Yesterday I was party to a teleconference with the Social Security Tribunal who provided information about the new process that has been put in place concerning the legacy appeals.
Due to the new regulations that were put in place, the appeals that came over from the old Review Tribunal have been deemed legacy appeals and the Social Security Tribunal could not decide on these cases until the 365 days have passed, or both parties had completed the Notice of Readiness process.
That mean that these appeals were deemed ready to be heard on April 1, 2014 but because of the volume of information that came in before the March 31 deadline, the had to give the other party 30 days to respond so some of these appeals will be ready to be heard on May 1, 2014.
There were 7220 legacy appeals come over from the Review Tribunal and the Social Security Tribunal have added another 2500 completed appeals in 2013 (there are more appeals submitted but they are not complete - as there may be outstanding documents). The Social Security Tribunal have completed 800 appeals either by making decisions or as a result of settlment agreements. By my addition, we are looking at around a 9000 case back log of appeals to be heard.
The Social Security Tribunal realized that these backlogs could not be dealt with without delay and therefore, due to delays the Tribunal Member would have to rely on outdated information - which is why they are now allowing any legacy cases that are waiting - to continue to submit documentation as they realize it is the Appellant's onus to establish that they are disabled.
The nuts and bolts of this new process are noted in the prior blog entry.
There were a series of questions asked: here are some of the answers - the Social Security Tribunal is an electronic office which means all documents are scanned - you can send in documents on CD- but do not bind or staple any appeal documents. You can email documents to the SST but they are unable to email you documents due to privacy issues.
The Tribunal Member has the discretion on the type of appeal that will be conducted. There will be a Hearing Information Form that will be sent to Appellants or their representatives - and on these forms - you should make your case in terms of what kind of appeal you would like to receive. I believe most strongly that an in-person appeal is best.
There are Tribunal Members on the Employment Insurance side of the Social Security Tribunal who have now been trained in the Income Security Division who hear CPP disability appeals.
I asked about the delays on getting appeals and when the cases will be heard. I was advised this is a difficult question to answer but that the Social Security Tribunal are booking hearings. Under the new process the older files will be assigned first - so if you Review Tribunal appeal number was 11 something - you will be heard before the 120s or the 121s or the 125s. You can check your appeal number to see where you might fall in the legacy appeal line up - if you are a recent appeal to the Social Security Tribunal in 2013, my guess is your in for a long wait. I tried to pin down time lines but was not given timelines - which I supposed was to be expected. I did reiterate the hardship people are going through - and was told by the counsel on call - let's call him Mitchell - to write a letter. To which I stated I had.
There was a lot of grumbling from various reps about the process and the whole CPP denial rate but rightly so - this is not the Social Security Tribunal's issue - it is the Feds who do not approve the CPP applications. There were also concerns about the Information Line and the delays getting information - to which most of the participants agreed was not working well.
I will say, that I have concerns about the various Member's experience and knowledge of the CPP tenants and previous case decisions and the wealth of knowledge and I feel that this is now missing at the Tribunal hearings. Although it is stated that the members have been trained - it is my experience that it took many years for the judges at the Pension Appeals Board as well as the members of the Review Tribunal to become what I used to term "seasoned". I loved the "seasoned" members because you did not have to reiterate over and over the basics and you did not get the feeling that you were appearing before someone who may not know the ropes as well as you do. Not arrogance - merely observation.
I have also had numerous emails echoing my feelings from various other individuals who have made appearances before the Social Security Tribunal members.
So these are my thoughts in terms of what legacy appellants should do next:
- Make sure you continue to submit all the medical information you can.
- If you have not got help, find someone to help you.
- Make sure you respond and include all of your submissions because you may only get an appeal on the record.
- If you receive a series of questions and answers from a Social Security Tribunal member, do not answer these until you have had an experienced and trained professional to help you complete these documents.
- If you are scheduled for an appeal - do not proceed with these alone - get help you have one opportunity to do this right.
- If you have been denied at initial application and you are at the reconsideration level - get help with this appeal because you will be facing long delays to get an appeal.
Finally I would like to say to those people who are legacy appeals - this new process is a blessing and a saving grace to those of you who did not get your appeals adequately prepared before the expiration of the March 31, deadline. You now have the opportunity to get the help you need to prepare for the appeal. Please find someone to help you. Make sure that you are ready. Make sure you case is reviewed so that you know when your number is called, you have done all that you can to give yourself the best shot at this appeal. You have waited so long to get the appeal date - and I think it boarders on foolish to go further without professional assistance - especially when you are getting one kick at being successful.