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Head's up - I need your help

by Allison Schmidt 30 November 2014 11:31

In recent months, the  work that I do, along with many good and dedicated advocates in Canada. is coming under attack by the bureaucrats at the Social Security Tribunal.  I realize that attack is a strong work but after almost 17 years of dedicated work,  I say attack because that is what it is.   I believe it is likely under instruction from the Ministry it is supposedly independent from and likely due to my speaking out.  We all know what the pattern is for people who speak out by this government. (Google Sean Bruyea, Cindy Blackstock and you will understand).

So I am asking for your help.  If my work helping people with disabilities who have been denied Canada Pension Plan disability is coming under attack, this means that people who are faced with repeated denials are also under attack. I never believed it before because I am naive - someone recently scolded me on that - funny I did not think I was but I guess in workings of the government attack - perhaps that is so.

I know that there are a lot of people who read this blog, some who are influential, some who have a vested interest in this process, government folk read this blog, people who are dealing with this abhorrent appeal system,  and who are being denied access to justice under this new appeal regime. 

The basic security of the people who unfortunately find themselves stuck in this system is under attack, not only them but their families, as they received the CPP disability child benefits.  By denying this benefit, many people are unable to meet the basic necessities of life.  Poor and disadvantaged people with disabilities, as well as their cash-strapped families and going to be denied justice - I know of what I speak. It is noted that 48% of Canadians simply lack the literacy skills to even complete appeal forms or to review self-help information.  The complexity of this system also helps to deny access to justice to the most vulnerable in our communities.  The appeal lines are horrendous - 11,000 people waiting - what is the saying JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED.

And now folks, you can imagine what is happening here to Allison Schmidt, expert in her field, who has worked passionately, speaking out and assisting those in need, going above and beyond the call of duty - and who has national support from all kinds of people  for her work.  If you do not believe me - read the testimonials on this website- they are just a few.

Things are in the works - I cannot speak of them yet - but I need your help.  Those people who read this blog, please email me at info@dcac.ca  I need help to tell this story of what is happening to people in Canada because of this system.  I also need help from all of the people that I have helped.  I know that many of you have said if there is ever anything you can do to help me, just to ask, well I am asking now. 

Big things are coming down the pipes. What is happening is going to be laid out in the COURT of public opinion.  Who do you think will win??

Stay tuned folks it's going to get interesting.

If you need me, you know where to find me. 

Evidence given by the SST Chairperson to a Government Committee

by Allison Schmidt 30 November 2014 11:27
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and esteemed members of the committee.

    Thank you for inviting me here today to address the committee on Bill C-43, and more specifically on clause 252 regarding the appointment of members to the Social Security Tribunal of Canada.
    The tribunal began its operations on April 1, 2013, and is mandated to provide a fair and impartial quasi-judicial process for appeals under the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.
    It was created to simplify and streamline the appeal processes by providing a single point of contact for all those appeals. All decisions are made by one decision-maker called a “tribunal member”, who is appointed by the governor in council after a rigorous competency-based selection process.
    At the outset on April 1, 2013, the tribunal had 28 full-time members, including me. The three vice-chairpersons were appointed in May and June 2013, and to this date, the tribunal has grown to 73 full-time members. The government recently announced the appointment of 21 part-time members, who will help the tribunal process its large volume of appeals.

    Bill C-43 would allow the appointment of an unlimited number of full-time and part-time members and would remove the time limits that are in effect in the current legislation for part-time members. These new provisions will enable the government to appoint additional members as needed in either of the tribunal's divisions, depending on the fluctuation in the caseload over time.

  (1215)  

[English]

     I will now give you an overview of the tribunal's structure and where things stand with our caseload. The tribunal has two levels: the general division and the appeal division.

