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.

 

Social Security Tribunal Process Changes

This information was posted to the Social Security Tribunal website and I have posted this for your information.  I have not had time to digest the changes as yet but will post when I have a chance.

Changes to the income security appeal process effective April 1, 2014

This change affects Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) appeals assigned to Tribunal Members after April 1, 2014, that were initially filed with the Office of the Commissioner of Review Tribunals (OCRT) and that were transferred to the Social Security Tribunal of Canada on April 1, 2013, and new appeals filed with the Social Security Tribunal since April 1, 2013.

In a previous letter, the parties had up to 365 days from April 1, 2013 to file additional documents or submissions with the Tribunal. However, if a party filed documents or submissions within 30 days of April 1, 2014, an additional 30 days to file documents in response would then be provided to the other parties. This means that appeals originally filed with the OCRT are considered ready to proceed on either April 1, 2014, or on May 1, 2014.

 

New process

We understand that parties may have new documents and submissions to file with the Tribunal while they wait for a hearing/decision. To address this, parties will be allowed to continue to file new documents and submissions during the delay period. A copy of any new documents or submissions received by the Tribunal will be provided to the other parties for consideration. If a document has already been provided to the OCRT or to the Tribunal, there is no need to file it again with the Tribunal.

The Tribunal will notify the parties a few weeks before the appeal is ready to be assigned to a Member. The oldest cases will generally be assigned first. Parties may continue to file new documents or submissions.

Once the Member is assigned to the appeal and has decided how to proceed, the Tribunal will inform the parties of specific dates for a final filing of documents. The parties will have at least 30 days to file any last documents or submissions that have not already been filed. They will also have an additional 30 days to respond to new documents or submissions filed by the other party.

If a hearing is scheduled, no further documents or submissions may be filed within 30 days of the hearing date, except at the discretion of the Member.

Complete and return the Hearing Information Form (HIF)

We encourage all parties to complete the copy of the Hearing Information Form that will be mailed to you and return it to the Tribunal. This will help the Member, when applicable, to decide the form of hearing and to schedule a hearing date when the parties are available. More information is provided on the form itself.

Continue to file new documents or submissions you think are important to this appeal

Please send new documents or submissions that you think are important to this appeal as soon as possible. Please do not send any documents or submissions that have already been provided. Do not wait until your appeal is ready to be heard or decided to send your documents. Last minute documents or submissions may be excluded and not considered in the decision, or may result in a lengthy adjournment.

Reminder

The Tribunal will contact the parties as soon as it is ready to assign this appeal to a Member for consideration and will provide the parties with information about when and how this appeal will proceed. Please be assured that we are doing everything we can to process cases fairly and as efficiently as possible.

Special circumstances

More than 7,000 appeals were transferred from the OCRT to the Tribunal. As appeals became ready to proceed, they were assigned to Tribunal Members. Although many appeals were concluded, the Tribunal was unable to assign the majority of these appeals before April 1, 2014 because the parties’ right to file additional documents and submissions continued and because numerous documents, Notices of Readiness and submissions were received in the final 30 days which extended the time for a response to May 1, 2014.

The significant caseload transferred to the Tribunal and considered ready to proceed on April 1, 2014 or on May 1, 2014, will result in some inevitable delay in scheduling hearings and sending decisions.

The Tribunal will continue to assign appeals considered ready to proceed to Tribunal Members. For cases assigned on or after April 1, 2014, the Tribunal has developed a new process to ensure that we treat all appeals fairly and as quickly as possible.

 

Frequently asked questions

 

How many appeals were transferred from the OCRT to the Tribunal?

In total, 7,224 appeals filed with the OCRT were transferred to the Tribunal.

Have any of the OCRT appeals been concluded?

Yes. Because a notice was filed from all parties without new documents, some appeals were able to proceed and have since concluded, either based on a settlement or agreement by the parties, or following a decision from the Tribunal Member. But the majority of the OCRT appeals could not conclude, primarily because one of the parties to the appeal did not file a Notice of Readiness within the 365-day period and because numerous documents, Notices of Readiness and submissions were received in the final 30 days which extended the time for a response to May 1, 2014.

How long will it take for the Tribunal to decide my appeal or schedule a hearing for my appeal?

