Our Fees

This is our fee schedule

To prepare a Canada Pension Plan Application -  $250  upfront cost plus 6 percent contingency if successful. For this fee an application for Canada Pension Plan disability will be prepared, case-managed, and audited.

To case-manage a Canada Pension Plan Reconsideration Appeal - new clients - free file collection and assessment - if review determines merits for an appeal and DCAC agrees to take on your appeal - $150 file opening fee plus 20% of the first arrears cheque if you are successful with your appeal.  If you are an existing client there is no additional file opening fee - the percentage amount would only apply.

To case-manage a CPP Social Security Appeal - new clients - free file collection and assessment - if review determines merits for an appeal and DCAC agrees to take on your appeal - $150 file opening fee plus 25% of the first arrears cheque if you are successful with your appeal.  If you are an existing client there is no additional file opening fee - the percentage amount would only apply.

Please note that these percentages are not cumulative amounts - it is 6, 20, and 25 percent depending on your level of appeal.

Please contact our office if you are in receipt of Group Disability Benefits as any back pay owing from CPP disability would be owed to your insurance company.  We have fee schedules in place to help with this type of situation.

If DCAC has to collect information on your behalf there may be additional costs for medical reports etc.  However, if there are additional these will be discussed with you before they occur.  Of course all applicable government taxes apply to any fees (GST).

I believe in being honest and transparent in terms of the fees we charge.

Applying for a CPP disability benefit?

On this website is a link to a CPP disability Application Guide which will give some instruction on what is important when completing a CPP disability application.

There are many forums out there which espouse their opinions about what makes a good application and how you can avoid the pitfalls which may cause your CPP disability benefits to be denied.  I think that many of these ideas have merit - but some I think are not really feasible - like paying for independent assessments and rehabilitation programs that assess your work capacity.  Whilst I agree that these types of tests give important information - some times I have found that all these assessments do are muddy the water - if they indicate that there is any capacity to work - or any capacity to retrain - or any capacity whatsoever - I find the Feds will use this as a reason to deny the benefits.  Also I think that these assessments are unaffordable for most people who are applying for CPP disability benefits.  There are some disability organizations that do provide testing in terms of work capacity as a free service - and I think that these assessments certainly have merit - for the reason that it shows that the appellant has looked for ways to mitigate his disability by seeking alternative solutions to work opportunities.

I had a recent case, a gentleman who dealt with chronic pain stemming from severe shoulder arthritis - surgery did not help improve his situation -and his surgeon had listed his work restrictions - no overhead lifting - no repetitive movement - etc etc.  But the Feds had argued - in typical form - that this client had limitations but was capable of alternative employment.  To address that, I suggested to the client that he attend a local Abilities Council for vocational assessment which was a six week process - first they do a functional capacity evaluation, then they have counsellors suggest alternative careers based of education etc., and then they do an actual work-place simulation to determine how this client would do in a work environment with their particular disability.  Now my client did quite well on his assessments - and there were additional options for him that were identified - but what was not considered in the vocational assessment - was the pain this gentleman was in - and how these subjective issues like pain, decreased mood, and difficulty sleeping would impact his function in the workplace.   He struggled through the six week assessment and was found to be "capable" of working two days per week - non consecutive days - but nevertheless found capable of something - which only gave the Feds another argument to deny his claim.  It was not until he went before the Review Tribunal and was able to explain how the subjective components of his disability effected his work capacity, as well as the fact that two days are week is not regular or substantially gainful, that he was successful in his appeal.  I do not believe that vocational assessments are a panacea to achieving a successful application.

Another thing that I have seen quite frequently is the applicant going to their doctors and having them complete medical reports that quote the CPP disability legislation verbatim - that is - "my patient such and such is incapable of regularly pursuing a substantiall gainful occupation and has a disability that is severe and prolonged"  - this is not helpful.  I have a client his name is Lyndon - and he has had declining cognitive functioning for the last year - he still has not got a "label" and what I mean by that - there is no indication as to what is causing his symptoms - he is undiagnosed.  Now I have been in constant contact with Lyndon as well as the medical adjudicator for CPP (as I have been around for many years I have the advantage of knowing many of the medical adjudicators at CPP and I think I have a good working relationship with them - despite my blogging) - and the adjudicator's concern is without a label or medical diagnosis - CPP does not know if there are treatment options available which might mitigate his disability - and he continues at this stage to be denied -pending more medical investigation.  Now you have to remember that Lyndon has been disabled for over 12 months - and all of his doctors are supportive and outline his functional limitations and why he cannot work.  I guess the point that I am making here is to suggest that a perfect medical report will automatically result in a CPP approval is not the case at all. 

