No Answers from the Social Security Tribunal

Today I have had numerous phone calls from clients asking me when they will get an appeal at the Social Security Tribunal.  These people are unable to afford the medication they need, as well as the medical equipment reuired because of their disabilities.  I have sent in numerous submissions to the Social Security Tribunal that have not been acknowledged - and I have no idea whether the information is even being sent to Canada Pension Plan.

I have client submissions that have been sent from CPP disability - stupid denials - stupid because they clearly ignore the information that has been submitted to them - and they continue to maintain the denial despite numerous medical reports supporting disability - this forces the clients to have to rebutt their position and then they are not told for months at a time what the response is to their rebuttal.

Canada Pension Plan Disability should adopt the motto - DENY, DELAY, DEFEND.........  seems appropriate.

The tactic appears to be to deny appeals despite medical support, to delay the response to the clients so they starve them on to provincial disability if they qualify (and in to bankruptcy many times). and to defend their position with ridiculous submissions forcing clients to continue to respond and send in paper work straining their relationships with their doctors when they throw up their hands and say they do not know want to do - the continual denials cost the health care system and many of these clients have no money to get the medical information they need - so the big Federal government wins again when the little guy throws up his hands and cries Uncle.

Please people get help - you do not want to be stuck appealing to the Social Security Tribunal as the delays are unimaginable.  Do not give up - make sure you do what you can to submit information at the initial application and for sure the reconsideration.

To the CPP Adjudicator who told me "that we need people like you" I appreciate it - seems this staff member understands the CPP disability motto.

Arrgh Frustrated.

Social Security Tribunal statistics

Hello everyone - it has been some time since I have submitted a blog entry - I have been out of the country visiting my family.

In a prior blog entry I talked about some information I received about the Social Security Tribunal and included in this information was the fact that the Tribunal had held 178 appeals the rest of the appeals appear to be either summary dismissals or CPP Disability settlements.

I wanted to dig a little deeper in to these appeals and these are the results that I have obtained:

  • There were 82 appeals heard by teleconference and out of the 82 appeals that were heard 20 were allowed and 50 were dismissed there are 12 cases for which a decision had not been rendered.
  • There were 26 appeals held by videoconference and of the 26 appeals that were heard 10 were allowed and 16 were dismissed.
  • Finally, the Social Security Tribunal summarily dismissed 65 appeals.

 

Not great statistics - with a heavy denial rate I would say. I am worried about the teleconference statistics - that result seems very skewed - as it stands a 25% approval rate.

It seems that this tribunal is denying more appeals than it is approving. HMMMMM

I also think given these statistics that it is not a good idea to have a hearing by teleconference - which speaks to my previous blog entries about the requirements for in-person hearings.  I also wonder whether these clients have rushed to get hearings thinking that they would get the matter settled without really understanding the implications of the CPP legislative tenants, nor their requirements in order to suppot their appeals.

Okay, I am getting a lot of calls from frustrated clients regarding the delays in getting appeals - I understand completely.  My case - the man who has lung cancer that I asked for an expediated appeal - and was told by Senior Management at the SST had been placed before a Member and granted - I still have not received any document on that -  I first sent my request asking for an urgent appeal on March 27th, I had a converstation with senior management the end of April, and I sent another email on May 2nd, 2014 - I still have not received any notification and it is now May 27 - so that is two months since I sent in the request for an urgent appeal.  What a pathetic response from this tribunal to a man who has lung cancer. 

Finally it appears that you need to win the hearing lottery to actually get one.  It is administrative justice hijacking by this federal government.  I cannot think of any other words to describe this process and the disservice happening to people with disabilities entitled to a benefit to which they contributed CPP payments throughout their working careers.

I am now going to contact outside sources to see if they can shed some light on to this disgrace.

I just need to get back on to Canada time.

Also, please if you have been denied CPP disability at initial (62% of you will receive denials) get help with the reconsideration appeals as if you are denied you will be facing long delays.  I still have not got appeals for clients who applied to the Review Tribunal in March 2012 - that is 24 months of waiting.

If you have been denied get help - I cannot stress this enough.

 

 

Another Email to the SST - another case - let's call him Ned

Hello.  I am emailing about Mr. ____________ _______________.

 

I received a copy of the submission written by the Department on January 8, 2014. This was not communicated to my office until April 12th, 2014.  Why did this document take so long to be received?

Further on October 17. 2013 I sent a package of medical information to the SST for this client - the department does not refer to any of this information that I have sent in - which will lead me to believe that they have not received this from the SST.

I would like to know what has occurred on this file - it is a legacy case that is waiting to be heard - the client is going through consumer proposal proceedings and have no income to support himself and his wife.