    The general division has two separate sections: the income security section and the employment insurance section. The second level, the appeal division, hears cases from both sections of the general division, employment insurance cases and income security cases. It is therefore important to recognize that the tribunal deals with four very different caseloads.
    I would like to start with the general division's income security section. When we began operations on April 1, 2013, more than 7,200 appeals were transferred to us from the Office of the Commissioner of Review Tribunals. Roughly 24% of these appeals have now been concluded. Approximately 5,500 new appeals have been received since April 1, 2013. Overall about 2,000 cases have been concluded to date.
    We are currently developing assumptions and performance expectations for members to estimate when the backlog will be completed with the number of members we have and the remaining caseload. The magnitude of these income security cases represents the greatest challenge to the tribunal.
    Second is the general division employment insurance section. The board of referees continued to issue decisions until October 31, 2013, at which time about 320 appeals were transferred to us. The majority of these cases are now awaiting a ruling from the Canada Revenue Agency or a decision from the Tax Court before the tribunal can deal with them. As of September 30, 2014, close to 5,000 new EI appeals have been received, and nearly 3,000 have been concluded to date. Almost half of the remaining cases are part of group appeals and are being dealt with separately. The other half are assigned to members and are at various stages of their progress.
    At the appeal division we have two different caseloads: income security and employment insurance. Let's start with the appeal division's income security caseload. On April 1, 2013, more than 460 appeals were transferred to us from the Pension Appeals Board. By the end of September 2014, around 95% of these appeals had been concluded. For the majority of the remaining appeals, a hearing date has already been set or the appeal has been postponed at the appellant's request. As of September 30, the appeal division had received 258 new income security appeals of which 163 have now been completed.
    Now that the majority of cases transferred from the Pension Appeals Board are concluded, we are focusing our efforts on these new cases, which we expect to address within a reasonable period of time.

 

    I'm sorry, Madam Brazeau, but I'm going to have to ask you to wrap it up fairly quickly if you could. We have your notes, which is a good thing, but if you could wrap your comments, I'd appreciate that.

 

    Okay.
    I want to assure the members of the committee and all Canadians that every tribunal member and all of our staff are fully aware of the difficulties that appellants may face while waiting for a decision. This situation makes each and every one of us at the tribunal want to do our utmost to process these appeals fairly and as quickly and efficiently as possible.

[Translation]

    Thank you for your attention.

 

[English]

Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I thank the witnesses for taking part in our deliberations. My first question is for Ms. Brazeau.
    To our knowledge, the backlog of cases at the Social Security Tribunal keeps increasing. There are currently 14,677 pending cases.
    According to you, how long will it take the tribunal to catch up with that lag and process those 14,677 cases?

 

    First, allow me to specify that the tribunal is divided into three distinct sections and that it has four case loads. At this time, the backlog of approximately 11,000 files comes mostly from the General Division, which deals with questions regarding income security. At this time, these 11,000 files are the biggest challenge for the tribunal.
    However, thanks to the 21 new part-time, recently appointed members, and to the new process in place since last April that allows us to give precedence to the oldest files, we expect to make great progress in this regard over the coming months.
    At this time, we are working on developing performance standards for the members. With these standards, the number of files to be processed and the number of members available to process them, we will be able to estimate a date for the completion of the study of all of the backlogged cases. Because of the lack of sufficient experience in the processing of these files, it was until quite recently difficult to develop performance standards. Now, after a few months of experience, we can begin to develop performance standards for our members. In the near future, we should be able to determine the date on which we will have processed all of the backlogged files.

 

  (1230)  

 

    So, what you are explaining to us is that concretely, at this time, you have no idea of what the impact of the new part-time members will be on the processing of the accumulated files? You really have no idea of the capacity and the number of part-time hours needed to process these 11,000 files? Have you seen some kind of progress? If yes, what was that progress? Apparently you have not, is that really what you are telling me?

 

    Obviously, with a greater number of members, we will be able to take bigger bites out of the backlog.

 

    Excuse me, but with more members, how much can you do? Do you have a target?
    That is important. After all, there are 11,000 cases in the backlog and behind those files, there are people who are waiting.

 

    Absolutely; there are people.

 

    As Mr. Birch mentioned, these people, who are living under the poverty line, are waiting for their files to be processed. As professionals, it is important for you to assess the response time needed.
    But since that does not seem possible, I'm going to ask another question.

 

    Very well.

 

    What is, to your mind, a reasonable time frame for the tribunal to examine an appeal and hand down a decision?
    Has that time frame been estimated?

 

    Are you talking about the program regarding income security?

 

    In terms of...

 

    Are you talking about employment insurance or the Appeal Division?

 

    Let's talk about the Appeal Division.

 

    You are referring to the Appeal Division?

 

    Yes.
    In your opinion, what would be a reasonable time frame that would allow you to answer these people in an efficient way?

