get through due to high call volume. The office has been inundated with calls for Service Canada because people cannot get through and they are trying to obtain advice and information either on their disability benefit application or appeal - or simply to change an address - or enquiring where their taxation documents are.  To those people who are looking to call No Service Canada I feel your pain. I cannot get the information I need.  I cannot get through to anyone to speak to them about these ridiculous unnecessary denials.  I will keep you posted.  I have a few more tricks up my sleeve!

 

CPP Disability Service Standards

In October 2016, the department announced CPP disability service standards for initial and reconsideration applications as well as introduced new standards for applicants with terminal illness and grave medical conditions.

The service standard on initial application and reconsideration was 120 days.  This means a decision should be rendered by the department in a 120 day time frame.

I applaud the department's decision to ensure a timely decision, but adhering to this policy has lead to denials in situations where "service" standards have superseded the ability to make a positive decision.

I am speaking about reconsiderations.  Many of my clients request reconsiderations as their initial applications have been denied.  You only have 90 days in which to appeal the decision and then the appeal needs to be developed in order to convince the department that their decision was incorrect.  This typically means obtaining a copy of the CPP disability case file, to review its contents, to obtain additional medication information, and then to prepare reasons why the original decision to deny was incorrect.  This process takes time and often more than 120 days.  For example, it can take six weeks or more to get a copy of the CPP disability case file from the government.  Then it can take physicians time to put together information or maybe a client is waiting for a specialists' appointment.  Then it takes time to work with the client to prepare their submissions. 

When DCAC is asked to help a client, we send a letter to the department ensuring that they are aware that the client is getting assistance and asking them not to make a decision until the client has been able to adequately prepare their appeal.  We send this letter in on every file.  This letter is continually ignored.  I have taken this issue to the Management of the program but still the medical adjudicators routinely ignore this request.

Was does this mean? Let me give you a couple of examples:

Client N. He was denied by the Winnipeg office on initial application.  He requested Reconsideration which was acknowledged by the Department on December 8, 2017.  A letter was sent from DCAC to this office advising that we were working with the client to request additional medical information to support the file.  We asked for the department to contact our office before making a decision to ensure the client was ready to have the matter decided.  It is after all his appeal.  The medical adjudicator H.F. RN in Winnipeg made this decision to deny the appeal without contacting the office as asked.  The submissions and additional information had been sent from our office prior to finding out the decision had already been made.  The client was not close to the 120 day service standard "deadline"

Client D. She was denied by the Victoria office on initial application.  She requested Reconsideration which was acknowledged by the Department on November 2, 2017.  The same situation as before, the letter was sent to the region asking them to contact our office prior to making a decision in order to ensure the client was ready to have a decision made on appeal.  This time the submissions and additional information was submitted on February 15th, 2018 but a decision was made by J.P. RN in the Victoria office the day before on February 14th, 2018 without contacting our office.

What does this mean?  Well now these clients are having to appeal to the Social Security Tribunal.  This puts additional stress on the client and time that they are without benefits.  This also means that the government is funding another appeal at the tribunal when they could have waited as instructed to have a fulsome review at the time of the reconsideration.

I am fed up with the disrespect of these adjudicators who continually ignore the requests of the client to wait until they have all their information in order to make an appeal.  Do you recall the newspaper article last year which talked about CRA call centers meeting service standards by just not answering Canadian's calls?  It is really easy to meet service standards when you just make decisions without waiting for the information on appeal. Think about that.  You are requesting an appeal and then you are denied your opportunity because a medical adjudicator has to meet service standards even when they are directed by the client whose appeal it is to hold off on making a decision until they have had a chance to prepare their appeal.  Is this due process?  Is this a fair way for an adjudicator to do their job?  Half the time the client does not even know the information that has been submitted in their file - or why the decision was made the way it was made.  Knowing the case against you is part of natural justice -and yet the medical adjudicator does not respect a client's desire to ensure that they can make the case against them on appeal. 

I have raised this issue with the management of the department and it continues to go on.  Are they really meeting SERVICE STANDARDS when all this does is force their clients in to another appeal system?

 

Validation.