Again I am requesting urgent consideration on this file for an immediate hearing for this gentleman.  He applied for CPPD  - April 2011 - it is now three years without any resolution.  This gentleman is now taking medication to help with the significant stress he and his wife are enduring.

 

This delay is unacceptable.  Allison Schmidt

 

 

When will you get an appeal at the Social Security Tribunal?

Everyday I am inundated with emails and phone calls from individuals, doctors, and insurance companies asking when their appeals will be heard at the Social Security Tribunal.  Each day the emails and calls become more desperate.  At first I was able to explain the process that happened at the changeover and was able to advise these people, that the delays were due to a transition year at the Social Security Tribunal.

Now a full year has past and still there is no end in sight in terms of the wait  - and in fact the back logs and delays are getting worse.

Every day I feel the pressure of these individuals who are waiting - and I understand the difficulties they are facing and how their needs are not being met.

I am asked what the client can do - when they phone the Social Security Tribunal they are given no answers as to when they can expect their appeals will be heard - and when I email or call I also receive the same song and dance.

My only suggestion is to go to your Member of Parliament - and advise them that you wish to obtain a Ministerial Enquiry in to the appeal delay.  A Ministerial Enquiry is required to be addressed when it is submitted.  A Ministerial Enquiry is made by an Member of Parliament and submitted to the Minister responsible for the Social Security Tribunal which falls under the Employment Social Development Services and the Minister is Jason Kenney.  I would say to your Member of Parliament that the delays have been unacceptable and that you wish to be advised to the status of your appeal.

It is my hope that with enough Ministerial Enquiries landing on the Minister's desk that perhaps they will become aware that this process is not serving the appellants as it was promised it would.

 

 

SST response to my Urgent Request

On March 27th, 2014 I sent a letter to the Social Security Tribunal requesting that a client's appeal be heard in an urgent manner.

This client has been waiting at the SST since April 2013 and he is not a legacy case - meaning - his appeal has not come over from the Review Tribunal.

This man, let's call him Todd  - is 49 and has not been able to work since his early 40's due to a number of medical conditions.  He has an MQP of 2006 which means he has to be found disabled by this date continually to present. 

Early this year, I sent in a large number of medical reports that I had collected through out the case-management process. From our end, his appeal is all ready to be heard.

In December 2013, Todd was diagnosed with lung cancer.  He is currently going through treatments to see if they can shrink the tumour enough to do surgery.  Todd's wife, is under enormous pressure of course, and they family are financially exhausted, especially when you take in to consideration the additional costs of a life-threatening illness. 

In discussing this situation with Todd's wife, I suggested we contact the Social Security Tribunal to see if we can get an expediated hearing - the cancer diagnosis is not going to impact the 2006 MQP, but I feel strongly that Todd has met his onus to establish disability.  When I sent the letter asking this request, I also sent in medical confirmation of Todd's diagnosis, so the Social Security Tribunal have the evidence to support my request.

I had not heard anything from the Social Security Tribunal - other than an acknowledgment stating that my request had been received - and that they would consider it.

It has been 26 days since I sent in the urgent request.  I emailed to find out the status - and this is the response that I received:

"We did receive your request and it is currently being reviewed.  As soon as we have information , we will communicate it to you.

After that I emailed that I had assumed that the request was received but that I would like to know what is going on with the request.  I also asked if there was a time line so that I could advise the faimly and that it had been over three weeks and it is a very stressful time for the family and that I would like to be able to tell them something.  This is what I received in response:

"Unfortunately, I do not have a timeline.  That the information was being reviewed and as soon as we have information, it will be communicated."

They may as well told me to go jump off a cliff.

As well, I have had no response to my email to Madam Chair.

I also read on the weekend that the level of service of the government has been reduced to those that were existing in the 60s.  I cannot understand how regular Canadians are not up in arms.  Is it like Pavlov's dogs and just learned helplessness - that everyone feels that they cannot do anything - these people are so beaten down by this process - I see how they struggle. 

But to not be able to have an appeal for a man who is in the middle of treatment for lung cancer who is going through a hell of a time, whose wife is trying to hold it all together, and for me to be told and then have to communicate to the family that - "information will be communicated when its available" and that there are no time lines for an answer - again Madam Chair how is that FAIR, ACCESSIBLE, AND EXPEDIENT?

Stressed and sad.

Freedom Of Information request reveals .......

On February 27, 2014 I requested information under the Freedom of Information Act regarding the Social Security Tribunal appeal statistics. 

9027 Income Security Appeals are waiting to be heard (these are CPP appeals)

The SST heard 21 CPP appeals in 2013 and 155 appeals in 2014 in the General Division.

The SST heard 38 CPP appeals in 2013 and 40 appeals in 2014 in the Appeals Division.

