Entering a new chapter

This was my last week of Review Tribunals.  I have literally ran from coast to coast these last three months trying to complete as many Review Tribunals and Pension Appeals Board hearings possible.

I have a lot of people to thank especially the staff of the RT and PAB who have been very helpful and accommodating as I have managed the number of appeals scheduled and often had submitted information that was a tad on the late side.

I did not get an opportunity this week to say good bye to those staff who were not hired by the new CPP Social Security Tribunal so this is my way of expressing gratitude for their excellent service over the last fifteen years.

I was told by someone very special in my life who has since passed on "that the good lord works in mysterious ways".

It felt that way this week.  I had my last set of hearings with three very interesting clients - all really quite difficult cases in terms of disability (not straightforward medical diagnoses but complicated) - as well as each one requiring some discussion over legislative tenants - let's just say it wasn't simple fare. 

Blow me down if I did not get a most excellent panel!  The clients were made to feel comfortable - no judgment - and were heard in a compassionate way.  Thank you Tribunal members.

The sun was shining - there was no snow where I was - and I was able to run outside.  Something I have not done since October.  It really was a great week of hearings.

So now as one door closes, we open a new door, with a new chapter starting.

If you have read my blogs recently, you will sense my disquiet about this new CPP Social Security Tribunal.  It remains to be seen how everything evolves - and my anxiety has been about what is going to happen in the future.  However, it is time to walk through this new door and work as hard as I can, to ensure that my clients, as well as people reading this blog, as much information as I can as time rolls along.

I know the legislative tenants have not changed - how a claim is adjudicated has not changed - and they cannot deny everyone!

Monday is the big day folks - so stayed tuned.  To all of the people who have called and left messages I will do my best to return your calls as soon as I can. 


Appealing a CPP Disability denial - some self-help strategies

I think it is helpful to understand what strategies to employ when you need to appeal a CPP disability denial.  I have been side-tracked with the new CPP Social Security Tribunal and my frustration with the lack of information as you can probably get from my recent blog entries.

I think there is some benefit to cutting and pasting the information that is available on the internet about the CPP disability system in a blog entry - but what I strive to do here - is give actual case examples and situations that I have dealt with in order to provide a better understanding of the CPP procedures and processes.  I think these descriptions of actual cases that I have done, provide situations clients can relate to - as words cut and pasted - are still just words that any one can look for online.

Understanding the complexities of CPP disability takes time and experience. Please ensure your representative has the experience and knowledge to case-manage your application or appeal.  So make sure when you are looking for help that you ask these questions: How many appeals have they done? What is their success rate? Do they have the required licenses to do the work? How long have they been in business?

I wanted to talk about some self-help strategies to increase your chances of success.  Make sure you have done the following:

  • Obtained and reviewed your Canada Pension Plan disability file.  You can get a copy of your file by completing the Personal Information Request form which you will find in the Downloads section of this website.  You will need to send this form in to the CPP regional office who is adjudicating your claim.
  • Understand why CPP Disability are denying your claim.  I have posted a lot of information on the blog about why CPP disability is usually denied - and how to understand the CPP disability language.  If you understand the reasons why CPP disability have denied your claim then you will better understand how to put together your appeal. 
  • Find out what your MQP is?  Minimum Qualifying Dates are extremely important and you need to review your file to see if the medical information that has been submitted provides evidence around the time of the MQP.
  • Once you have reviewed your file, it is important to decide what additional supportive documentation you may need to get and who to get it from.  Make contact with your doctor and any other people you might want to get letters from.  Most doctors charge money to obtain the evidence you need to support your appeal.  It is not helpful to get a doctor to write that your disability is "severe and prolonged".
  • Understand your responsibility to provide information to support your appeal.  Understand how CPP disability is determined. Read through the blogs and the appeals guide on this website.
  • Make sure all the information you have collected will help with your appeal. Sometimes clients get discouraged because their doctors write that they may be able to do "some light work" but keep in mind that the work has to be regular and substantially gainful.  It is a good idea to speak to your doctor about their thoughts on your capacity to work before obtaining a written report.
  • Your written submission should address when you stopped working and why you think you are unable to work in any job because of your disability.  It should discuss if you have tried to return to work and failed due to your medical condition, and if you looked for work, how your disability prevented you from finding a job.  The submission should outline your functional limitations. 

