Madam Commissioner - Social Security Tribunal - I need answers to my emails

Perhaps there should be an investigation in to why there is no Information being received from the General Information Email that I am continually being told to use by civil servants and the Social Security Tribunal.  I think that I should bring to attention the fact that it is very challenging to prepare for appeals in an adequate way when I do not get information that is needed for these people.

I am told that this is the appropriate email to use in order to get information on upcoming appeals.

Well speaking to my last email I still have not got responses on these requests.

Further, I have an appeal coming up on August 7th, 2014.

I sent an email - marked it urgent - about the information that I have not received from the Social Security Tribunal which is needed so that the client and our representative can prepare for the appeal.

Okay so we have 18 days until the hearing - when will my emails be returned?

I cannot believe this - this would never happen at the old appeal bodies - why is it so darn difficult for this Tribunal to get it together.

Will the heaing be adjourned because the information was not received in a timely manner????????


Recent news articles Social Security Tribunal

With the recent newspaper articles that have been appearing in the national media over the last several weeks, you would think the Social Security Tribunal would be stepping up it's game.

Apparently this is not the case - I am wondering if a story could be written that could talk about the lack of information offered by this agency to the people who have to try and navigate the system.

I have been receiving a lot of calls lately - asking me questions because it will take three days for a client to get an answer from the Social Security Tribunal - and these phonecalls also include request for information on what they should do from MPs offices.

Most recently, I had asked to receive information on an appeal via email to a specific civil servant and was kindly told to email the general information line again.

I did that - and marked it urgent - the appeal is on August 7th.  To date I still have not got a response to my request for information.  In the end, I had to get the answer to my question from the department.

I have also sent two other emails on a file over the last month and I have not got a response - this client's file has an issue that I am trying to resolve - and yet I have had no response.

The last newspaper article written by Dr. Michael Prince has been shared over 1000 times - thank you.



Seven reasons why disabled Canadian are losing CPP disability benefits


Here is another article in the Globe and Mail written by Michael Prince.

It provides the seven reasons why disabled Canadians are losing their CPP disability benefits. 

I have written about all seven reasons on this blog - not as eloquently as Mr. Prince.

Please get help whether you are applying for or appealing the denial of your CPP disability benefit.  If you have been denied at intial and you are in the reconsideration process, it is critically important that you get help preparing your appeal.  You do not want to be stuck in the Social Security Tribunal - for all the reaons that Mr. Prince writes in his article.

Please share this article with all your networks.  I will spend the next hours here in the office doing so.


Fewer claimants successful when appealing disability benefit denials.


Another article ran in the Globe and Mail today.  Again please share this with your networks. I am pleased to say that yesterday's story was shared by over 4000 people.  Thank you.

I think the most critical statistic in this article is that in 2013-2014 (since the inception of the Social Security Tribunal) that only 43% of the appeals have been successful.

I have my thoughts on why this is the case, and you can find those if you take the time to read through the blogs that I have been posted since March 2012.

I am afraid we all have to deal with the reality of this new system.  In the next several weeks I will start to repost blog entries to try to give ideas and suggestions to those people who find themself in this system.  Let's all go through the regulations together and the CPP disability adjudication guidelines.

I cannot stress enough that you need to be prepared for these appeals.  It would be my preference for clients not to get to this stage and like one reader commented - if the Feds did not deny 60% of cases originally and reviewed appeals and applications applying their own adjudication guidelines  - then maybe the statistics would be different.

Please get help with your applications and your reconsiderations.  You do not want to have to be stuck at this new appeal system.  Based on these numbers, you will not have a good chance at success.


Social Security Tribunal - Some answers please?

The Globe and Mail story has been shared 1390 times since it appeared online at 9.00pm last night.