As of February 2014 a total of 2,802 appeals were received at the Income Security Division of the SST which includes CPP and OAS appeals.

There are 292 Income Security Appeals waiting to be heard at the Appeal Division of the SST.

67 Appeals were heard in person, 82 appeals were by teleconference, 26 were by videoconference, 3 were by way of question and answers.

There were 592 appeals allowed and 134 appeals dismissed at the General Division (interesting because the SST only heard 176 appeals so most of these were CPP driven).

 

 

A letter to the Social Security Tribunal

 

Dear Madam Chair.

 

I was recently privy to a teleconference with the Vice Chair as well as Mr. M. ___________.  I had asked when I could expect that appeals would begin to be heard given the excessive delays that my clients are experiencing. Mr. M.  _________ told me I should  write a letter - so that is what I am doing.

 

I have a large number of files waiting to be heard at the Social Security Tribunal.  I understand there is a 7000 appeal backlog at changeover - along with an additional 2500 appeals added this last year - and that only 800 appeals were heard.  This leads me to believe there is around a 9000 appeal backlog waiting to be heard - and my last review of the GIC appointments to the SST indicates only 26 members hearing these appeals.


I am getting phone calls every day - emails every day - desperate people calling me asking me when they can expect their hearings.

 

These people are using their retirement savings, some are dying,  many are declaring bankruptcy, people are going without treatment and medication, children are suffering, and good working people are being forced to swallow their pride and apply for welfare.

 

I do not know what to tell these clients - I do not get any answers from the SST - and when I ask what the strategy is for hearing these backlogs - I am told that they are trying to get the backlog managed - and that I should write a letter.

 

Madam Chair all I want to know is - is there a strategy in place for hearing these appeals?  I want to know what kind of time line I can tell the clients? 

 

I feel that this Tribunal is not following their mandate that you wrote in your introductory message.  It is not fair.  It is not efficient.  It is not accessible.

 

I noted in your last email to me you mentioned reaching out to stakeholders.  I have not received any contact - in fact my last email to you was answered by ____________.  You may see my emails as an annoyance but I am dealing with folk who are desperate for answers.  How can this tribunal put this kind of responsibility to manage this desperation on to advocates like myself?  It must be very nice to be so insular and not have to deal with the realities these clients are facing as this is what I hear from them every day.

 

I am sorry if you find my tone harsh as it is not my intention to offend but to point out the realities of the situation I am dealing with every day.

 

Thank you for your time.

 

Allison Schmidt

DCAC Inc.

 

 

 

Downward Spiral

Today I have had six phone calls from clients wanting to know when their appeals will be heard.  I have had another 5 emails asking why the department has not responded to any of the additional information that we have submitted.

In the mail I received more stupid denials from CPP disability (review my previous blogs).

I am waiting for files from CPP so that I can help clients manage their appeals - I am not receiving them in a timely fashion and the Feds are denying before the client has any time to submit additional documents.

I just feel this is a downward spiral - it is almost like the government wants to deny these claims knowing full well that the wait for an appeal is so long - that these people are either bankrupt and then they have no choice but to go on welfare.

This system is causing individuals to go without treatment - making them sicker - forcing them in to seperation or divorce - either due to depression or stress - or so that they can obtain some kind of provincial disability support.  There are kids that are suffering because of this  - and these people have paid in to the program - why is it so hard for them to get something they are entitled to receive - if the money is not there to pay the folk - then where is it?  No insurance company would ever get away with this type of practice. They hold them accountable - they have appeal processes that allow for redress if there is an error.  That is supposed to be what is available for individuals who are denied CPP - so why are they not getting the appeals - how is a three year process to get an appeal acceptable?

I have sent emails to the Information Line and received no information in fact I have not received a response and when I do get a response the file is pending.  The Social Security Tribunal is so insular that I cannot even talk to a live person - or any person for that matter - to find out more details - and when they give us conference calls - we are told snottily to write a letter - I cannot tell you how many letters I have written.  Perhaps I should start posting them all on this blog. 

Look it really is not that hard - start hearing cases - start moving the backlog - start hiring members - rehire the Review Tribunal members - do something.  How are 9000 appeals going to be heard by 26 members?  How is that fair, accessible, or efficient?

I feel like I am airing dirty laundry but I just have no other release or way to let any one know what is happening here in this office every single day.

I really think it is a disgrace - the gentleman who phoned me today working and paid in to CPP from 1971 until 2010 - that is 39 years of contributions.  He is 61 years of age.  He has never taken a nickle in EI benefits.  He first applied in July 2011.  Despite sending in so much supportive medical information - we still have not even had this acknowledged - either by the Social Security Tribunal or Canada Pension Plan.  He is just sitting waiting for a decision or appeal that never seems to occur.

Please get help with your CPP Application or if you are denied your appeal for Reconsideration.