Yesterday I worked with a client - her name is Heather.  Heather worked for 28 years as a cook in a retirement village.  She was a great cook, and was well liked by her co-workers and the residents of the nursing home.  At "happy-hour" time, Heather would work the bar and enjoyed catching up with her customers at the village.

Heather always struggled with her knees.  She had been on her feet for years and her knees were becoming more problematic.  Her employer tried to accommodate her as best as they could, but the kitchen and the bar are physical and eventually she could no longer continue.  In 2008, she was advised that she needed total knee replacements.  She had both knees replaced in 2008 and 2009.  The pain that she had in her hips and back were thought to have been radiating from her knees, was expected to resolve once she had the knee replacements and she was anxious to have the surgeries in order to get her life back. She was a golfer, enjoyed darts, and was a new grandmother. 

It was clear after the 54 physiotherapy visits after the surgeries, and the acupuncture, and the exercise and weight loss, and the medication, and her beloved Dr. Ho that she was not going to get back to her old job as a cook.  She was restricted by her physicians to 2-3 hours of work - 2 days a week.  She went back to her employer but they couldn't accommodate such a limited capacity to work.  She was broken-hearted and soon became depressed.  This lead to a number of other issues raising their head - more pain - more stress eating - more depression - limited sleep - the never-ending self-recrimination that she was unable to provide an income for her family.  She could not retrain, cooking was all she knew, and she had chosen that profession as in her words "book work never stuck with me"

She applied to Canada Pension Plan three times and was repeatedly denied.  She gave up after each denial as she was told she would get no where with the government.  She went on to have her hip replaced - and her back has serious degeneration due to arthritis.  She fights depression constantly and seeks mental health counselling.  She took injections in her back to see if that would help her pain.  She is on medication and she needs help to sleep.  And yet she continued to be denied.

A medical adjudicator from Canada Pension Plan called Heather and told her because the doctor said that she could work 2-3 hours, 2 days a week that she was indeed capable of working and that she did not qualify for a disability benefit. When Heather said that she could not work at the same level as  I am quoting directly from the file here the medical adjudicator who works for CPP says "Canada Pension Plan disability does not look at the level of earnings she could make, just whether or not she is able to work some type of job."

This statement is in fact misinformation and this case-manager knows that.  The reason why I know that, is because I have been doing this work for twenty years and I recognize the medical adjudicator on file.  The adjudication guidelines talk about what a substantially gainful occupation is - actually there is a policy outlining it - and there are the allowable earnings provision which reflects the fact that some people only have the capacity to work in a limited way - as was the case with Heather.  So this medical adjudicator ignored the guidelines to deny a claim. This misinformation was included in the denial letter, and made up part of the Minister's submission that they included to defend their position to continue to deny this claim right to the hearing date.

Sadly this is not an isolated incident.

Heather and her husband appeared at the Social Security Tribunal hearing and were able to explain how Heather's medical condition has severely impacted their life.  Because Heather could no longer work, her husband was working two jobs in his early seventies to make ends meet.  When Heather was asked by the Tribunal Member if she had anything to say in closing - Heather spoke about how she was misled by the government, how she had paid in to the program for 28 years, how she was reduced to tears by the medical adjudicator who spouted the misinformation, how this decision prevented her from enjoying her life, how she had to scrape by to get Christmas gifts for her grandchildren, how she had always contributed to her family, how she has to use all of her RRSPs in order to survive and now she is left with no retirement funds.  She spoke about the pain that she was experiencing, the fact that she had done everything she could to regain her ability to work, but that she was quite simply disabled.  She said that she finally felt validated that she had the opportunity to speak her piece to the Tribunal Member.

One of the recommendations that I have heard in my work on the CPP Disability Roundtable is that the government is suggesting that there be early intervention in that medical adjudicators contact appellants to speak to clients prior to making a decision.  I am opposed - the reason being - is for the type of situation that actually occurred in this file. Further, these calls are out of the blue, and most people find speaking with the government to be very stressful.  Heather explained she was on the back foot during this call - and was confused and stressed, and as noted "client weepy" by the medical adjudicator.  How about some compassion lady?