I would like to make the following comments on the article:

Mr. Sapp's comments stating that he could not have made fair decisions without meeting claimant face to face clearly illustrates why the Canada Pension Plan Act had previously allowed for in-person hearings. A client has already been denied two times by the Canada Pension Plan adjudicators before they had the opportunity to appear before an adjudication body in person.  According to statistics obtained from the Ministry - the prior appeal system overturned 59.96% of the CPP denials in 2005, 58.67% of the denials in 2006, 57.99% of the decisions in 2007, 52.04% of the denials in 2008, 53.75% of the denials in 2009, 52.24% in 2010, and 49.44% of the appeals in 2011 -2012.

You can see how these figures highlight that according to the arm-lengths appeal body - the CPP disability adjudicators had the decision wrong 50% of the time.  This number also does not take in to account, the individuals who gave up because they thought their appeals would go nowhere, as well as those who believed that the government must have made the right decision.  Further, these statistics do not illustrate how many of the 50% that were denied at the Review Tribunal appealed to the Pension Appeals Board and had the denial reversed.

The article also mentions that there was a backlog of around 10,000 appeals.  As I indicated in a prior blog entry, the Social Security Tribunal have already accumulated another 2000 appeals this year already - so does this mean we are now around 12,000 backlogged appeals.

Dominique Forget's comments leave much to be desired.  There is no explanation about the reasoning behind the decision to make a decision based only on the written documents - she says it is for "flexibility and efficiency" - perhaps the SST have been instructed to move the files - and this is their answer?  Again my thoughts have always been that it is really easy to "rubber stamp" a denial on a while when you do not get to meet the Appellant and hear their subjective experiences.  Mr. Sapp had that right.  The Director of the SST notes that they are "trying to move files as quick as they can."  Move the files where?  In to another level of appeal - in to the courts when Appellants say they have been denied the right to have their cases heard?  Up to the Supreme Court of  Canada  like Mr. Villanin (for those who do not know, Mr. Villani changed the landscape for Appellants). 

How about the Director of the Social Security Tribunal contact the bureacrats and tell them that their dismantling of the prior appeal system without obviously any regard to the consequences is not working to well and that they should rethink what they have done here.

It would not be so worrisome if an Appellant was told that the Social Security Tribunal member felt on the documents provided that their decision would be to grant and appeal and bounce it back to the Minister for their submissions. But these clients have no idea what is going to happen and this is too important a matter to be left to the unilateral decision of a Tribunal Member to decide.  The converse could also work.  If a Tribunal Member advised that they were leaning towards a denial and wrote their reasons why they felt that way, then the Appellant would have an opportunity to sway them or to present more information - or at least have the opportunity to be HEARD - that is what I think these people at the Social Security Tribunal do not understand - the Appellants want to be HEARD and most of them have waited years for this opportunity.

I think the Director's comments about the Tribunal not keep statistics to show the relative success of appellant who are able to present their case in person versus those who are not is a bit of baloney.  In February this year, I received information from the Freedom of Information office which gave me these numbers - they are posted on the blog.  So what has happened in the last three months - all of a sudden the Social Security Tribunal are not keeping records?

The totality of the comments that I submitted to the Globe and Mail are as follows:

"It appears that the way the Social Security Tribunal is going to manage the enourmous accumulation of backlogged appeals is to unilaterally deny Canadians the right to be heard in an in-person hearing.  It is not the function of the Tribunal to "rubber stamp" only medical opinions.  The CPP disability adjudicaton process must include a review of the totality of the written information, as well as the subjective experiences of the Appellant.  This can only be achieved by holding an in-person hearing.  By denying this right to this type of appeal, the Federal Government has found another way to tile the playing field in their favour."

The rules of natural justice say that you are entilted to a hearing if their is some value in having it says Mr. Fink.  The value in having a hearing is clear.  The Tribunal should not be denying the right to in-person appeals. 

Please keep sharing this article.



SST decision on the basis of the documents

The last two files I have received from the Social Security Tribunal I have been advised that the Tribunal Member intends to make a decision on the appeal on the basis of the documents and submissions filed for the following reason:

"The Tribunal Member decided that no further hearing was required, as each party had been given a meaningful opportunity to present its case; and no further information was required to make a decision."


