A Reassessment Case and Vocational Rehab

I was away working yesturday and I would like to share this case with you. I am deliberately being vague with where I was because I would like to share information with you on the down low!  Smile

This case was a reassessment case - the Minister's representative came from the reassessment department who advised me that this department is really grown in staff and workload which indicates to me that the Feds are reviewing a lot more  CPP disability claimants.  Now do not get me wrong - I am all for kicking off people who are working under the table and claiming disability - if you follow  this blog - you know that I get angry when I hear that people play the system as there are so many legitimate people who are denied and really struggle financially and with the appeals process - sometimes at very great costs to their personal lives. So if you think you are pulling a fast one on the Feds - you best start watching your back - some people have contacted me with overpayments in the 50K range.

By the same token, I can also understand with the current CPP benefit rates, why some people feel they have no choice but to supplement their CPP benefit - that is why the Feds have the allowable earnings provision - also just FYI - in this case that I am going to talk about - the allowable earnings provision was not applied to the overpayment because the client did not advise CPP disability that he was working.  Apparently, (I am not 100% sure on this one but I will find out for you) - if you do not advise the Feds you are doing some work then the allowable earnings amount will not be applied to reduce any overpayment.

I also recently had a email from a man let's call him Sean Smile who asked some questions about Vocational Rehabilitation services offered by CPP and suggested that I blog about this topic.

Okay my client let's call him Ken. Ken was a rural man and supplemented his self-employment by working in construction.  In 2005, he was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis. After diagnosis he applied for CPP disability and was approved at reconsideration.  After diagnosis, Ken who had always been the "go-to-guy" in his community, fell into a depression.  His doctor thought that if Ken tried to get out in the community and find something he could do, his mood would improve. So Ken decided he was going to contact CPP disabiity and ask them about vocational services. Ken advised that the CPP staff who called him on this program were extremely rude to him and he felt immediately anxious as to the continuing status of his benefit.  After some time and no support from CPP, Ken made  use of the rehabilitation services of his provincial disability organization. They tried to get him typing and had him do some job shadowing - but based on his limitations - they felt that he should be referred on to an agency that found supportive employment and subsidized positions for people with disabilities.  Now this agency was able to find a couple of different positions for Ken and ultimately he was successful in securing a position. 

Now Ken was very happy - he felt he had a purpose - and he felt he was being useful - his self-esteem improved and he was really trying to keep on going.  However, four months into this position (which was entirely sedentary) his health began to decline rapidly - but Ken wanted to keep going so he relied on medication to keep him alert, medication to reduce his pain, and this dependancy became a viscious circle - he could not sleep, he could not concentrate - he could not keep up with the productivity and accuracy level demands of his position, and what started as a good thing for Ken - wound up costing his health dearly.  But all Ken wanted to do was keep on working.  His lack of clarity into the decline in his health and the dependence on medication and the personal costs to his family became secondary to trying to keep on working.  Finally, some 12 months after starting his work experience Ken had no choice but to quit due to medical reasons.

Okay, side story to this case, Ken tried to get in touch with CPP to advise them about his work trial - for some reason the Feds did not get with the program - and Ken kept receiving disability benefits.  After his frustration with dealing with the Feds, Ken contacted his provincial MS Society who told him that CPP and Revenue Canada are connected, so CPP would indeed know about his work activity.  So Ken thinks that CPP must know and he kept receiving his disability benefit.  Okay the MS Society got it partially wrong - yes the Feds can find out through Revenue Canada if a disabiity recipient reports income, this information is not received until you file your taxes - so the Feds do not instantly know that someone is working - which is why Ken had an overpayment - and also why the allowable earnings provision was not applied to the overpayment. He had a bad experience all around - there was lack of information, and to be frank he received some bad advice.

So I attended his Review Tribunal yesturday.  I think the hearing went well - once you heard Ken's story you could understand how this all went down - and I get so annoyed that all the information is available to the adjudicators in the reassessment department if only they would ask - if only they would conduct a review of the file that does not just rely on the reporting of  T4 income - if only they just read the information in this file -  all of this stress and hardship could be avoided - instead it appeared to me that all this "reassessment" was, was another attempt to get another person off the "payroll" The facts were all available to me, I just took the time to find them out. Sometimes I think I am being really harsh on the Feds, but I am not telling you anything that is not the truth, and I think there are good people in the program - but why are there so many good Canadian people getting the run around and all this hassle?

The gentleman who recently emailed me and asked me if CPP provided meaningful rehabilitation services - take what you get from this blog and think hard. To be fair, I only hear the problems and not the good things about any programs and services that work well. If any one has had a good experience I would really love to hear from you.Wink

Bye for now. Allison



CPP Early Retirement Benefits

Well here we are approximately two months since my last blog. The dog days of summer are upon us. 

I have had a very busy summer and have talked to many interesting people across the country about Canada Pension Plan disability and the problems they are facing - thank you very much for your good feedback about the website.

I chose to write this blog because on a daily basis I receive phone calls from individuals who have been denied CPP disability benefits because they have been in receipt of CPP early retirement benefits that they have taken after age 60.

Now, CPP disability will provide you a benefit until age 65 - after that your benefits would change over to retirement benefits. This is typical with most disability insurance policies as retirement age is usually 65. (I know there has been debate about this age - but for insurance purposes 65 is the magic retirement number.)

If you chose to take your CPP early retirement benefits before age 65 there is a pretty negative implication pertaining to your CPP Disability benefit.

Okay here is it - the legislation states that you are only able to receive one type of CPP benefit at a time - these are death, retirement, and disability.  The legislation also states that CPP can only pay 15 months of retroactivity from the date of your CPP application.  If you have been in receipt of your early retirement benefits longer than 15 months from the date you applied for disability benefits - then you be inelligible to change your benefit from early retirement to disability.

Some examples - Dave applied for early retirement benefits at age 60, and at age 63 he had a stroke disabling him from working. He would be inelligible to for CPP disability as he had been on early retirement for longer than 15 months. 

Susan was disabled from working at age 61.  She applies for CPP Disability benefits at the same time she applies for CPP early retirement benefits. If she is found disabled according to the legislative criteria - any disability benefits she received would be reduced by any early retirement benefits she had taken.

Lisa is disabled and applies for CPP disability - the feds send her a letter denying her claim - saying she is not disabled but lookey here - you can apply for your early retirement benefits instead - and here is a form for you to sign saying that you want to withdraw your disability claim and take your early retirement benefits. Okay, early retirement benefits are less than you would receive for a disability benefit - so get some advice before you sign that form.

Gus applies for CPP early retirement at age 60 and states that he stopped working due to disability.  He assumes the Feds will put him on the "correct" pension based on their review of the application. Two years pass and Gus realizes he is not getting a disability pension. He contacts CPP and is advised that he never applied for CPP disability even though he states he stopped work due to disability - you have to fill out a CPP disability application in order to apply for the benefit.

Bill applies for CPP early retirement and when he becomes disabled is told he cannot qualify for CPP disability based on the fact he has been on early retirement longer than 15 months - he is upset because CPP never advised him of the consequences of applying for early retirement benefit - sorry Bill - transparency is not the Feds greatest attribute.

So here are my final thoughts - statistically the incidence of disability increases as you age. If you want disability coverage under the your Canada Pension Plan then you do not apply for CPP early retirement benefits.  If you are disabled by age 60, then you can if you choose to,  apply for both the early retirement and the disability at the same time - and have someone review your file if you get the letter asking you to withdraw your CPP disability application and take early retirement benefits.