 

    The situation at the Appeal Division is different from that at the General Division. At the Appeal Division, in order to be heard, the parties must submit a request to obtain the permission to make an appeal. That request must be heard by a member, who renders a decision according to certain specific criteria, and determines whether the appeal can be heard. The criteria are set out in the law.

 

[English]

 

    Madam Brazeau, I think we're going to have to end it there. We're over the time and we want to keep it on track today. If there's more to be added, possibly you could add it to another questioner's time.
    Mr. Armstrong.

 

 Ms. Brazeau, could you tell us a little more about the qualifications of SST members, the rigours of the assessments, and how the employment process as a whole has worked?

 

     The appointment of members is a prerogative of the Governor in Council, but it is done following a very rigorous selection process whereby members are assessed based on education, knowledge, and experience. After they pass this rigorous process, the Governor in Council makes the recommendation. They are screened in and there's a whole detailed selection process to qualify them.

 

  (1235)  

 

    Thank you for that.
    Second, to turn back to our discussion on the backlogs, could you explain where the backlog is currently and when you expect the backlog in income security to be completed? Let's just focus on income security because that seems to be the main point of contention here.

 

    We have a few months of experience in working with the income security backlog. With this experience, we are now able to start looking at and defining a reasonable amount of time that members should take to complete the different types of cases, because even in income security we have different types of cases.
     With this information that we are working on right now, we will be able to come up with an estimate, looking at the remainder of our caseload and the number of members who we actually have or would potentially have in the future, and we will be able to determine a precise date when the backlog could be completed. We are working on that very actively right now.

 

    Do you know what the timeline is for that process to actually set these performance standards? Is there a timeline for that process to be completed?

 

    This is my priority. I am working on it and I hope to have it concluded in the coming...very soon.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    I thank all the witnesses for their testimony. There were some excellent points brought up.
    Madam Brazeau, could you share with us what type of performance measures are in place for the SST?

 

    Right now, we don't have specific performance measures. We are a new tribunal. We have new members. We have 73 full-time members right now, and some of them were named a little over a year ago, but some of them were named throughout the year. They are at different levels of understanding of their responsibilities. Some have more experience than others in dealing with caseloads, so it's a bit early—

 

  (1240)  

 

     The board of referees had performance standards, and the Pension Appeals Board had performance standards. Do you not think that, from the outset, there should have been some established standards put in place?

 

    It would have been difficult to put standards in place from the outset, because we are dealing with a totally different legislative regulatory framework, and we are also working with different processes that follow those regulations.

 

    Is it a conscious decision not to put in performance standards?

 

    It's a conscious decision to announce that we will have performance standards. Our members are being consulted in the development of these performance standards because we want to have realistic performance measures and performance standards and we want them to be monitored.

 

    Great, thanks very much.
    Obviously you knew there was a problem a number of months into the process, when you saw the backlogs and what's been identified through past questions about the backlogs. I know that some of the cases that had been transferred over were almost two years into the process. When was it that you realized that we have to do something about this, that the backlogs are too great? When did you realize, and would you have gone directly to the minister or somebody in the minister's office with the problem?

 

    We realized that there was a backlog on day one when we received the backlog. I was appointed about a week before the tribunal opened its doors, and on day one we received the backlog. We have had discussions with the minister throughout, probably as of last fall.

 

    Did you say last fall?

 

    It was probably last fall.

 

    What was the response then?

 

    The response was very supportive. We now have almost all our full-time members and almost all our part-time members. I expect I'm going to see significant progress in dealing with the caseload now that I have 73 members plus 21 part-time members who are almost fully trained.

 

    Eighteen months is a significant period of time. Have you gone through that performance appraisal already? Has your tribunal gone through an internal performance appraisal?

 

    As I explained, in the first 365 days of the tribunal we were limited by the 365-day period in which parties were allowed to exchange documentation.

 

    Eighteen months in now, is there any kind of performance appraisal?

 

    We are looking very closely at all the aspects of our caseloads. So we're looking at when a document comes in, how long it should take through the regulations, how long it should—

 

    So where does this go? Does that go to the minister?

 

    It goes to me.

 

    It goes to you.

 

    I'm looking at this so that I can make recommendations.

 

    You answer to whom?

 

    I answer to the minister.

 

    You answer directly to the minister. Do you think that SST should be accountable to Parliament?

 

    Well—

 

    I guess that's not a fair question to ask you.

 

    I hadn't thought about that.

 

    That's not a very fair question to ask you.

