Some Actual Numbers - CPP Social Security Tribunal

At the begiining of 2012-2013 the Review Tribunal had an existing inventory of 6.158 appeals.  During this time period 3,952 hearings took place.  Average hearing time was 71 minutes.

Over  2012 - 2013, the Review Tribunal received 5,547 additional appeals, an increase of 11.8% over the pervious year.  This brought the TOTAL INVENTORY of appeals to 11,705.  In the fifteen months between April 1, 2012 and July 3, 2013, the Review Tribunal reduced its inventory of appeals by 4,508.

According to my math that means that 7,197 appeals were still outstanding at the time of changeover to the CPP Social Security Tribunal.

Today I received a letter on Social Security Tribunal General Division appeal number 1493.

So by my calculations that is 8690 appeals waiting to be heard.  And according to the government website - 10 members appointed to hear Canada Pension Plan appeals at the General Division.

How is this backlog going to be managed?  I think it is time for the disability community and their national organizations, the Provincial governments who are seeing individuals land on to their welfare roles, and people who are waiting to stand up collectively and demand that something be done about this reprehensible situation. Each one of these appeals is a human being. The old Review Tribunal used to have a 50% approval rate - so let's be conservative and say that 50% of these people waiting should be approved - that means that there are 4300 people who should be getting their benefits.

There is no logic here.  It is obvious to me that putting people through significant financial distress, as well as preventing them from getting the treatment that they need, by putting their families at risk,and a whole host of other issues that this government is only going to make people SICKER and more DISABLED.




Social Security Tribunal General Division

Some happenings over the last couple of days.

I received a letter from the Social Security Tribunal stating that a Notice of Appeal had been acknowledged.  When I look at the case number is it number 1155.  So that means that since inception this case is number 1155 to be filed. Okay as I have said before, it appears there have been no General Division hearings yet - so this number coupled with the appeals that were pending at the old Review Tribunal -which conservatively may be around 6500 - my math means there must be around 7600 appeals waiting to be heard and as I have said before - not too many members to hear them.

I can track who is visiting this blog and I have had an extreme number of visits from both Ottawa and Gatineau - so I would just like to say hello to all the Feds out there reading this. Again, not my  intention to be disparaging or personal but rather to highlight what is happening due to this system that effects real Canadian people.  Imagine if your mother, friend, loved one, colleague had to deal with this system?  Disability happens in the blink of an eye and then to add insult to this - you have to deal with being denied repeatedly.

I have had a lot of interesting emails, phone calls, skype messages sharing individual experiences and I appreciate the kind words that I receive.  It makes me happy to hear that the blog is helpful to you all.



Set Backs.

I have had several phone calls and emails over the weekend from individuals waiting for CPP Social Security Tribunal appeal hearings.  These individuals relayed to me their frustrations for having to wait such a long time for a hearing as their financial status and frankly their mental health status are taking a nose drive as a result of this process.

I hear your frustrations.  What is happening is quite a set back for sure.  Folks are asking me what they should do.

Okay well I have posted in a previous blog what to do while you are waiting for an appeal.

I am now suggesting that if you are waiting for an appeal that you also contact your MPs office to advise them what is going on with the Canada Pension Plan process in its entirety.  For example, the 62% denial rate and the excessive and unreasonable delays to getting an appeal.  I am not sure it is going to help much but at least there will be an awareness of what is going on.

I will continue to post on the blog when I do hear any updates.


Do you need help appealing a CPP disability benefit?

A caller recently told me they were advised by a Social Security Tribunal employee that they did not need help to appeal their CPP disability benefit to the Social Security Tribunal.  Respectfully, I do not agree.  I understand that the employees at the Social Security Tribunal cannot recommend an Appellant get a case-manager or someone to help them with their appeal and I am not saying that this caller could not do it alone, but it is my opinion that this may not be the wisest move.

When the federal government announced the creation of the CPP Social Security Tribunal, they said that this new appeal's body, would be fair, transperant, and impartial.  Like the definition of CPP disability benefits, where all words in the definition need to be considered, I would like to take issue with each of these words. Firstly, I do not think it is fair at all, that all these people are waiting for appeals - some of them for a year now.  I do not think it is fair, that these people have had this system foisted on to them.  I do not think it is fair that they are forced to choose between medication and their house payments, that their children are going without, and that the additional stress that this "fair" system places on them and their family, is causing them additional stress and mental health issues.  I cannot tell you how many calls I get a week from people who are fed up that they have had to wait years to get this sorted.

The idea that this new system is transparent is frankly a joke.  A basic phone call to a 1-800 line find out information about your CPP disability benefit is a challenge, once you get through the voice prompts you are hung up on because the lines are busy, or you wait for a long time to get through, and the Information Line at the Social Security Tribunal - I have heard from clients calling my office - offers little or no information at all until you get a call back.  The processes are not transparent at all.  I have asked what an appeal process is going to look like and have been given no information.  I am thankful that I have a few staff members that I can email directly, otherwise it would be very difficult.  I do not know how a regular person can manage this system.