I am going to be away next week working on my final Review Tribunal hearings.  Three complicated but interesting cases. I must say I am very sad that these hearings are coming to an end.

CPP Social Security Tribunal

Attention Attention Attention.

Memo To Diane Finley Minister Human Resources Skills Development Canada

What the hell is going on??????

It is March 22nd, 2013.  There are nine days until the appeals system changes to the CPP Social Security Tribunal - and no one - not one single person - can advise me of any information.

Nothing. Squat. Nadar.

When will appeals start to be heard?

Where is the office going to be located?

Who is going to manage my files?

Where are the appeals going to be heard?

How are they going to be heard?

How long are people going to wait to be heard?

Who do I call on April 1st, 2013?

Who is going to staff the place?

When are they going to advise us representatives how to proceed with our clients?

How in heaven's name is this going to be a seamless transition? 

This is nothing but a gosh darn shyte show.

To all my readers please excuse my language but I am just so frustrated with this whole process and angry that good people are being effected by these changes and no one seems to give a hoot.

Please note that I am not talking about the existing staff at the Tribunals  - they are excellent .


Hang in there please

I have one more week of appeals out of my office.  I have a lot of phone calls to return and please be patient as it may take a while for me to get back to you.

If you can address your questions to me via email that would help info@dcac.ca as if I am out of the office I can get back to you via email.

If you have been denied, please make sure you send off letters of appeal - so you do not miss your 90 day appeal period.

Again thank you for all of your kind words and emails, I appreciate the feedback and knowing that my work is making a difference and providing some support during a difficult period.


Medical Reports

This blog is about a client I helped let's call her Corrine.

Corrine is in her late 40's and I helped her with a Review Tribunal this week.  Corrine has a mental disability - she is diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Agoraphobia, Cluster C Personality Disorder.  She had worked for 26 years and unfortunately due to frequent absences at her work place - and due to lack of understanding and compassion of her work place and co-workers became the target of work place bullying.  You know what it is like in the work place - a person starts taking time off work due to illness that really cannot be visually seen - or sometimes understood - by coworkers so that person gets labeled as a slacker or a faker - just wanting to get out of work.  Along with the work place bullying - Corrine had several bereavements in a short period of time - she broke down - that was in 2007 and she has not worked since.

Corrine had a MQP or Magic Date of 2010 - remember what the magic date is - based on contributions the point in which you have to be found disabled.

When I received her file from the Feds - there was only medical information in it from 2011 forward.  That is when she applied for disability.  The Feds did not develop the file further even though it was clearly listed in the file that she had been seeing the treating psychiatrist since 2008.  The Feds sent off a letter of denial and said she did not meet the criteria in 2010.  It was not until she was deneid twice that Corrine contacted my office. I got a copy of her file and noted that there was no evidence in the file around her magic date of 2010.

Remember please that if you have a MQP or MAGIC DATE that is in the past - you need to ensure the medical evidence is provided from that time period to support your appeal - the MQP is noted on your denial letter. It is usually found under the CPP Disability rules section after point 2.  It will say something like; "in your case, under the late application provision, you would have to be found disabled by December 2010"  or whatever year it might read.

So back to Corrine.  I got the medical reports from her Psychiatrist - some 70 pages of it.  I submitted it to the Feds to review prior to the hearing - but they continued to maintain their denial so off we went to the hearing.  I was really worried how Corrine was going to manage the hearing - given the disability that she has - and due to the fact that she is prone to rage outbursts - but we were able to get through it with many breaks and lots of emotional breakdowns - thank you to the Panel and the Minister's Rep who were very fair and tolerant.

The whole reason for writing this blog is that Corrine had not seen any of the medical reports that had been submitted in her file - she had no idea of what was written about her.  The point I am trying to make is that there was a lot of information contained in the medical reports that were inaccurate - or on first blush without knowing the context of the conversation present a very different picture of the actual situation.

There were recommendations in the medical reports that were never shared with Corrine - as well there was information in the reports that said she was not following up with treatment.  Yes that is the case, Corrine had missed some appointments - because her family could not afford the gasoline to get to the appointments.  It is a reality folks, people cannot afford to go get the treatment they need because they have been denied disability - and they have no money - or are just squeeking by - this family had two boys, and they are starting to lose everything they have worked for - because they are on one income.