I received a call yesterday - from a client who has massive anxiety and panic attacks, PTSD, etc. This client was contacted by CPP out of the Chatham region (this is for the folk who are reading this blog from Gatineau).  When the client sad that she could not speak to the medical adjudicator without her advocate present - the case-manager demanded that she talk to her - and eventually the client hung up.  She phoned my office in a full blown panic attack - had to call her psychiatrist after the call.  I am still getting the details to share as she does not remember the name of who it was that called her - but I will get there and share this information.

Anyway, it is Friday - and happy weekend to you all.  Please if you need help, contact the office as we are here to help.  Our expertise gets results.

 

 

Social Security Tribunal Appeal Time Lines

If you are denied at reconsideration and you find yourself appealing to the General Division of the Social Security Tribunal you are going to be in for a lengthy wait before your appeal is heard.

The average throughput time for an appeal hinges on a variety of contributing factors including the complexity of the appeal - but the majority of the clients will wait 517 DAYS

That is almost seventeen months which is outrageous in my opinion.  Can you imagine that you have made an application to CPP disability - it takes 4 months for a decision - you are denied - then you request an appeal and it takes another 6 months - so you could be waiting over two years before a final decision is rendered.

DCAC has close to 90 percent success rate.  CPP disability denies over 50% of initial applications.  This statistics identify why it is important to get help as soon as you can in the application process to avoid these types of delay and to have a much greater chance of being successful.

 

Review of the Social Security Tribunal

It has been a busy six months with a lot of work to be done here at DCAC Inc.  We continue to be the premier service for individuals who have been denied their CPP disability benefits or who need help with the application process.  We now have 12 staff members across Canada and we continue to grow.

Early this year the KMPG report was released.  This report was commissioned by Minister Duclos in order to review the SST's processes to ensure it met the needs and expectations of Canadians, as well as to assess its fairness and transparency.   The comprehensive report highlighted a number of facts which I will present over the next months, to inform Canadians about what is new and evolving in the Canada Pension Plan disability forum.

I have included several newspaper articles on the DCAC Facebook feed as this is more timely than my ability to blog sometimes!  If you have not liked the DCAC page - you will find a link to it on the website.

I would like to start with a summary of the Key Findings - overall the review found that:

  • The SST was born out of the previous government's initiative to save $25 million dollars and was announced in the Federal Budget without the benefit of any stakeholder engagement.  The SST inherited a large backlog of appeal cases before they had staff, systems, or processes in place.
  • The total cost of the SST is lower than the cost of the four legacy tribunals that were combined.
  • Timelines for appeals are longer than the previous system and the average person waits over 500 days for their appeal to be heard.
  • Examination of the appeal structure and the enabling legislation and regulations that were designed to expedite appeals have had the unintended consequence of slowing down the process and frustrating clients.
  • The public consultations undertaken in order to produce the KPMG report - consistently identified dissatisfaction with the accountability of the SST and more is required to support a transparent, accountable tribunal.
  • The government recognizes that social programs must be designed and delivered with a focus on the client - and the SST currently does not incorporate many of the leading practices of a client-centric organization.

There was unanimous agreement that the goal of the SST appeal system should be to serve vulnerable Canadians through a far, objective, and responsive appeals process and that achieving this goal will require a "resetting of the SST" shifting from a primary orientation to the law - towards a greater orientation to the client.

What does this mean?  Well the findings have illustrated that there needs to be changes to the appeal system - and as I blog over the next while I will share with you my experiences with the SST, with the reconsideration appeal process, and with the application process.  I will provide information about the recommendations of this report and highlight individual cases and how they fit in to the recommendation for changes that have been presented to Minister Duclos.

At this time, there has not been a response from the Minister on this report - and we do not know what recommendations will be followed.  I do have several issues with the current SST appeal system specifically concerning access to justice issues.  A right to appeal is meaningless if an appellant cannot navigate the appeal process - and I will talk about this moving forward.

If you are denied CPP disability and you need help appealing please get in touch with our office.  We will be able to guide you and in most cases achieve a successful result on your behalf.  I am very proud of the work that we do here - so much so - that DCAC has been nominated for two business excellence awards in the customer service category and business of the year for 2018.  As well, March marks DCAC's 20th anniversary so it has been great to be acknowledged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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