I would also like to submit to those out there who are suggesting that a person does not need help to manage this process, that the Appellant has to give their best shot to the Social Security Tribunal - as if they stuff it up or do not present the information they need, or if they are asked to make submissions without any understanding of the lay of the land - their reasons to appeal a denial at the Social Security Tribunal General Division are limited.  So I feel, a client who is appealing to this new system needs all the help that they can get to ensure the best opportunity - or shot at being successful. The old Review Tribunal used to provide their appellant with a brochure and a DVD called "Your Best Shot."  My question to the CPP Social Security Tribunal, are they going to be providing the same documentation and information to the clients out their stuck in this appeal process?  How does advising a client that they do not need help at an appeal ensure that they are getting their best shot?

In terms of the Social Security Tribunal being impartial - please review my previous blogs to see who the members are that have been appointed.  Review how many of these members actually have any experience reviewing a CPP disabiity benefit appeal.  Review how they will be able to get consultation with doctors and lawyers who are on staff or consultants at the Social Security Tribunal and make your own decisions about impartiality.  Another point I would like to make is consider the denial rate for Canada Pension Plan disability benefit is 62%.  That is six out of ten people that Canada Pension Plan deny.  It appears to me that this whole system from application to appeal, is set up to deny, to obfuscate, to frustrate, and to eliminate the payment of CPP Disability benefits to Canadians who indeed deserve it.

The Commissioner of the SST also notes in her welcome address that the new Social Security Tribunal will be efficient, effective, and independent. Okay, well I agree that it is early days in this new tribunal, that it has only been six months since its inception.  However, in my opinion the bureaucrats knew a year prior that the Social Security Tribunal would be created.  So as I have said before, at the time of the implementation approximately 6500 legacy appeals came over from the Review Tribunal - why on earth was the Social Security Tribunal not prepared for this transition - oh right - they put in new proesses and Notice of Readiness documents that had to be signed in order to get an appeal (see previous posts about this) which did not arrive at my office until May 2013 and both parties have until March 2014 to have them signed.  It is now September 2013, an in six months there have been no General Division hearings conducted.  That means that 6500 people are still waiting (there may have been some settlements of course so perhaps that number is a little lower) but take in to consideration all of the new appeals that the Social Security Tribunal will receive if there is a 62% denial rate of CPP disability applications?

Efficient  - NO.

Effective - NO.

Independent - well read my previous blogs.

Alright I would like to throw this out as well.  The prior appeal system with independent levels of appeal, would typically avoid the prejudices and decision making done by what I feel is some kind of ratio of CPP denials - how else can the Feds explain at 62% denial rate? The prior appeal system really did honour the spirit and intent of the Canada Pension Plan legislation.

The old Review Tribunal had around 250 - 300 Panel members to hear the cases.  Okay so now you have approximately 6500 legacy appeals come from the Review Tribunal, as well approximately 3500 new appeals each year, how are these full time Social Security Tribunal members (of which there are 10 working on CPP from review of the information posted by the government) going to possibly deal with the number of these cases?  There are not enough Tribunal Members  to handle the volume and my fear is that rubber stamping will be the inevitable result.

So back to my original point - I believe it is imperative and only in a person's best interests to get help with an appeal to the Social Security Tribunal - and frankly - help with your application, your reconsideration appeal - so you can avoid being in this appeal system period.

I also feel it is unfair to suggest that people can do this alone.  Given the lack of transperancy which is already apparent, as well as the lack of accessibility to even getting an appeal scheduled, or not have the choice to have your appeal heard in person, I think that by advising people that they can manage this system without help, is only disadvantaging them further.

The Canada Pension Plan dsability adjudicators and various tribunal members are challenged with the task of distinguishing between those applications that are eligible or ineligible for disability benefits.  My opinion is that even at application - when the Feds are denying 62% of cases - that they are already failing in their mandate. Contrary to the statements of the Commissioner and the HRSDC Minister, the change in this process is only going to limit, challenge, and raise insumountable barriers for a regular Joe many of whom have significant functional limitations that make it difficult for them to apply in the first place, let alone try and make their way through this appeal system alone and without any help.  Many of these people are computer illiterate, english may not be their first language, they may not have internet access, they often have no experience dealing with an administrative process.  So how on earth can someone advise that these people do not need help, or it is not a smart idea to get help?

Also I have issues with the statement that these appeals are accessible.  Many people lack accessbility to their medical information - they cannot afford to get medical reports needed to help support their appeal. With the new Notice of Readiness system - they lack the accessiblity of providing additional medical information which over the course of a disabilty can change at any time and can be quite unpredictable.  If english is a second language they will lack accessibility to a translator which will no longer be provided by this new appeal system.  They lack accessiblity to decide what type of appeal they will get - they lack accessibility to even get an appeal. They lack accessibility to understanding the process and procedures on how this appeal system will even work.

