I am speaking with a client who has been forced in to Consumer Protection with the bankruptcy process because he has been waiting since April 2011 for CPP disability benefits. He has been denied twice and has been waiting to be heard at the old Review Tribunal and now at the Social Security Tribunal.
That is a three year wait so far.
I had sent over all the documents - the case has been ready to proceed and yet I have not had even an acknowledgment that the documents collected on his file and sent to the Social Security Tribunal were received.
I sent these documents in early fall.
This is unacceptable and what the heck is going on there? This is not an isolated incident - I have a list of 20 files that I have sent documents over that have not been acknowledged nor have they been responded to. I have sent in numerous documents and nothing has been responded to - who is running this place?
It is not just me that is frustrated - I hear the department is as well. All these documents that the SST want to control, yet they are missed and not sent, not acknowledged, and just not part of files. Read my last blog, that necessitated an email to The Chairperson before I knew what was going on in this file.
At the time that I emailed The Chairperson of the SST, I also requested documents including policy and procedure manuals, because from my view point, the SST seem to be making up process as they go along - I requested these from The Chairperson of the SST and as yet I have had no follow up on these. Another tilt to the playing field especially with these Members seem to "have discretion" over everything. This particular case, I was advised that the Member "has discretion" to accept or not accept documents - when clearly as far as I see this is not indicated any where in any rule or regulation - which is why I request a copy of the rules the SST were following. I would also like to know - how an appeal board - could possibly veto documents that might support a client's appeal - what right do they have to do so - is that justice - is that fair - is that giving a client due process?
They have stated that this is a "transition year" - so what? Do all these people who are now requesting consumer protection for their debts get to excuse the delayed payment on their debts because it is a transition year at the SST? What a load of rubbish.
Please if you have been denied and you are either waiting for an appeal to be heard at the SST, or if you are at the Reconsideration stage - get help because quite frankly you do not want to be at the end of consumer protection proceedings.
This government sucks.
I have had new information sent to the Social Security Tribunal now for months and have not had any response on these files.
Clients are calling me asking why we have not had any news.
One client's documents were submitted in early September 2013 and NOT A WORD has been heard - not even an acknowledgment that the information was received.
Obviously I am very frustrated and it is starting to show here on these blog entries. I trust people to give me correct information especially when I am dealing with a new process that no one was really given information on. I had one brief webinar from the Social Security Tribunal on the new processes but that is it. I do not know how regular people who do not have my level of experience are able to manage this system. I have been caught relying on information that was clearly incorrect that was given to me from the Department. I feel like a fool.
I have had some nice responses back from my recent entries from other indviduals who are also having troubles so at least I know I am not alone.
In the past, you were able to access prior Pension Appeals Board decisions which were considered part of the CPP disability jurisprudence, along with cases heard by the Federal Court of Appeal. You were able to access these decisions to help you prepare and support your appeal to the tribunals.
This information is now available through the Social Security Tribunal website however they have taken out the subject/keyword searchability which means that you can only get decisions from this database if you know specifically the name of the Appellant or the Appeal number.
But not just that, many of the cases are only by initial, so how would you possibly be able to find the information you need in order to help you support your case.
This was bought to my attention by a colleague who has suggested to me that it clearly gives the "playing field" another tilt.
I happen to agree with him. Please fix this Feds because it is not FAIR. It gives you an up on a person who does not have the capability to do the same level of searches as you do - how is that FAIR???
You have a big advantage over an applicant. Talk about David and Goliath.
Okay so this is happening over and over again.
Clients are signing Notice of Readiness documents without understanding the issues.
So it appears that then the Minister reviews the file and sees that there is not enough information to support the appeal, so they sign a Notice of Readiness without sending an Explanation which then prevents the appellant from responding to their position and sending in any additional information to fix any deficiencies on the file.
Last week a lady who has very little literacy levels had signed Notice of Readiness documents and yet there were pages of information that were missing from her file. I requested an opportunity for a postponement which was denied.
The Canada Pension Plan principles of interpretation have been held that the program "be liberally construed to advance its benevolent purpose, with reasonable doubts and ambiguities being resolved in the claimant's favour to ensure that the legislative benefits reach the person for whom they were designed"
How is denying a request for a postponement and preventing a claimant from adding additional documents to a file furthering this mandate?
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday???????????
Please do not sign documents - if the insurance companies ask you to sign documents like the Notice of Readiness - do not sign any documents without professional advice.
In the next blog installment - I will share how a person was offered adisability benefit from CPP a month before the MQP expires - despite being unable to work three years prior to this date - and basically if this person signs this agreement they will receive none of their back pay benefits. Stay tuned on that one.
