Well after a whirlwind of trips to hearings in March I am finally home for a while. It is time to reflect on how everything has gone over the last month - and I have had the benefit to attend hearings in many different provinces in the country.
I have met some tribunal members that I have known for many years - and some new Social Security Tribunal members that I have met for the first time.
Firstly, I wish to compliment the majority of the tribunal members - they have all been excellent in ensuring the clients have a what I would consider a "good" hearing. Whether the decision is favourable or not, I have walked out of the tribunal experience feeling like the clients have been heard and respected. Each Tribunal Member has a slightly different style in regards to how they like to conduct the tribunal - but overall very good in terms of professionalism and comfort and care of the ciient. That is what it is really about - the client experience - and the service to the client the tribunal member can provide during what is a very difficult and stressful time. Given my experience with some of the bureaucrats at the Social Security Tribunal - I was worried that the "culture" of the Tribunal would reflect the way their "views" appeared to me in my conversations with some staff there - but I am glad that this has not appeared to have trickled down to the Tribunal Members who have really come to the table without judgment.
Many of the people that I help, have really difficult stories - often a lot of crap has happened to them in their lives - and sometimes they have not managed in what one may consider an appropriate way - perhaps they have had addicitions, or incarcerations, or extreme mental illness that has led to real difficulties interacting with the average Joe. Sometimes they can be obese and full of shame, sometimes they come impaired on whatever medications they have been prescribed - it can really be a challenge managing and like Forrest Gump - you never know what you are going to get. It is a juggling act - trying to figure out how best to help and what tact to use, and how to make sure the Tribunal Member really gets to understand the "person in respect of whom the determination is made." You have 90 minutes to do this - try condensing what is important to 90 minutes. Some times I am privy to very personal and gut wrenching information - and you know sometimes there is information I am just not aware of until I meet someone face to face.
I have really appreciated that the tribunal members have attended these hearings without judgment - there has unfortunately been one notable exception - when the arrogance of the tribunal member was palpable. I will figure out what to do about this situation - but need a minute to catch my breath. You can scold me but your arrogance and inflated sense of yourself is very unfortunate. Just saying.
I have been a vocal critic yes but I am also happy to speak out when I see how hard everyone is working there at the Tribunal. I have lots of other thoughts but I am going to leave this blog entry as an overall note of appreciation. Allison
I am getting emails asking if I am okay - and yes I am thank you.
I have just been run off my feet with all the appeals that are being scheduled by the Social Security Tribunal.
It is very busy here in the office and of course blogging becomes lower on the priority - perhaps that is the Fed's intention!!
Anyway, settlements still coming at a fast and furious pace. I would say that all of the legacy cases are pretty well close to being done, and they are now turning their attention to those appeals filed in 2013 and even 2014.
The office is moving April 9th so that is going to be a very busy time for me.
You know where to find me if you need to ask any questions - allison
The story that I have recently posted has now generated close to 300 comments on what is happening to other people in Canada.
Thank you to everyone who is speaking out. Mr. McClure's story has started a fire storm of a response.
All the work, all the blog entries, all the calls, all the frustrations, all the support from all of you out there, all the encouragement I have received, all the kind words, all the prayers, I am overwhelmed each day by the emails that I receive.
I want to thank Peter and Lee Anne, and Mr. G, and Mr. W. the Mr. P's and everyone out there who send me their stories.
I do not know how this will all pan out - but I do know the strength and ground swell of the people that is happening and it is a wonderful thing.
Don't stop believing - I know this sounds corny but it is true.
There are 270 comments on this article. I have not had the chance to review them all as yet - but thank you
Good Day everyone.
I am writing this blg to share a new process that is happening regarding the elimination of the Social Security Tribunal backlog.
There is a special unit that has been put in place that are reviewing the CPP legacy cases thave have been waiting to have their appeals heard at the SST. As you know, then Minister Kenney pledged to reduce the backlog by summertime - and this department in Gatineau, along with regional offices are working to sort through these files.
I think these appear to be just legacy cases at the moment - so this means - if you applied to have an appeal heard by the Review Tribunal and you were an existing appellant at the time of changeover - this will apply to you.
So the special unit is reviewing the appeal files and they are determining whether or not these files can be settled. That means - approved without a hearing. It was noted by the new minister in response to a question by Thomas Mulclair that the "special unit" is on track to have this backlog reduced by summer.
So what will happen, is that you may get a call from a CPP case-manager who will say that they are going to Propose a Settlement on your file. This means that the CPP are agreeing that you are disabled. As you know, there are two parties to the appeal - you and the CPP disability - so this call means that CPP disability has agreed that you are disabled and that you meet the legislative criteria.
Now what will happen is that you will get a letter stating that the agree you are disabled and indicating the date of onset of disability - you will need to check this out - to make sure it is correct- also you will get a Agreement to sign, as well as a Withdrawal Notice. The letters do explain why these documents need to be signed but if you are uncertain, give the CPP case manager a call.
This is good news for clients and I am happy that the people are finally getting these appeals sorted. Now just to add my two cents - I find it very disturbing that all of these appeals have sat and all of a sudden because of the heat the Feds have been receiving, that these Canadians are being approved - just like that. So many people have called my office recently in tears and shocked that this has happened, given that they had done everything previously to try and convince CPP disability that they were disabled only to be repeatedly denied. I still think the treatment of these people is nothing but a disgrace and I just think it is election optics. Do not forget what has happened to all of these people who have been devastated and bankrupted and even died while waiting for these appeals to be heard. Just my two cents people.
As I have said in my interview recently - the SST have touted that they have a 64 percent success rate - but this means that CPP disability got the decision wrong 64 out of 100 times. How is that good news?
Good luck to you all - I hope you get a call.
Here is the story on Mr. Peter McClure - please share. Allison
Here is another story that was printed yesterday. It speaks to the issue of the story airing tonight on Alberta Primetime.
I know that the SST are aware of every blog entry that I post - this was clearly evident in the 1848 pages of information I received when I did a Access to Information request on myself - so head's up Commissioner and Vice Chairs and all the Directors there who appear to enjoy reading and commenting about my blog and my spelling - I hope someone from the tribunal has taken the time to reach out to this man and offer whatever help you can to get this appeal matter sorted for him.
I know that everyone is working very hard to get the appeals scheduled - and that is great news - but at what prior cost? There should not have been financial ruin and mental devastation for people who have been stuck in this system and denied benefits by this government. And seriously - what "experts" are now reviewing the cases? Do they have more expertise that the people who reviewed the files two times prior and denied them??? Shouldn't experts have reviewed these files to begin with? Are you saying your staff was inept and you had to bring in "experts"? What a joke.
I think that it will all become very clear as these stories continue to appear and people continue to come forward.
If you have had an appeal scheduled by the tribunal please find someone to help you.
Tonight CTV 2 - Alberta Primetime Edmonton -6.00pm, 11.00pm Friday February 20th, 2015 - are running a feature on Peter McClure's story on being denied CPP disability benefits.
I have been asked to participate in a forum discussion to air after the feature on Mr. McClure.
I will post the link to the story when I can - please share - and please watch.
Let's all stand together and support Mr. McClure.