 

    Go ahead.

 

    On a point of order, the SST is the fully independent body, separate from Parliament, right? You operate independently at arm's length.

 

    We operate at arm's length from the department.

 

    Just a second, that's not a point of order.
    We're entering questions here. I believe Mr. Cuzner has realized he kind of overstepped that one.

 

    Oh yes, it wasn't fair for me to ask that question.

 

    It wasn't fair that he asked that, and that is what resulted in your point of order.
    But we need to wrap up here very quickly, sir. You have five seconds.

 

    Thanks very much for coming.

 

 

 

Pants on Fire.

by Allison Schmidt 30 November 2014 11:23

Back Log of 11,000 CPP cases at the Social Security Tribunal

by Allison Schmidt 30 November 2014 11:21

Here is another story on the Social Security Tribunal

 

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/more-tribunal-members-hired-for-backlog-of-11000-social-security-appeals/article21816120/

 

Do you honestly thinK and are you proud to say that 100 Tribunal Members is going to be able to manage 11,000 back logged cases??  That is just ridiculous.

Why do you need a productivity model to determine what to do?  Why study the problem further?  How long is that going to take?  Each day that passes is another day that a person with a disability is denied access to the benefit that they PAID in too.  It is not the Fed's money.

Questions in the House of Commons

by Allison Schmidt 19 November 2014 14:27

Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims (Newton—North Delta, NDP): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the chair of the social security tribunal told the human resources committee that she had been in continuous contact with the minister regarding the backlog.

Yet, for 18 months now, that backlog has continued to grow while the tribunal has been understaffed and working without performance standards. More than 14,600 Canadians are now waiting for a hearing.

All of this begs the question: Why did the minister not take action sooner to address the enormous mess at the social security tribunal?

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, CPC): Mr. Speaker, again, in fact our ministry did take action by introducing a new approach towards reconsideration of EI refusals. That now happens quickly, by a public servant who, remarkably, actually picks up a phone and calls the person who has asked for a reconsideration, and sorts it out, often getting additional documentation.

This means that we are now resolving about 90% of those refusals at a reconsideration stage in a matter of weeks, without having to go through a lengthy multi-month quasi-judicial process.

In terms of the CPP cases before the tribunal, we are adding additional decision-makers and taking other administrative measures to speed up the process.

Mr. Mike Sullivan (York South—Weston, NDP): Mr. Speaker, behind every one of those numbers is a person who needs to put food on the table and pay the bills.

People cannot wait years for the government to get its act together. Nearly 10,000 Canadians still waiting for an appeal are living with a disability. In many cases the uncertainty and stress of financial insecurity makes their medical conditions worse.

Will the minister commit to eliminate the backlog and finally give these Canadians the justice they need and deserve?

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, CPC): Yes, I will, Mr. Speaker. That is, in part, why we have legislation before the House in the budget implementation act, which we hope the NDP will support, which would allow us to hire up to an additional 22 decision makers at the tribunal.

I am very pleased to highlight that the faster informal reconsideration process for refused EI applications would mean a 90% reduction in the caseload for EI, which would mean that we could reallocate those decision makers over to the income security division, which would mean that we would get at that backlog of cases so that we could provide the kind of service that Canadians expect and deserve.

Latest information on the Social Security Tribunal backlog

by Allison Schmidt 19 November 2014 09:06

Shameful backlog of cases at Social Security Tribunal

 

This is a publication that was sent to me today using Google Alerts.  It speaks to the current back log at the Social Security Tribunal.

It says in the article that the tribunal has a back log of 14,677 cases.  It is not stated how many of these are income security cases which are Canada Pension Plan disability appeals, but it does note that the majority of the back log are these types of appeals.

It says at current staffing it will take 11 years to clear the backlog, and if the tribunal doubles the staffing it will take 5.5 years to clear the back log.  I know there was a recent news article which stated that Minister Kenny had agreed to a change in the regulation to increase the number of tribunal members. 

So for those of you who have been denied on intital application and are in the reconsideration process, please make sure that you get some help to case-manage your appeal.  If you are denied the reconsideration, you are going to be facing indeterminable delays to have your appeal heard.

If you are just stating out applying for CPP disability, it is also a good idea to get some help with the preparation of this application. You have two opportunities to convince the adjudicators that you meet the requirements for disability, therefore I would use these opportunities to the best of my ability.



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