When I request information from a doctor I ask them to address the following questions:

1.  What does the physician think is the primary disabling condition?

2.  What are the secondary conditions contributing to the disability?

3.  Is there sufficient objective medical information to support the medical condition?

4.  What is the doctor's opinion on current and past treatment and their effectiveness?

5.  How could treatment be improved?  Are there barriers to treatment that may need to be addressed?

6.  Has appropriate testing been done? 

7.  How does your patient's disability impair his/her ability to obtain and maintain employment?  What restrictions and limitations would be placed on him/her in order to be able to attend a place of           employment?

8.  Do you have any statement or observations that may support his/her application for CPP disability?  Has your patient been compliant with medical recommendations?  Do you find your patient credible in their reports of subjective symptoms?

These are some of the questions I think need to be addressed by a physician to add weight to an CPP disability application or appeal.  Again there are challenges to getting complete medical reports due to cost barriers but if you are working with a professional case management firm like DCAC, the costs of medical reports can be funded and reimbursed if there is a successful application or appeal.  When I work with a client, each letter I send for medical information is tailored to the specific case I am working on, but will usually contain questions like the example above.  It is really important that all information be vetted by a professional to ensure that what is submitted will not muddy the water in terms of an application or appeal.

Many times I have had clients write appeals or answers to requests from CPP disability without any knowledge of the legislative criteria which only cause problems at the end of the day - there are certain "wrong" answers folks - and I am not suggesting that any one lie or deceive CPP - but saying there are no jobs in your area - or that you would not work for less than 10 bucks an hour - or you find me are job - are not going to help the application or appeal for many reasons

Someone told me once that in order to have a successful business you have to provide value to your customer.  DCAC provides value in the following ways:

  • We include on this website is a Canada Pension Plan Disability Kit as well as a Canada Pension Plan Appeal Guide which will identify helpful suggestions.
  • Our staff are experienced - you can see the level of accumulated experience when you read about our team. We understand the legislation. 
  • We have worked on numerous cases, we understand how a disability application and appeal should be managed.
  • We provide all the services you need when applying for or appealing a CPP disability.  We can see you right though the processes.  Our work together will benefit by achieving early approvals and assisting you to avoid the common pitfalls of doing it alone.
  • We have all the available technology to support clients across the country, whether it be facetime, skype, email, or the telephone we are able to meet your needs.
  • We have years of accumulated contacts within the Canada Pension Plan bureaucracy.
  • We are up to date with all of the changes that will occur in the appeals system beginning April 1, 2013 with the implementation of the CPP Social Security Tribunal.
  • Our website contains a plethora of information on CPP Disability including case examples to help you understand the legislation

If you are in the application or appeals process and need some information on how to proceed, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

 

 

 

What is a Substantially Gainful Occupation?

It has been a remarkable week. I have been working solid for a week on five different Pension Appeals Board hearings.

I would like to thank all of the people who put together these appeals - the registrars who make sure everything runs smoothly - and the judges who sit on the Board who are just experts in finding out the facts and applying the legislative tenants.

I will even shout out to the Minister's team!

Okay so this week, two cases dealt with what is a Substantially Gainful Occupation?

The first case, let's call her June. June had been granted CPP disability due to significant Bipolar Disorder. She had had a long history of mental health issues, including hospitalizations. When she is not displaying symptoms - June is lovely with moments of real clarity - but then there is the other side of the coin. June can fluctuate rapidly cycling up and down sometimes in the same hour. June was a big challenge for me. I did not know how to manage her as she is tangetal - and goes off on crazy tangents when you ask her a question. Now June when she was off her medications, decided that she wanted to be "normal" and what is more normal than being part of society and getting a job. So June applied for a janitorial job as a relief worker and soon enough she began to develop sciatica and 11 months later, she had to have spinal surgery. That did not stop her though - in her unmedicated state - June was in a manic stage - and she still tried to keep working despite all of her symptoms. Well the Feds found out that June was working, and based strictly on the fact that she had earnings, June's CPP benefits were ceased. So June was left with no income, by this time her mental health had decompensated to the point where she was again hospitalized, and once she went back on the her medications, she regained some clarity in to her situation. Let's remember that June had mental health and physical health issues. She contacted my office. She was challenging for me to manage - I did not know if I was going to get clarity June, or whether I was going to get not-so-clear June. But we persevered with the appeal, she had been denied at Review Tribunal (she went alone) and so now we had a Pension Appeals Board hearing. Note to the Feds - there was no way this woman could manage the documentation and appeals system alone. There was no one I think how would have taken on her case frankly - as she had earnings while on disability - and on first blush -well you would think the Feds were right to cease her benefits. But sometimes you have to dig a little deeper, connect with a person, and take the time to find out what really went on. June has a great family, a sister and daugther, both of them named Sally (!) who were very helpful in helping me understand June.

