I was out of the office last week. In my absence I received letters from the Social Security Tribunal for each client. This is the letter that was discussed prior to the March 31, 2014 deadline for the SST Legacy Cases. You will recall legacy cases are those that came over from the old Review Tribunal.
You will also recall that there is a huge back log of appeals that are waiting to be heard. I estimate around 9000 so the Social Security Tribunal realized that there would be significant delays in clients getting their cases heard so they rightly implemented a new process for these back-logged appeals.
I have written about this new process in the previous blog entries so please review this information if you are waiting for a hearing at the SST.
Along with this letter is a new form called a Hearing Information Form. This form seems fairly straight forward to complete but I do have one comment - One of the questions on page one of this form asks "Are there any forms of hearing in which you could not participate?" I would give some thought to this question. If you are not confident in terms of understanding the Canada Pension Plan legislative tenants or if you have some issues expressing your thoughts on paper - then I would avoid a hearing in the form of written question and answers. In fact, I really would avoid this type of hearing at all because you have already been denied twice "on paper" . I would also avoid a teleconference hearing. I just do not feel that the Tribunal Member can get a clear picture of the client's situation on the phone, and I worry that clients might get nervous and not be able to express themselves as well as they would like. I think you also lose the "personal" connection on the telephone.
My preference is any type of "in person" hearing. I would like each appellant to have the opportunity to present their case in person - whether that be videoteleconference - or an actual personal appearance of the parties. As I have said before, the subjective evidence and personal story of the client should be able to be assessed for credibility - and the only way I feel that a client can present the totality of their case - is in person. That is why the old appeal system worked so well because the Tribunal had the opportunity to meet the client - and the client felt that the finally had the opportunity to express themselves face to face. In a recent appeal, the client's personal story explained in far more detail what any doctor's records or CPP disability application could.
Since the end of the 365 day period for the legacy cases, I have been receiving a lot of phone calls and emails asking when these clients can expect to get an appeal. Believe me I understand and hear your frustrations - but I have no idea when this Tribunal will get it together and start hearing cases. It is completely unacceptable.
I also received via email from some of my friends out there in Canada about Bill C-31 which apparently creates a new organization called the Administrative Tribunal Support Services of Canada (ATSSC). All staff who are working for the Social Security Tribunal (among a list of other tribunals) will be transferred to this organization with its "HEADQUARTERS" located in the National Capital Region. ( Forgive me, but I cannot help of thinking of The Hunger Games, Pan Am, and President Snow). What I find interesting is the following statement:
"Its creation will in no way diminish the independence of the tribunals wihich will continue to make independent decisions and maintain control over their rules and procedures. Chairs and members of the tribunals will remain in place but all staff, including counsel, currently working on these tribunals will REPORT to the new organization" HMMM?? Really? So the members and chairs are independant but all the staff are not apparently. Is that how you read it?
A key objective of this organization is to "improve access to justice for Canadians"
This sounds reminescient of the words stated with the implementation of the Social Security Tribunal - remember efficient and accessible? In my opinion, it has been nothing like that so far, so again forgive me when I think about these pretty little words that liked to be touted around in official government information releases.
I do not know what this means exactly but somehow I feel that it another way for the government to control the tribunals that were supposedly created as a way for Canadians to have recourse over poorly determined bureacratic decisions. Just my observations.
Over the next weeks I am going to be working on blogs which will review how to prepare for a CPP disability application as well as the appeal's process. It has been a while since I have updated these documents so look out for them.
Finally, I would like to thank my hosts last week. I had a very enjoyable time and it was a pleasure to meet you all.