I am experiencing a great deal of frustration.
There are no answers.
Every time I phone to find out about the new Social Security Tribunal I am told no one knows when the new hearings are going to be available. If you have not been scheduled for a hearing by March 2013 you are going to be heard under the new Social Security Tribunal system. That is all I know for sure.
There is still no news regarding whether the members who are going to hear the appeals are hired - or even staff to manage the rather large number of appeals currently waiting to be heard - are hired.
No one seems to know anything.
A great number of Canadians, who are waiting for Review Tribunal hearings, have just had all of their personal information compromised by HRSDC - the government department who has decided that they are going to foist this new tribunal on to Canadians. And maybe because of this massive breach of privacy - they are expecting answers regarding their appeals. They are starting to contact the existing appeal's bodies and unfortunately they are not getting the answers they require - basically everyone is told - there is a new system starting April 1, 2013 - but we cannot tell you when and for that matter, how your appeal is going to be heard. I have provided information on the blog here about the different types of appeals that the new system will use - but apparently it is up to "The Member" and not the client to determine how the appeal will be heard. Which is completely inappropriate - it is the person's application - why should someone else get to determine the type of appeal they get to have? One of the only things that has not be assessed by CPP Disability when they are denying all the claims - is the subjective evidence of the appellant - this is a critical and integral part of any appeal - how can paper information describe the experience one has when dealing with disability like pain or mood - every situation is different - paper information does not give the added dimension that a face to face gives.
I would like to highlight that this is not the existing staff who are at the appeals bodies fault that there are no answers - that is squarely on the shoulders of the bureaucrats at HRSDC. Perhaps I should get the phone number of the Director of the change over, put it on this blog, and ask her and her assistants to start taking calls from people who are waiting for appeals? Maybe then there would be some understanding about how frustrated people are and how badly they are hurting. Come on Danika - people are losing their homes - people are going bankrupt - people who are sick are getting sicker. A grown man called me today in tears of desperation because he cannot find the money to keep his home - he has five children - he has worked all his life - and I am not exagerating. He is waiting for an appeal and has been told "they don't know when he will be heard". Maybe if that starts happening, we will finally get some answers. And I do not mean 1-800-277-9914 because you cannot get through and they do not have any information either. I would like a "real number" that can give my clients and myself, as well as everyone still waiting in the system - or the 6 out of 10 people that CPP deny - the opportunity to understand what is going to happen with something so significant as an appeal to hear whether their disability benefits will be allowed.
Clients are getting tired of getting no information - don't they deserve more than "we don't know?" I am getting calls everyday from frantic people no knowing what is going to happen to them - not understanding how something so important can be drastically changed mid-stream. If you applied under one system - what right do people have to change the rules mid stream - even Air Canada does not do that - they honour what was existing if they change their policies. Clients are given a whole lot of government speak on the website stating nothing is going to change and that it is going to be fair and equitable - and I sure hope so. But?
I would think that the Human Resources Social Development Canada has a requirement to provide everyone who is waiting for an appeal, and the people who work within the system, a phone number to call so we can find out what is going to happen - and how on earth this monumental task of switching four appeals bodies in to one is possibly going to be managed and manageable? And how is they are going to provide Canadians with a "seamless transition" as promised. I really think whoever it was that came up with idea of doing this to save money is so very misguided and obviously have no idea what is happening to people are in the real world.
I know the Feds from Ottawa read this blog so how about it? Give us a number so we can call and find out what is going on here. What we all can expect from this new system and when people are going to get their appeals heard - and how they are going to clear the large back logs with only 35 members to hear appeals. If I am wrong with anything I am blogging about - let's hear from my Federal friends - call me and correct my information - you know where to find me. Send me an email - let me know so I can post here on my blog for everyone to read. I will gladly do that - and gladly stand corrected.
So many clients are calling wanting answers - these are appeals to determine a pension - an income for a family - a benefit that people are entitled to that have often been unfairly denied. I wonder how the Bureaucrats would feel if this were happening in their family and what they would do if they were told - "I don't know when your appeal will be heard."
The new Social Security Tribunal will begin operating on April 1, 2013. For those of you who read my blog, this will come as no surprise. However, I think it is important to give an overview on how this important change is going to impact individuals who are applying for and/or appealing the denial of the Canada Pension Plan disability benefits.
The existing system goes as follows; you make your initial application to CPP for disability benefits, and if you are denied you are entitled to request a Reconsideration of this decision. The Reconsideration is done by HRSDC - technically in house by another staff member - and if you are denied at this level of appeal, you could request a Review Tribunal. This was an arms length appeal body and your case was heard - in person - by three panel members who determined whether you met the legislative criteria - in other words - if the decision of the Federal government was wrong. If you were denied, you then had another level of appeal called the Pension Appeals Board who with their permission or leave - set aside the decision of the Review Tribunal granting you a fresh opportunity for the facts and evidence to be considered. So basically you had two opportunities to convince an arms-length appeal body, that the government had got the decision wrong.
Under the new Social Security Tribunal - there is two levels of appeal - there is the General Division and the Appeals Division. The difference is - that the General Division is your only opportunity to present all the information you can to support your case - this means medical reports, facts about your situation, any evidence really to convince the Social Security Tribunal member, that you are disabled according to the CPP disability rules.
The decisions made by the General Divison of the Social Security Tribunal are going to be more difficult to appeal to the Appeals Division and an appeal will only be granted for specific issues that are legalistic and quite technical. There will be no chance for a person to present new evidence (medical reports etc) at this appeal level. This is going to cause so many problems - for example - if you have a current Minimum Qualifying Period date in the future and the General Division decision says you are not disabled when they decide your appeal - then from what I understand you will be prevented from submitting additional medical information that might not have been available at the time of the General Division appeal because it simply was not available to you. Or what happens if you are still doctoring? Are you going to have to wait for an appeal before the General Division when all of your medical is available - how realistic is that? Many of my clients continue to seek second opinions or consultations to clinics that may take years to get - chronic pain clinics for example - it does not mean they are not disabled because they are waiting for an medical appointment.
So the decisions of the General Division are going to be much more significant and leaving this appeal to an individual who is uneducated or unaware of the lay of the land or the rules of the CPP "game" - should not be considered.
I strongly urge anyone going through this process from the CPP Application, to the Reconsideration Appeal and beyond - to get professional assistance with the process.
Securing a disability pension is far to important an undertaking, for yourself, for your family, for your finanical wellbeing to go through this process without professional help and advice.