So that is a little bit of the context of the appeal. The Pension Appeals Board hearing was this week, and in terms of a "cease benefit" case - the Feds cannot vary the decision that they made that she was disabled according to the legislation - the only issue that would be before the Board - was whether or not the Minister had established that June had "regained her capacity to work" and it was their responsibility to establish that. When I first spoke with the Minister's representative, she said that we would have to present our facts first - well I knew this was wrong - in fact I knew that June did not have to speak at all - it was up to the department to prove that she could work - and all of the information on file clearly indicated that she had not. Really the only reason the Feds has was that June had earnings. Okay so the judges they agreed with me - and the Minister's doctor got up to speak - that was interesting to say the least - and I think she toed the "party line" despite all of the information to the contrary. I did not ask June to speak because she would not have been able to manage this - her daughter Sally spoke on her behalf in a very compelling way clearly explaining her mother's mental health condition and how it has impacted her life - Sally if you are reading this - you know how impressed I am with your resiliance - you are lovely.

So why I am writing this long-winded essay?

The issue was - what is a substantially gainful occupation? You know the definitition - you must be regularly incapable of any substantially gainful occupation - I did some digging around - and according to The Adjudication Framework for Canada Pension Plan (google it - it is online) Substantially Gainful Occupation is defined as 12 times the maximum retirement CPP benefit amount. So I presented this document to the Pension Appeals Board - and stated my position - that the Feds are not even following their own adjudication guidelines. Now I must back up a bit - June was working alone, she would go in to work at all hours of the night - she would work so no one would see her and how she was not managing - all in an effort for her to be "normal" - because she was unsupervised she was able to pull it off right - no one know how crazy this was for June to be working - no supervisor would know what was going on in reality - and there must be an air of reality when assessing a CPP case.

The funniest thing to me was - that the Minister's representative said to the Panel - that the CPP Adjudication Framework - was just a "guideline" and that this was not binding on the Board - the Judge said - are you asking us not to follow your own guidelines? When the decision comes in I will let you know the result.

Okay, the next case concerning what is a substantially gainful occupation was about a woman - let's call her Lila. Lila has been diagnosed with relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Lila has been working with her MS since 2005 at a local school doing lunch room supervision and teacher's assistant for a Pre-K class. Lila earnings just over the allowable earnings provision and way under a substantially gainful occupation earnings - but she was denied because she was "working". Okay I was pissed off by this stage. Seriously. The Feds give you all these pretty words like substantailly gainful, and allowable earnings, but they do not follow their own guidelines - they argue you are not disabled because Inclima says you must test your capacity to work - so you are denied - and then they say - you are trying to work within your capacity - but you are not disabled. It just really frustrates me - cause Lila - she was job sharing with another woman who is disabled and on CPP disability - and can only work 7 hours a week - before her MS symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, and muscle weakness kick in. Good for Lila - she loves to work cause it helps her mental health - to contribute to her family.

Any way, this whole point of this blog entry is to try to clarify what is a substantially gainful occupation? There is a dollar amount - and there are a lot of things that are taken in to consideration, like productivity and performance, and whether you are competitively employed, and if it is a philanthropic employer - a whole host of things.

But what I would most like to say - is that obviously the Adjudication Guidelines mean nothing -because the Feds - sure a heck do not follow them - they are only "guidelines". It sure would be a better system if the Feds actually followed their own guidelines.

 

Deny Deny Deny

The phone has been ringing all day. The emails come in constantly.

Why am I being denied CPP disability benefits?

This system sucks - says one of my clients.

What does CPP disability want from me? Says another.

Why does this system that we have paid in kick us down at our lowest point - Allison - I am going to lose my house. Says another.

I am not exaggerating - that is just what has happened this morning.

I am so angry. Clients cannot even get appeals - when I call all I am told is that the appeal is waiting to be scheduled.

I have recently received a document that projects there are as of August 2012 between 4000 - 6000 appeals currently in the system waiting to be heard. By April 2013, when the system changes it is projected there may be as many as 8000 appeals waiting to be heard.

Each one of these appeals is a person. What is wrong with this government?

