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.