When an appellant goes before a Review Tribunal the Minister of Human Resources Social Development Canada (HRSDC) is a party to the appeal. They send a representative to the hearing to advocate the government's position as to why the appellant was denied. This is the Fed's argument and a good place to start when trying to sort out what the issues are under appeal.
In the remote past, the appellants were given these arguments at the hearing. This of course was a huge disadvantage to an appellant, as they would not be prepared for the arguments that may be made by HRSDC. So due to procedural fairness the department started to ensure these explanations were given to appellants prior to the appeal and this procedure has continued to present date.
There are many regional offices that adjudicate CPP applications. Most of the regions are very prompt in having their submissions sent to the Review Tribunal office so the appellant can prepare for the hearing and understand the issues under appeal.
However, there is a recent trend with the Ontario Chatham office - apparently there is a big problem getting information from this regional office. This situation happened to me recently. I had a hearing adjourned in September 2009 as I submitted information two weeks prior to the hearing and the Chatham office did not have the opportunity to review the new information - we hoped that this new information may change the Fed's position.
So by the time the Review Tribunal contacted me again to reschedule the hearing - some 5 months later - we still had not heard what the Fed's position was on the new information. Being a good representative and trying to avoid what I thought was an unnecessary hearing - I repeatedly tried to find out what was going on with the new information.
Long story short - the hearing proceeds - and I receive the Minister's explanation - 20 minutes before the hearing started. Now I am an experienced representative, I can think on my feet, but for someone who is appearing alone or with an infrequent rep - this is a huge disadvantage.
The reason I was given was that the nurses did not have time to look at the information I had given back in September 2009. Is this an isolated incident - I would like to know - please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have also been in this position.
Warning I am going to rant!
I attended an appeal this week. My client, let's call him Joe is a great guy - who has since the mid 90s been working with Osteoarthritis in many of his joints. He has continued to try and work but in 2005 - he was not longer able to do physical labour work. He then decided to return to school to reeducate himself into a sedentary occupation. However, the side effects of not sleeping due to pain, narcotic medications, and prolonged sitting left him unable to continue - and after six months he was no longer able to participate in college. He definitely gave it the old "college try".
Joe had a family to take care of, and although his wife works, most of us know, a double income is how most families maintain a reasonable standard of living, so rather than see his family lose their home, Joe went back to some type of work - most of you have probably seen these words in your CPP denial letter - you are not capable of your own job but you retain the capacity for some type of work. Joe applied for CPP in 2007 and was denied - he did not appeal but rather decided again to try some type of work and follow the CPP's suggestion.
So he worked reduced hours, what ever he could do, to keep his family fed. His pain levels increased, his disability increased, his family suffered because he was irritable and in constant pain, he was not able to sleep, he started to have anxiety attacks, basically his attempts at mitigation failed as a result of his disability.
In 2008, he reapplied to CPP for a disability benefit. He was again denied because he was working 13 hours a week. This was not substantial, it was not gainful, he was not productive, and he was working below the allowable earnings provision.
So what did CPP say? You are denied because you are working.
Now my pet peeve with the Feds - you are denied because you have not tried to work - and when you try to work - you are denied because you are working.
Does anyone see where I am going with this?
Anyway the hearing went well, we were prepared, he had a good panel, and I think he had a good hearing - the decision is yet to be determined - but I will keep you posted.
The afternoon session of the Representatives Information Session included the opportunity to hear from sitting Panel Members who shared their thoughts on effective advocacy when appearing before the Review Tribunal. The Panel consisted of British Columbia members who have been sitting for some time and who I have had the opportunity to appear before.
Some of the tips the Review Tribunal panel members gave were - to use good time management - stick to the facts of the case, using your schedule appeal time to rant about the unfairness of the CPP legislation, or how you much you think "the Feds" suck is a complete waste of your time. Have a strong opening and closing statement and stick to the issues on appeal - use the Minister's Submission as a starting point - written submissions are helpful, and the Panel members really want to hear from the Appellant - what's the impairment and why you cannot work.
The Review Tribunal panel members are aware of the significance of the appeal and how much their decision will affect your life. All of the Panel members have the opportunity to write the final decision. However, although panel members are empathetic to each person's situation, they are obviously bound by the CPP legislation.
This was a good opportunity to hear what the decision makers think and what they feel is effective advocacy.