This is not a welfare program, it is a CONTRIBUTORY PROGRAM which means folks - we pay in to this system based on years of working.

Has any one seen the movie The Rainmaker? Deny, Deny, Deny.

Okay - so I am asking - for the online community - if there is any one out there - who knows any one that may be able to help me expose to the general public what is going on with this system - can they please contact me.

I am overwhelmed by your support - the people who call me and encourage me - I am humbled by that. One of my most recent callers told me to take it day by day - and that is what I am doing.

Okay folks - the best defense is a good offense - so call me so that we can continue to put together comprehensive applications and appeals. Do not give up - that is what this system appears to want you to do.

I will keep you posted as always - and again - thank you all for your support.

Allison

Applying to Canada Pension Plan Disability

I get phone calls in the office about applying for Canada Pension Plan disability benefits.

With the new Social Security Tribunal that is looming in the horizon, I believe it is more important than ever, to make sure when you make your application that you do the most complete job as you can and submit as much information you can. What I suggest is that you read through the various application guides that are available on the internet, as well as discussing in length with your family physician about your intention to apply.

I would also try and get through to Service Canada and ask them if they can send you out a Record of CPP contributions so you can determine your Minimum Qualifying Period date so that you can send in medical information to support your application around the appropriate time frames.

A good rule of thumb in terms of MQP, you usually qualify up to two years after the time you stopped working - of course there are always exceptions - but that is a good rule of thumb.

I am also starting to case- manage applications here at DCAC. In my opinion it is very important that the initial application is done well - given the denial rates and now the reliance it appeals on paper appeals only (see previous blog entries).

If you have been denied and you are requesting reconsideration also consider obtaining a case-manager to help you through this process.

Service Canada?

I am writing this post about Service Canada. What an oxymoron of a title that is.

Service Canada - 1-800-277-9914 the number you are given in a denial letter or in official CPP disability correspondence to call if you require additional information about your CPP Disability application or appeal.

I have had numerous phone calls and emails this week from my clients and community who are trying to get through. You cannot even get through -you get a busy signal for days - and if you are lucky enough to get through - you sit on hold for up to an hour. To the Feds who are reading this blog - please do something about this dreadful experience foisted on to Canadians that you call Service Canada.

This telephone number is the only way Canadians can get information about their situation or about their appeal or about anything they need to find out about CPP disability - not everyone has access to a computer - and many of us still use the telephone - I guess this lack of Service, Canada, is another result of the budget cutbacks to staff on the front lines providing SERVICE to CANADA.

If you have any questions that I can help you with please call or email me and I will do my best.

The Review Tribunal Panel Member who spoke up

I found this in the National Post newspaper dated May 23rd, 2012 - and whoever the Review Tribunal Panel member that contacted the National Post - I would like to just say that they rock!

"Another piece of legislation quietly nesting in the budget bill is the formation of a Social Security Tribunal. The bill is expansive on the make-up of the new tribunal but offers no explanation about the fate of the existing regime. In fact, there are currently four tribunals in which part-time government appointees hear appeals concerning OAS, CPP and EI eligibility. The Tories want to streamline that process by terminating the contracts of the 1,000 or so appointees and replacing them with 74 full-time appointed members. We know this only because appointees this week received letters telling them of the creation of a new “single-window” decision-making body and one of them contacted the National Post.

Future hearings will be done predominantly through written submissions and video-conferencing, rather than in-person hearings, to cut down on travel costs. This sounds fine in principle, unless you are the poor schmuck appealing to get early CPP on the basis of disability. How do you prove your case in writing or even on video? Furthermore, instead of three panel members, often comprising people with medical and legal experience, adjudication will now be made by one appointee.

Again, there may be merit to revamping social security tribunals. But the government has not made its case. It has simply used the “matryoshka principle” to nest legislation, layer within layer, in the hope that nobody notices the smallest dolls."

Here is the link for the newspaper article:

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/05/23/john-ivison-criticism-by-conservative-mp-shows-depth-of-unease-over-omnibus-budget-bill/

CPP Disability and Service Canada

This just happened - no word of a lie.

A lady let's call her Connie - she is 64 years old and she is going through treatment for breast cancer.

She went to the local Service Canada office to get the forms for Canada Pension Plan disability.

She explained the situation to the gentleman Service Canada worker - this office is located in Saskatchewan - if any of the Feds are reading this blog.

The gentleman said "There is no point applying for CPP Disability benefits. Unless you are dying from breast cancer you won't get it"

I asked Connie to make a complaint.

