The Globe and Mail story has been shared 1390 times since it appeared online at 9.00pm last night.
I would like to make the following comments on the article:
Mr. Sapp's comments stating that he could not have made fair decisions without meeting claimant face to face clearly illustrates why the Canada Pension Plan Act had previously allowed for in-person hearings. A client has already been denied two times by the Canada Pension Plan adjudicators before they had the opportunity to appear before an adjudication body in person. According to statistics obtained from the Ministry - the prior appeal system overturned 59.96% of the CPP denials in 2005, 58.67% of the denials in 2006, 57.99% of the decisions in 2007, 52.04% of the denials in 2008, 53.75% of the denials in 2009, 52.24% in 2010, and 49.44% of the appeals in 2011 -2012.
You can see how these figures highlight that according to the arm-lengths appeal body - the CPP disability adjudicators had the decision wrong 50% of the time. This number also does not take in to account, the individuals who gave up because they thought their appeals would go nowhere, as well as those who believed that the government must have made the right decision. Further, these statistics do not illustrate how many of the 50% that were denied at the Review Tribunal appealed to the Pension Appeals Board and had the denial reversed.
The article also mentions that there was a backlog of around 10,000 appeals. As I indicated in a prior blog entry, the Social Security Tribunal have already accumulated another 2000 appeals this year already - so does this mean we are now around 12,000 backlogged appeals.
Dominique Forget's comments leave much to be desired. There is no explanation about the reasoning behind the decision to make a decision based only on the written documents - she says it is for "flexibility and efficiency" - perhaps the SST have been instructed to move the files - and this is their answer? Again my thoughts have always been that it is really easy to "rubber stamp" a denial on a while when you do not get to meet the Appellant and hear their subjective experiences. Mr. Sapp had that right. The Director of the SST notes that they are "trying to move files as quick as they can." Move the files where? In to another level of appeal - in to the courts when Appellants say they have been denied the right to have their cases heard? Up to the Supreme Court of Canada like Mr. Villanin (for those who do not know, Mr. Villani changed the landscape for Appellants).
How about the Director of the Social Security Tribunal contact the bureacrats and tell them that their dismantling of the prior appeal system without obviously any regard to the consequences is not working to well and that they should rethink what they have done here.
It would not be so worrisome if an Appellant was told that the Social Security Tribunal member felt on the documents provided that their decision would be to grant and appeal and bounce it back to the Minister for their submissions. But these clients have no idea what is going to happen and this is too important a matter to be left to the unilateral decision of a Tribunal Member to decide. The converse could also work. If a Tribunal Member advised that they were leaning towards a denial and wrote their reasons why they felt that way, then the Appellant would have an opportunity to sway them or to present more information - or at least have the opportunity to be HEARD - that is what I think these people at the Social Security Tribunal do not understand - the Appellants want to be HEARD and most of them have waited years for this opportunity.
I think the Director's comments about the Tribunal not keep statistics to show the relative success of appellant who are able to present their case in person versus those who are not is a bit of baloney. In February this year, I received information from the Freedom of Information office which gave me these numbers - they are posted on the blog. So what has happened in the last three months - all of a sudden the Social Security Tribunal are not keeping records?
The totality of the comments that I submitted to the Globe and Mail are as follows:
"It appears that the way the Social Security Tribunal is going to manage the enourmous accumulation of backlogged appeals is to unilaterally deny Canadians the right to be heard in an in-person hearing. It is not the function of the Tribunal to "rubber stamp" only medical opinions. The CPP disability adjudicaton process must include a review of the totality of the written information, as well as the subjective experiences of the Appellant. This can only be achieved by holding an in-person hearing. By denying this right to this type of appeal, the Federal Government has found another way to tile the playing field in their favour."
The rules of natural justice say that you are entilted to a hearing if their is some value in having it says Mr. Fink. The value in having a hearing is clear. The Tribunal should not be denying the right to in-person appeals.
Please keep sharing this article.