Under the new system, this information is going to be reviewed by a Social Security Tribunal Member - at least two thirds of whom have never sat on a CPP disability Review Tribunal and who knows what type of medical expertise they have - then the appellant is going to have try and explain the contents of the reports - and you are dealing with individuals who do not understand medical terminology or what medical reccomendations mean - these reports that I submitted included different scales and measures - particularly the Global Assessment of Functioning or GAF and if you do not know what these terms mean how are you going to be able to present your case?

Corrine told me she gave up on her appeal for Long-term Disability benefits because she did not have the capacity cognitively and mentally speaking to even "go there" and she would have given up on the CPP disability appeal if I was not there to help her through.  It just seems so unfair to me, that Canadians who have worked and who have paid in to this system are so disadvantaged by the system. 

Corrine I am proud of you - you got through the hearing.  It was really nice to get to know you and your husband.

A late night vent

I had one of those days.  A day when all things seemed to go awry.  I had a couple of hearings go pear shape due to inclement weather, problems with couriered information, and sick appellants. 

I also found out that several people I know at the exisitng Tribunals did not get positions at the new CPP Social Security Tribunal.  I do not understand this - these people have had years of experience and knowledge working with CPP disability - yet for some reason they did not meet the "new" Social Security Tribunal knowledge and requirements. How can that be?

I am also frustrated with the delays - when this new system was announced - we were all assured that the would be a "seamless transition" to this new system.  I do not understand how that is going to happen. The delays and backlogs just seem to be getting longer and worse.  The Social Security Tribunal members have just been announced and as I said before only 10 members have previously sat on the old Review Tribunal panels - there are a few on board - and I mean a few - who have medical experience - so who is going to be making decisions about often complex medical issues to determine whether they are disabled - are they going to be able to read medical terminology?  Oh but they have medical expertise at the new Social Security Tribunal - yes medical experts who used to work for the CPP and HRSDC.  I just do not get the how there is any impartiality there?  It is not my intention to put any disrespect on to the doctors many of whom can be fair and balanced - but I am just saying this lack of impartiality is something I do worry about - and there are the "company" doctors - if you know what I mean.    

I find that lack of information about the new CPP Social Security Tribunal frustrating - people phone me all day asking what this new system is going to be like - and so far there has been no information about the processes - how an appeal is going to be managed, how it is going to be heard, we do not know where this tribunal is even located - well they say in Ottawa but who knows where.  It is March 20th tomorrow - that leaves 11 days.

Well stay turned and get help if you are in the application or appeal process - it is far to important an undertaking to go through without having knowledge of the playing field - that is what I try to do on this blog - and on this website - give as much information as I can.  Call or email me if you need a question answered.


Bouquets for the Tribunal Staff

We are heading in to our final two weeks of Review Tribunal and Pension Appeals Board hearings.  The CPP Social Security Tribunal will become in to effect on April 1, 2013.  Change is not easy, and it is going to be a totally new system to get used to in terms of how I am going to present my client's cases.  Thankfully the legislative criteria has not changed of course, you will still have to meet the CPP disability criteria no matter what level of appeal you are at.

I am going to be away working for the next couple of weeks, I have a final eight Review Tribunal hearings to do.

I want to take this opportunity to send my appreciation to the staff of the Review Tribunal and Pension Appeals Board. I would also like to say thank you to the Judges of the PAB as well as the Review Tribunal Panel members. Some are moving on to new positions at the Social Security Tribunal, some are retiring, and some people did not get positions.  My thanks go to you for your support over the last 15 years - for the way that you have all professionally managed the appeal cases, as well as myself.  It has been a great pleasure getting to know you over the years and I wish you all the very best in your new endeavours.

I am feeling the worry of this change - any change, even a possible change for the better, is accompanied with challenges and drawbacks. Like I have said before - keep calm and carry on - and please keep in touch - you know where to find me.

One quick aside to this message - last night I was watching my regular TV shows that I record on my PVR during the week - and I counted at least five times that the Government of Canada advertised its work vision - or whatever economic vision they have for the future.  Instead of paying all this money on advertising how good they are making it for job seekers, and business - why don't they pay their own employees to keep up the levels of acceptable service Canadians need?  Just Saying.

CPP Disability and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

When an appellant has a disability condition such as chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or depression, it is difficult to describe the subjective symptoms that one may experience. I am reposting this blog entry as I recently has a client - let's call her Julie, who I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after she had surgery for thyroid cancer ( I also would keep this in mind for people who have "chemo brain" after chemotherapy, or if you want to describe any type of chronic fatigue from say Fibromyalgia).