I wonder how many other Service Canada employees are giving this same advice.

For the Feds reading - you need to stop these employees giving out this type of information.

WTH?????

I HEART the Pension Appeals Board

This week I had a Pension Appeals Board hearing.

The Pension Appeals Board is the last level of appeal (typically speaking - there is appeal to the Federal Court of Canada if you are denied at Pension Appeals Board) but that is well out of my area of expertise.

The Pension Appeals Board is the appeal level you go to if you are denied at the Review Tribunal. Appeal rights are not automatic - and you have to be given permission or leave to appeal to attend at this level.

The Pension Appeals Board is made up of three usually retired judges - they are great, savy, and expert fact finders.

I heart the Pension Appeals Board.

My client this week was a lady let's call her Beth. Beth is complicated - she experiences significant pain - in both a physical and emotional way. Beth has been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia as her physical condition and many other mental health conditions. Beth has experienced chronic trauma her entire life - but I admire her - she is resilient, smart and tells it like it is.

Beth had a very unfortunate experience with the Review Tribunal - if I may speak frankly - the decision was, well let me just say it made me see red and only in my opinion re-abused Beth with their narrow minded and high browed condenscending writings as well as accusing Beth in no uncertain terms of fabricating her entire life experiences and trauma that she experienced. Yes panel members what happened to Beth does happen in the real world. I told Beth not to read the decision because I did not want her to be again abused by the system. Harsh words I know but I speak the truth.

Anyway, I convinced Beth that I would deal with this - I would submit the Leave to Appeal which I did and we were granted Leave which meant the decision of the Review Tribunal was set aside (good riddance in my opinion).

This is the second time that Beth's Pension Appeals Board hearing has been scheduled - the first time the CPP disability adjourned the matter so that they could get an Independent Medical Examination - I thought great - the Feds are developing the file - and Beth was sent to a Physical Medicine doctor who recognized she had significant pain but thought perhaps there were psychological issues as well contributing to her disability - and so the Feds then sent Beth for an Independent Medical Examination with a Psychiatrist. Good call I thought.

Two IMEs are very rare and not something that I have seen - so I thought for sure the Feds would settle - especially when the Psychistrist came back stating that Beth's residual capacity for work activity was very low and her prognosis is poor given the chronic nature of her condition.

But no the hearing was scheduled and the information in its totality appeared to be ignored.

Now Beth - she was adamant that she was not going to appear - she was disgusted by the way she was treated at the Review Tribunal, she had sent in every government form, she has consented to two Independent Medical Exams, she had openly discussed intimate and very difficult to hear details about her life - and she was not going to appear again and have her wounds relived (her words) - she wanted to quit and she was fearful that another negative experience would push her down too much. She kept asking me "what else do they (the feds) need?"

I did not know what to do - I contacted the lawyer representing CPP and told him that I did not think the hearing would proceed given Beth's feelings about the process - he told me that he would argue negative inference (which means that the Board should consider the appellant not appearing in a negative way) if Beth did not attend.

I called the registrar at the Pension Appeals Board - let's call her Jane - she was great and gave me some really helpful advice and encouragement and suggested that I try one more time to ask Beth to attend the hearing.

Well I picked Beth up and I got her to the hearing and I prayed to the heavens that I was doing the right thing by ensuring her that everything was going to be okay and that we would get through the hearing. I am so glad she agreed to attend.

I heart the Pension Appeals Board - the panel had obviously read through the entire file - they asked appropriate questions - they treated Beth with the utmost respect and kindness - I do not know how the decision will come down - but Beth was so happy because she felt she was heard and she felt VALIDATED.

The opposing side took their cue from the Board and they were also very respectful of Beth and even though I thought the lawyer asked a series of bonehead questions and was making very simplistic and grasping at straws arguments - he was good to Beth - the doctor (typically not my favourite) was dare I say it - fair and balanced. Although doc I do not agree that a little aquasize would solve the problem!

Anyway, why am I writing this? Well you know the big Harper Hammer is coming down on these appeals and I am really worried how people are going to cope in this new system - I am trying to keep the glass half full approach to this and believe that the new system may be a good thing. Right?

A "connected" person I know in the disability community who has the inside track on the Harper Hammer told me that the bureacracy is in chaos. I will leave it up to the readers out there to decide for themselves what they think - but that is what I was told and I hope that somehow all of this chaos will resolve itself to the benefit to Canadians at some of their most vulnerable times - when they are trying to apply for a CPP disability benefit because they contributed to the system over many years of work.

Have a good week friends.