There is no requirement that the Social Security Tribunal has to provide any kind of documentation to parliament as to how this new system is serving Canadians.  Right.  What does that tell you?

Fair. Accessible, Transperant. Impartial. Efficient. Effective. Independent.  All pretty words.

My critics may say that my motivation to post these thoughts are based in self interest.  No, not the case.  I am imparting information I have collected and my thoughts based on 15 years of experience, as well as on the phone calls and emails that I get every day.  The readers of this blog can decide whether or not they agree with me.



Social Security Tribunal updates

Okay so I have posted about the CPP disabiity denial rates and many individuals will find themselves having to appeal to the Social Security Tribunal.

There have been some movements on appeals that are at the Appeal Division - that is those files that were to be heard by the Pension Appeals Board - I did have some hearings scheduled but fortunately upon further review the department had made an agreement that the disability criteria had been met so I did not have to attend. However, if I did have to attend, I would have not known anything about the procedure.  I do not know how a hearing would run. I would not know what is to be expected of an appellant.  It would have been quite challenging for me - who has worked in this system for fifteen years - let alone someone how has no experience.

I have also had one agreement sent to me from CPP stating that they agreed a client was disabled who was also at the Social Security Tribunal.  So I am not sure what is happening in terms of file movement. 

I have been able to clarify the Notice of Readiness procedure and I feel more comfortable with that, however, I have not sent in any yet and I wonder how long it will take for the Feds to respond providing an Explanation as to why they denied the case.  My next step is to send in the Notice of Readiness on current files and I will keep you posted on what happens next.

So no hearings yet at the Social Security Tribunal.  Files appear to be languishing and nothing is going no where.  I feel that the staff at the Social Security Tribunal are doing the best they can with this system that has been foisted on to them as well as having to deal with so many people who have been literaly stuck in this changeover.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the old system and now there are so many people waiting and hurting. I just want to state again, that the staff at the SST are fine people - it is this government and the dumb ass bureaucrats that are the problem and have no clue what the real people are going through.

You know I probably should not say that but this is my blog!





CPP Disability Denial Rates

I have had the opportunity to have some time off over the summer.  When I returned to the office, I received a response to my request that I submitted under the Access to Information Act concerning CPP Disability.

The first question I asked was about the actual Canada Pension Plan Disability denial rates.

In 2009 - 2010

69,214 CPP disability applications were received and 41,584 CPP Disabiity applications were denied at initial - that is a 60% denial rate.

In 2010 - 2011

73,179 CPP disability applications were received and 39,160 CPP Disability applications were denied at initial - that is a 53% denial rate.

In 2011 - 2012

69,294 CPP disability applications were received and 40, 563 CPP Disability applications were denied at initial - that is a 58 % denial rate.

In 2012 - 2013

69,002 CPP disability applications were received and 42,883 CPP Disability applications were denied at initial - that is a 62% denial rate.

So let's first discuss the denial rate for 2012 - 2013.  I fail to understand how any disability insurance company (and you can compare CPP Disability to an insurance company - you pay in premiums to cover you for a benefit) can possibly get away with a 62 percent denial rate.  It is astonishing to me  - I have been doing this for 15 years and this is the highest denial rate that I have seen.  Yet if you look at the figures in terms of applications received, they are declining, so you would assume that the denial rate would also decline rather than increase.  My thoughts are that given the files that I have reviewed that little is being done in terms of development and given the attitude of some of the adjudicators I have spoken with lately at CPP disability, I would have to conclude that things are very negative.

The average adjudication times for initial CPP applications  for each region are as follows:

National Region:  87 days

Atlantic Region:  76 days

Ontario Region:  98 days

West Region:  77 days


The average length of time that an appellant has to wait in each area until a appeal is received at reconsideration are as follows:

National Region:  88 days

Atlantic Region:  108 days

Ontario Region:  88 days

West Region:  78 days


I would also like to note about the non existent service that is being provided by the SERVICE CANADA 1-800-277-9914 line.  I have called repeatedly trying to help people obtain information on their appeal or application status.  When I make my way through all the recorded messages and I finally press to connect to a live person - I am told there is no one there to SERVE me at SERVICE CANADA and I am hung up on.  I have had so many complaints about this telephone line - so I do not know how the government can get away with providing nothing to people who need to know important information about the status of the application or appeal.

I used to be able to contact some of the CPP Disability staff directly - however, according to recent correspondence, that option has now been closed to me.  Not sure why? Must have been too much work for the CPP adjudicators to provide service to clients - but I digress. Anyway, if the Feds who read this blog might be able to pass these messages on to their Management.  Look, I am critical but it with reason. 

I would be interested in hearing your experiences with Canada Pension Plan disabiity - especially if you have been denied.  Please email me or call the office at 1-877-793-3222