My week in review

More complaints I am afraid......

Firstly I am finding that the wait times for processing CPP benefits is increasing - people are waiting for at least five months to hear a decision on their applications or reconsiderations.  I do not have to tell you about the state of most families' finances and how many rely on a double income in order to make the mortgage and whatever other obligations they have. I cannot for the life of me understand how putting individuals through the financial stress of repeated denial of disability benefits can help a person's medical condition.  Add stress, depression, frustration, marital conflict, guilt, and a whole host of other issues to the mix and you are certainly not helping a client improve.  It is so frustrating for me to see and hear first hand the toll the length of processing times and denial rates are having on good decent Canadian people who face life changing disabilities. It sickens me. And the number of calls and emails I get each week, each person expressing their despair and frustration with the system is a challenge.  My advice is to carry on - keep positive - and keep up the fight against the unfair denials - because at the end of the day - I believe that most people have legitimate claims - why else would they waste their time and cause anguish to themselves and their families for the fun of dealing with a bureacratic system. It is not logical.

I have also had my fill of bad hearings. I am not sure if Panel members feel rushed or overwhelmed with the amount of information they have to review, or whether they are burnt out with the number of appeals they are sitting on because of increased hearing numbers or because the amount of appeals are increasing - but lately I have not felt that all of the Panel members are prepared - and I also wonder if they are reading the files.  Again a caveat - many many members have done their homework and are ready - but some alas I feel are not.  I have had any excellent relationship with the Review Tribunal office but I feel this whole issue of documentation collation and page numbering (see prior rant) is not doing the panel members, the representatives, and most importantly the appellant any service at all. And this could be the problem and vibe that I am sensing in recent weeks. You would think that simple page numbering would not make a big difference but it does.

Maybe I am just frustrated with the whole system period.

I did have some good news this week. A client lets call him Roger won his appeal. He has had quite a time of it - firstly a bone head Panel member - made in my opinion a really stupid decision on the last hearing - it was postponed. He waited another 10 months in order to get the second hearing - with no resolution to the issues raised in the first hearing - but any way - he was waiting for a treatment - a treatment that has a waiting list of over two years - so what he is supposed to wait that length of time to see if this possible treatment may help his medical condition - I think not.  I must add that in the documents it stated that this proposed treatment was something that the doctors "hoped" might help - it was not like surgery or something that had a good chance of success - so in the meantime - Roger lost his house that he had paid for  over 25 years of hard work - his wife left him - and he is now housebound and mired in chronic pain and anxiety - an illustration of what happens to real good person - a person who was described by his previous employer as a "working-machine" - because of this system he found himself in - through no fault of their own. Anyway I just spoke with Roger and I am so hopeful that the feds do not appeal this decision - he has been through enough. Thank goodness the new panel saw Roger's reality and did not postpone the hearing again.  Even though I disagreed strongly with the first Review Tribunal panel if they decide they want to adjourn well good luck for an appellant. Again I find complaints are challenging for me - I know the Review Tribunal are down members and I worry about coming across a member I complained about in another matter.

Anyway that is enough for a Friday afternoon. Take care and hang in there. Allison


How do I decide who I should help?

I am often ask what makes me decide to get involved and case manage a CPP appeal.

I get a lot of calls from people and some of them do not qualify - it is usually not due to a medical condition per se - but more so because they are hooked on technicalities - like MQP issues.

So when I get a file what do I look at - or how do I decide what makes a "good" case.

Well firstly obviously the medical information is important - trying to make sure all of the medical information is included is a big part of the leg work in case managing a file. But you know often times - the paper work does not tell the full story - so how a person presents is a big part of my decision. Sometimes I can have not so great medical - and a really compelling client whose disability journey will provide far more to the mix than the paper trail. I would like you to keep in mind that the Feds will argue that there must be OBJECTIVE medical evidence - but that is only one part of the totality of the information so keep that in mind. Sometimes I have a really great medical file and a client who is frankly not that likeable. It does have an impact. You do not want to waste your 90 appeal minutes complaining about the WCB or the government or the doctors or whatever your beef is. So keep that in mind. And sometimes, you can have a strong medical file, a candid and forthright client who is 100 percent decent, and you have a crap panel who renders a crap decision.