What about the evidence of the Appellant?  What about the evidence of the family? What about the opportunity to present all sides of the appeal and not what is just on paper?  What about the Appellant's right to a hearing? This man has been waiting to have his appeal HEARD since September 2011.

So the Member decided that each party had been given a meaningful opportunity to present its case?  Well all we have been able to do is submit paper - medical reports, submissions, etc.  And that no further information wes required to make a decision?  How so??  Why?? It does not say - that based on the documents filed that the Member feels confident that the appeal should be allowed and that the client has made his case - that would be completely different - then one would know that you had a last kick at the can to convince the Member differently - but there is no indication of that - so you just trust that the Tribunal Member is confident in the decision. 


There is prior case law on file (Martin v MHRD CP14001) which states that "There have been cases in which evidence tendered by the Applicant and his or her supporting witnesses was not only highly credible, but also equally highly persausive, which called upon by the Board to exercise its judicial capacity and function, thereby refusing to abdicate its decision-making role to the medical profession."

And Chase v MHRD CP 6540 "While objective medical evidence is helpful and greatly assists the Board in its determination of disability, the CPP does not make a finding of disability conditional on "objective evidence."  The appellant usually gives oral testimony at the hearing.  The subjective experiences of the applicant in regard to the pathology with resulting consequences on his or her ability to engage in regularly substantially gainful occupation, are important considerations."

And Di Caro v MHRD (CP 4068)  " It is important for the applicant to attend and testify at the hearing so that a PROPER assessment of his or her claim can be made.  This is particularly true of chronic pain claims, even where none of the treating physicians expressed doubt as to the genuiness of the complaints.  Failure to testify in person, UNLESS adequately explained, will weigh heavily in the balance against the genuineness of the claim."

And Morley v MEI (CP 3296) "It is not the function of the Board to "rubber stamp" medical opinions, and they must be weighed against oral testimony."

And Petti v MHRD CP 4855 "The oral testimony of the applicant can be, and very often is MATERIAL to the resolution of the matter.  If deemed credible, it is entitled to DUE WEIGHT and SERIOUS CONSIDERATION."

I could go on and on quoting previous decisions of the Pension Appeals Board which form jurisprudence over years and years of hearings.


I then sent and email to the Manager whose name is signed to the letter.  This is a new development and I am not sure what recourse the client has to dispute this Tribunal Member's decision.  She forwarded my email to the general information email.  This is a specialized question and I am forwarded to the a general information line - I am going to email the Commissioner - maybe she will give me the answer I need as I am not getting a response to many of the emails I send to the information line.  This client has until July 30 to submit documents so that means I am going to waste days trying to get an answer to questions from the SST.

By the way the email that I received in response from the Manager says "FYA" which I believe stands for  F**K YOU ALLISON a freudian slip perhaps for FYI?

Is this a way that the SST to expedite the appeals and to reduce the back logs? 

For those of you who receive a letter like this from the Social Security Tribunal - please make sure that you have got someone to help you put together your file - make sure that you have written submissions about why you meet the CPP disability criteria - if you are unable to do this alone -please make sure you get help.  Remember these appeals are really in my opinion - your one kick at the can - in terms of being successful - so take it seriously.

My concern is that people who have no idea of the lay of the land, who have mental illness, who are unable to manage the complexity of the appeal, who struggle with literacy - will be unable to manage these kind of situations and again the playing field is tilted on the backs of the most vulnerable.

Look I really hope that this is a good thing - I hope that this means that the Tribunal Member has weighed all the information on file and is convinced they can make a decision - and my hope is that it is positive - but it is really unproven this system - and the figures that have been released concerning the denial rates are not good - so I am hesitant to trust.  As well, there are limited appeal rights so you are relying on an unknown in the hopes that your appeal will be successful.  For a man who has waited since September 2011 to get an appeal I am not sure he should take the risk.

 By the way this is the response I have received on the email I sent:

"You are correct.  You would need to provide a written request with reasons (to change the hearing format). It will be provided to the Tribunal Member for review."

Never in all of the previous appeal systems has a Tribunal Member or Judge for that matter the right to decide that a Appellant would not be granted a hearing.