Social Security Tribunal - Hearing Information Form

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Social Security Tribunal information

Yesterday I was party to a teleconference with the Social Security Tribunal who provided information about the new process that has been put in place concerning the legacy appeals.

Due to the new regulations that were put in place, the appeals that came over from the old Review Tribunal have been deemed legacy appeals and the Social Security Tribunal could not decide on these cases until the 365 days have passed, or both parties had completed the Notice of Readiness process. 

That mean that these appeals were deemed ready to be heard on April 1, 2014 but because of the volume of information that came in before the March 31 deadline, the had to give the other party 30 days to respond so some of these appeals will be ready to be heard on May 1, 2014.

There were 7220 legacy appeals come over from the Review Tribunal and the Social Security Tribunal have added another 2500 completed appeals in 2013 (there are more appeals submitted but they are not complete - as there may be outstanding documents).  The Social Security Tribunal have completed 800 appeals either by making decisions or as a result of settlment agreements.  By my addition, we are looking at around a 9000 case back log of appeals to be heard.

The Social Security Tribunal realized that these backlogs could not be dealt with without delay and therefore, due to delays the Tribunal Member would have to rely on outdated information - which is why they are now allowing any legacy cases  that are waiting - to continue to submit documentation as they realize it is the Appellant's onus to establish that they are disabled.

The nuts and bolts of this new process are noted in the prior blog entry.

There were a series of questions asked:  here are some of the answers - the Social Security Tribunal is an electronic office which means all documents are scanned - you can send in documents on CD- but do not bind or staple any appeal documents.  You can email documents to the SST but they are unable to email you documents due to privacy issues.

The Tribunal Member has the discretion on the type of appeal that will be conducted.  There will be a Hearing Information Form that will be sent to Appellants or their representatives - and on these forms - you should make your case in terms of what kind of appeal you would like to receive.  I believe most strongly that an in-person appeal is best. 

There are Tribunal Members on the Employment Insurance side of the Social Security Tribunal who have now been trained in the Income Security Division who hear CPP disability appeals.

I asked about the delays on getting appeals and when the cases will be heard.  I was advised this is a difficult question to answer but that the Social Security Tribunal are booking hearings.  Under the new process the older files will be assigned first - so if you Review Tribunal appeal number was 11 something - you will be heard before the 120s or the 121s or the 125s.  You can check your appeal number to see where you might fall in the legacy appeal line up - if you are a recent appeal to the Social Security Tribunal in 2013, my guess is your in for a long wait.  I tried to pin down time lines but was not given timelines - which I supposed was to be expected.  I did reiterate the hardship people are going through - and was told by the counsel on call - let's call him Mitchell - to write a letter.  To which I stated I had. 

There was a lot of grumbling from various reps about the process and the whole CPP denial rate but rightly so - this is not the Social Security Tribunal's issue - it is the Feds who do not approve the CPP applications.  There were also concerns about the Information Line and the delays getting information - to which most of the participants agreed was not working well.

I will say, that I have concerns about the various Member's experience and knowledge of the CPP tenants and previous case decisions and the wealth of knowledge and I feel that this is now missing at the Tribunal hearings.  Although it is stated that the members have been trained - it is my experience that it took many years for the judges at the Pension Appeals Board as well as the members of the Review Tribunal to become what I used to term "seasoned".  I loved the "seasoned" members because you did not have to reiterate over and over the basics and you did not get the feeling that you were appearing before someone who may not know the ropes as well as you do.  Not arrogance - merely observation.

I have also had numerous emails echoing my feelings from various other individuals who have made appearances before the Social Security Tribunal members.

So these are my thoughts in terms of what legacy appellants should do next:

  • Make sure you continue to submit all the medical information you can.
  • If you have not got help, find someone to help you.
  • Make sure you respond and include all of your submissions because you may only get an appeal on the record.
  • If you receive a series of questions and answers from a Social Security Tribunal member, do not answer these until you have had an experienced and trained professional to help you complete these documents.
  • If you are scheduled for an appeal - do not proceed with these alone - get help you have one opportunity to do this right.
  • If you have been denied at initial application and you are at the reconsideration level - get help with this appeal because you will be facing long delays to get an appeal.

Finally I would like to say to those people who are legacy appeals - this new process is a blessing and a saving grace to those of you who did not get your appeals adequately prepared before the expiration of the March 31, deadline.  You now have the opportunity to get the help you need to prepare for the appeal.  Please find someone to help you.  Make sure that you are ready.  Make sure you case is reviewed so that you know when your number is called, you have done all that you can to give yourself the best shot at this appeal.  You have waited so long to get the appeal date - and I think it boarders on foolish to go further without professional assistance - especially when you are getting one kick at being successful.