As I said, I recently had a case with a client who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  This client, Julie, was in her late forties and had been unable to work due to her condition for approximately four years.  She had gone through a process of elimination with her physicians and specialists to see if there was an alternative illness causing her chronic fatigue which all came up negative. She had also been through numerous type of treatment both traditional and non - and had spent a large amount of money trying to regain her health.  Unfortunately this has not happened and she is not able to work at all.  Julie was a very accomplished woman - she was a single mother who raised two children, who was also well-educated with a good job and resume to her name.

When I was preparing for Julie's appeal I remembered a client I had in 2010 who had experienced similar symptoms.  He was referred to a Psychiatrist who specialized in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.

Saying one is simply fatigued does not really describe the condition - and this doctor quoted five variants of fatigue as identified in a recent scholarly article by Jason et al.  I did a google search and found a link to this article http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20185398?dopt=Abstract

When presenting a chronic fatigue case to an appeal's body I think it is helpful to discuss each of these five variants of fatigue.  These are some of the examples we used in Julie's case -

Post-exertional Fatigue  - the more that Julie did, the longer it takes for her to recover, she has to pace himself with her activities, if she does an activity she has to rest after this activity. I often hear clients say if they do something they will "pay" for it later. I think it is probably better to give examples - like how does one "pay" - increased fatigue, increased pain, would be a more appropriate way to describe this.

Brain Fog Fatigue - Julile described this type of fatigue as being in the "twilight zone" - she was unable to take in information or react to outside stimulus -she talked about how hard it was to her to follow a story line in a book, and how it was difficult to arrange her thoughts.  When she was experiencing this type of fatigue she was unable to focus on anything.

Flu-like Fatigue - Julie described this type of fatigue as that she "just feels ill"

Energy Fatigue - this was described by Julie as her feeling okay and then something happens to "pull the plug" and she feels his energy draining away.  If this happens, her need to rest is immediate.

Wired Fatigue - Julie described this aspect of fatigue as not really making sense to her in that when she seems to get really really tired, she gets "wired" by which she meant she was hyper - and that this was the hardest aspect of her fatigue to manage.

Julie was successful with her appeal and the Review Tribunal Panel considered the following factors - she was credible, she had a strong work history and attachment to the work force, that Julie's evidence at Review Tribunal gave them a clear idea as to the severity of her condition, that the Panel was impressed with Julie's diligence to  find the appropriate diagnosis and treatment (efforts at mitigation) and that she had pursued treatment options that were recommmended by all the physicians to whom she was referred to, that it was not reasonable for her to try alternative employment (Inclima - if evidence of work capacity) and that her symptoms are unpredictable, which would make regular attendance at a place of employment either difficult or impossible - there was no evidence of functional overlay (ie: malingering, secondary gain). 

I hope this helps clients who have any subjective symptoms to understand the importance of trying to quantify these symptoms to help the Panel gain a clear idea of the severity of your condition.  With the changeover to the CPP Social Security Tribunal coming in a few short weeks, it is going to be more important that you are able to describe your functional limitations and use examples to explain how these functional limitations prevent you from working.



Know your rights.

I see this posted on websites - know your rights.

I do not think knowing your rights is sufficient.  Your need to know information - not only your rights.

You have the right to make an application for CPP disability - you have the right to appeal the decision if you do not agree with it.

But knowing your rights without knowing how an application for disability should be completed, or how an appeal should be presented - is not going to help you much.

And CPP disability know they have the right to deny you. 



Pull back the curtain please?

It is my goal to help Canadians understand the CPP disability process - I want to pull back the curtain - and help level out the playing field. 

The information I post in these blogs, as well as the information that is included in the CPP application and appeals guide - are based on years of experience of working with Canadians applying for and or appealing the denial of their benefits.

In order to do this well, I employ individuals who also have had their own unique experiences with CPP disability.   I have a lot of information about my employees, who we are, and what we have done.  I pull back the curtain and do not hide behind 1800 numbers, or websites without any addresses or information on fees, or who it is that is actually offering their expertise.

I am happy to announce a new community partner working along side DCAC which I will share in the near future - which I believe will serve my clients well.  I also have some exciting new changes happening with the website - check back frequently.

I received some lovely congratulatory calls yesterday acknowledging my 15 years of service in this business.  It has been a blessing for me to do this work.