Yesterday I attended a Review Tribunal hearing - my client let's call her Helen had applied for CPP Disability twice and had been denied by then a total of four times.
Her insurance company contacted me and asked if I could case-manage her appeal as based on their Independent Medical Examinations she had been found totally and permanently disabled and they could not understand why she had been denied CPP disability.
This hearing was her first face to face appeal. The hearing went very well - Helen was a credible client with very supportive medical information. I think she had a great hearing and a good Review Tribunal panel who were very prepared and professional.
So this is the thing - if she had been denied by CPP disability four times already ON A PAPER REVIEW and she has medical information that has for the past 10 years supported the fact that she is totally disabled - how is a paper review at the new CPP Social Security Tribunal going to be any different than the previous denials the Feds had made on paper?
There is no substitute for a in-person hearing. How a person presents in person is completely different to how a file reads on paper, and if you have been denied twice already on paper - what difference is a third in paper review going to make?
Okay, there is still no word on the new system - what it is going to look like what the policy and procedures are going to be. I do not think they even have an address for where the office is going to be located - and the Feds beilieve that this will all be in place by April 1, 2013.
An article in The Hill Times - Jessica Bruno September 2012 quotes that numerous sources have wondered how the new SST is going to handle the workload and that there could be a 16 month back log on hearing cases - when 74 people try to replace thousands the only thing one can conclude is that access to the system will be completely compromised for Canadians.
After 15 years in the trenches I believe that there is some sort of "ratio or quota" in terms of the CPP denial rate. Although it can never be established - sometimes when I see the denials I wonder what on earth the CPP adjudicators are reading - so I have to wonder.
If there are only going to be 34 members in the new Social Security Tribunal working on 4000-5000 cases a year - and the current 250 or so Review Tribunal members only hear 8 cases a sitting - and there are approximately 8 hearings a week in maybe 70 locations across the country - and they currently work on reviewing the cases, plus sitting on the hearings, plus writing the decisions taking at least 70 hours - how is it that these 34 new full time members are going to handle the current case load - not to mention the continual denials that the CPP Disability are pumping out on a daily basis???
This is an impossible suggestion.
I have heard through the grapevine that the Feds were not happy that their denials were being overturned by the higher arm's length levels of appeals - which I estimate perhaps overturned half of the CPP Denials. Okay the reasons I believe this happened are the case should not have been denied in the first place and two, an in person hearing and the appropriate application of the legislative tenants by professional Panel members who did their work on the file and three, an expert case-manager who put together the appeal, led to a successful result for a person who is disabled and cannot work.
The independent system also avoided the decision making process done by a government who in my opinion simply wants to save money and not to honour the tenants of the CPP Disability legislation - the Feds have indicated that they are going to save $25 million on administration costs - but how much are they going to save ripping people off from getting their benefits? One has to wonder right? That old nasty feeling concerning the quota or ratio of denials is going happen because the new Panel members are simply not going to have the time to handle the number of appeals - the math does not lie.
I believe I can say with confidence that the exisitng case load is not going to be handled by a limited number of Panel Members that the bureaucrats have identified will be working full time for the Social Security Tribunal hearing CPP Disability appeals.
Canadians are entitlted to a fair independent hearing especially when it is dealing with a pension that might be in place for many years. Under this new system I believe it is unlikely this will happen.