This week I attended Pension Appeals Board hearings. This level of appeal is held after you have been denied a Canada Pension Plan benefit at Review Tribunal. The appeal rights are not automatic - that means you have to request the Pension Appeals Board permission or "leave" to hear the case. This one particular client of mine - let's call her Martha - well she had applied for CPP disability in March 2007 and was finally, in September 2010, having her appeal heard. Martha was very apprehensive about this appeal - she is a First Nations woman who has a very limited education because until she lived in the city, lived in her First Nation quite traditionally.
Martha had a lot of health problems; Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, Hyperlipidemia, Shortness of Breath, Obesity, and most prevalently Diabetes. If anyone is familiar with the news in Canada, you will be aware of the high rates of obesity in our country, but also with the high rates of diabetes in the First Nations and Aboriginal communities.
I feel that Martha really lacked an understanding of her health - she never really had a doctor who explained to her the nature of her conditions - no judgment on doctors they are swamped - and also most sadly - she was on welfare and unable to afford to eat well. I have read that poverty is strongly associated with diabetes.
Martha had a Grade 5 education. She had gotten by on labour jobs and really had a good work history - this was not a woman who rode the gravy train.
It took all of my efforts to prepare Martha for the hearing she was about to undertake - you got to imagine how intimidating this must have been for Martha to speak before "high peoples" as she called them. It only reminded me how necessary my work can be because without help I do not think this woman would have been able to do the paper work just to get a hearing - she was functionally illiterate.
Anyway, Martha is a sweet lady - very shy but she trusted me so we had a good rapport and like I said I was able to get her through the first part of her hearing.
What happened you wonder? Well half way through the hearing the Feds settled - yep that's right - they caved. Now I can tell you in my almost thirteen years of working in the field - this is only the second time this has happened during a hearing.
Why am I telling you this story? Well, firstly - how do people who do not have help and who are so disadvantaged in education and socio-economic status make it with these complicated appeals - and two - do not ever try and predict what the Feds are going to do!
Things are plodding along here for me in the office. The phone has been busy and if you have called and I have not spoken to you yet - please hang in there.