This happened to me and I am not going to say if it was recent or not.

This particular Panel and I am not going to say where I was for obvious reasons - were awful - and the atmosphere of the hearing was very tense. I have been around the block many many times - and whilst I am unable to predict a decision sometimes - I can certainly tell if someone had a good hearing experience. Well this hearing experience was awful. I am able to help out somewhat to try and change the mood but this time I felt very discouraged.

So what does one do in that situation? Well not much unfortunately. Once the Review Tribunal is over then a decision will be made by the Panel. And it makes my blood boil that good people are at the mercy of these intimidating and dare I say it - bitchy Panel members.

I want to make it clear though - for the most part the Review Tribunal members are very professional it is only once in a while this happens.

I do not know what the decision will be - but if people who do not have someone to help them - and have to go through a difficult hearing - that would be a tough spot for anyone to be in. And what could one do - because it is your word against theirs.

If I complain to the powers that be - then I am in an awkward position because the members are rotated - and I may just so happen to come across a member again - not a good start for another client's appeal.

Any way this particular appeal got me fired up. But I got to get back to work. Until next time.


A new year rant

Well firstly I would like to say that one of my goals for DCAC this year is to take the time to make regular blog entries. I get a lot of emails from people out there who find the blog entries helpful and informative and of course that is my goal, to keep you up to date on what is happening in CPP land.

The first thing I would like to talk about the changes that the Office of The Commissioner of Review Tribunals has made which have significantly impacted my work as well as other individuals who case manage CPP appeals. I also believe it has impact on the client as well which has been born out in the appeals that I have been at since the change was implicated. I am not critizing the staff at OCRT, budgets have been cut and changes to meet budget have to be made. In the past the Review Tribunal would send both the client and the case manager a copy of the hearing file that was numbered, indexed, and bound. This will no longer happen. As well, the Appellant will no longer receive copies of documents that HRSDC has sent to the Review Tribunal office - they will only be sent to the case manager or advocate. The Appellant will also not receive a copy of the any of the hearing documents - other than a letter which says when their appeal is scheduled.

Okay so for me, the person who I am helping will have no idea what is in their file before the Review Tribunal unless I copy the file and send it to them - which essentially means - while the government is saving money - the people who are helping the people, who the Feds have often in my opinion unfairly denied to begin with - are not. Do you get my drift here?

The only way the Appellant can keep on top of what is going on in their appeal or know what documents exist is if I send them a copy. So many times clients have gone through their files and have had no idea of the reports that have been written or conversations with Feds that have been taken out of context - all of this just adds another layer of complexity to the mix.

For individuals who pay disbursements the fees will become increased.

But even with all of this - what I find the most disturbing - is that the Tribunal hearings are becomming more and more challenging -without page numbering there are delays as we all shift through documents - it disrupts the flow of the hearing - and it wastes time - an appellant is typically allowed one and a half hours to explain why they meet the legislative criteria - and now I am spending time with panel members shuffling documents. My last issue is the fact that often there are documents missing - it happens to me all the time.


If you do not have someone to advocate for you then all the documents will still be sent to you. But just keep in mind that you have to manage these documents and sometimes I find it an overwhelming task - let alone a person has a disability - the paper trail for me is onerous.

I wonder how the cuts in the Fed's budget is going to impact the denial rates. I think it is going to be a very interesting year. It is almost a perfect storm for claims - aging populations, the economy, and I really anecdotally see the increase in denials, the increase in processing times to even hear a decision. I know I got an email last week from someone who told me she had put her application in two weeks ago and she wanted to know what the hold up was - I did laugh out loud - and this person was really ticked at the answer I gave her.

So please keep me informed of what is going on in the trenches. If you need help do not hesitate to email - it may take me a bit to get back to you though so please be patient.

Happy New Year.