It's been one of those days. I am working here trying to collect medical information to help support the cases that I am working on.
As you know, the Applicant is responsible for meeting their onus to establish disabiity under the Canada Pension Plan - that means that it is your responsibility to prove to the adjudicator - whether the CPP adjudicator or the Social Security Tribunal member - that you meet the legislative criteria of CPP disability and one of the most salient ways to do this is of course to present medical evidence.
So I have sent letters to doctors, I have refaxed letters to doctors, I have called doctor's offices, and I have done this repeatedly over months and months and months to get the medical information the Applicant needs for his file. I have fielded letters from doctors asking for exhobitant amounts of money to provide me with the information - money that the client does not have. I understand you should be compensated for your time - but $300 to photocopy file notes - or $1500 to write a medical report is not realistic for most of these clients to manage.
Not only that, but I am working with a deadline, as all of the medical information - in fact any information - has to be submitted to the Social Security Tribunal on the old Review Tribunal cases by March 31, 2014. Some of these medical requests have gone out to doctors in Summer of 2013 and I am still trying to track down the information. Problem is you cannot get to snarky or shoot the messenger because you need the doctor's help and of course you do not want to upset the apple cart.
I also meet a lot of resistance from Doctors because they say that they have already provided everything they have to CPP disability and they are also frustrated that they have to waste their time and resources on sending them more information when they feel they have made their position clear - and I understand that.
I also find that there are doctors who discourage their patients from applying and who tell them they have to be almost dead in order to qualify and that if you can sell pencils on a street corner - you would not qualify and I understand that misconception as well.
I just feel sorry for these applicants who are trying to manage this by themselves as they honestly do not want to upset their doctors by being too demanding and by requesting the information that they need.
It is a pain indeed - sometimes this system just frustrates me so much.
Happy New Year.
I would like to describe a situation that I recently had to deal with - the client let's call him Glen.
Glen is a gentleman who is in receipt of long-term disability benefits paid by a large insurance company. He called me just before the Christmas season to advise that he had been scheduled for a Social Security Tribunal hearing right after the new year.
I was able to meet with Glen and review his appeal file. On the recommendation of his disability case manager, he was encouraged to sign the Notice of Readiness and submit it to the Social Security Tribunal (he was a legacy case come over from the Review Tribunal). Glen did as he was told to do and signed this document in June 2013. Shortly after signing this document, Glen had open heart surgery and he then spent the next several months in rehabilitation but despite this surgery he did not improve and he is still significantly disabled.
Glen then received the Minister's Explanation of Decision outlining why CPP disability did not feel he met the Canada Pension Plan rules. Enclosed with the explanation was another Notice of Readiness that Glen was required to sign. Again he phoned his insurance company for advice and he was told yet again just to sign the document. Fearful that he would be doing something wrong if he did not comply with the case manager's instructions he signed the Notice of Readiness and was advised by the Social Security Tribunal that the appeal would now be scheduled.
This happened and the appeal date was set.
Glen contacted my office and asked if I would help him. I met with Glen and soon became aware of the fact that by signing the Notices and being compliant Glen had really hamstrung his ability to have a complete and total review of his case by the Social Security Tribunal member.
First off, there was no additional medical information sent to support his file. The last medical on file was dated July 2012 and there was nothing to outline the surgery, the additional tests, the rehab, the follow ups, no additional doctors opinion. Also to make matters worse, Glen had an MQP of December 2013. If the Social Security Tribunal denied his claim he would be unable to reapply due to the doctrine of res judicata - so he was really hooped. He did not have the medical to support his appeal and remember it is his onus to do so - and if he was denied he could not reapply (note this does not happen in all cases - check your MQP).
So there were two options available to Glen - go to the hearing and hope that you can convince the member of all of the outstanding medical information (you could have verbally presented it but what weight would that carry?) or Glen could withdraw his appeal and start the process over again so that he could present all of the information in order to support his appeal.
I think this case illustrates why people will have trouble with this system. Firstly, Glen was relying on instructions from a insurance case manager who did not know what they were talking about or the significance of signing the Notice of Readiness and frankly neither did Glen. It also outlines how little the regular person actually understands about this system that the Feds have foisted on to people and by that I am talking about the Notice of Readiness process. It is not fair that Glen could not provide to the Tribunal all of the informaiton that would help support his case for disability benefits.
If Glen had not reached out for help he would have attended that appeal without any knowledge of what to expect and how significantly relying on uninformed people had damaged his ability to have a full complete review of his appeal.
Please any one who is going through this process - get professional help. Thankfully Glen has long-term disability benefits which brings in a monthly disability benefit - but what if Glen did not have anything coming in -the financial impact would be hard to bear.