Due to the significant volume of appeals, delays are inevitable and therefore it is difficult to estimate exactly. The Tribunal will generally proceed in the order in which the appeals were filed. Therefore, the oldest files will be assigned to Tribunal Members first. The Tribunal will notify the parties a few weeks before the appeal is ready to be assigned to a Member. After an appeal has been assigned to a Tribunal Member, the Tribunal will send the parties a Notice of Hearing or a letter indicating the Tribunal Member’s intention to make a decision based on the documents that have been filed.

Why does this take so long?

This is predominantly because the majority of OCRT appeals transferred to the Tribunal could not conclude, and also because of the significant volume that these appeals represent. Appeals filed with the OCRT were considered to have been filed with the Tribunal on April 1, 2013 and, according to the law, all parties to the appeal had 365 days to either file new documents or submissions, or to file a notice that they had no documents or submissions to file. Over 7,000 appeals were transferred from the OCRT and the Tribunal could not proceed with these before receiving such notice or before the expiry of the 365-day period. In the case of all of the appeals as transferred from the OCRT, the 365-day period ended on either April 1, 2014 or on May 1, 2014 for appeals where additional documents were received in the final 30 days, which extended the time for a response to May 1, 2014.

Why am I being informed of the status of my appeal now?

Appeals filed with the OCRT were considered to have been filed on April 1, 2013 and, according to the law, all parties to the appeal had 365 days to either file new documents or submissions, or to file a notice that they had no documents or submissions to file. The Tribunal could not proceed with the appeals before receiving such notice or before the expiry of the 365 day period. In the case of appeals transferred from the OCRT, the 365 day period ended on April 1, 2014 or on May 1, 2014 for appeals where additional documents were received in the final 30 days, which extended the time for a response to May 1, 2014.

Why may I continue to file documents as part of this appeal?

There will be some delays at the Tribunal due to the significant number of appeals transferred from the OCRT that are ready to proceed as of April 1, 2014 or on May 1, 2014. To ensure that a Tribunal Member can make a final decision based on complete up-to-date information, the parties will be provided with an opportunity to file new documents, if they choose to do so. There is no obligation for the parties to file any new documents. Please do not send any documents or submissions that have already been provided and do not wait until the appeal is ready to be heard or decided to send your new documents.

I do not have any further documents to file and I am ready to proceed now. Will my appeal be assigned to a Tribunal Member right away?

Although the parties may be ready to proceed, given the very large volume of cases ready to proceed, generally, the Tribunal will assign files according to the date that they were filed with the OCRT or with the Tribunal. Therefore, the oldest files will be assigned to Tribunal Members first. After an appeal has been assigned to a Tribunal Member, the Tribunal will send the parties a Notice of Hearing or a letter indicating the Tribunal Member’s intention to make a decision based on the documents that have been filed.

What happens if a party to this appeal files new documents while waiting for the file to be assigned to a Tribunal Member?

The Tribunal will provide a copy of any document filed by a party during this period to the other parties, until the Tribunal Member has been assigned to the appeal. The assignment of a Tribunal Member to an appeal will also mark the start of a prescribed period of time to file final documents for this appeal. Until then, all parties to an appeal may continue to file new documents or submissions.

Will the further filing of documents as part of this appeal delay the final decision?

While all parties may continue to file documents and responses as part of the appeal, once a Tribunal Member has been assigned to the appeal, a time limit to file last documents will be determined, and any documents filed beyond the established time limit will be considered only at the discretion of the Tribunal Member. Therefore, filing documents during the prescribed time limits will not delay the final decision. However documents filed beyond these time limits may create delays, as the Tribunal Member will need to determine whether or not to admit them as evidence.

How will I know when a Tribunal Member has been assigned to this appeal?

The Tribunal will notify the parties a few weeks before the appeal is assigned to a Member. After a Tribunal Member has been assigned to the appeal, the Tribunal will send a letter to all parties, outlining how the appeal will proceed.

If there are exceptional circumstances, can my appeal be assigned sooner?

Where there are exceptional circumstances, such as terminal illness, an appeal may be assigned sooner. You may submit to the Tribunal written reasons why you believe that your appeal should be prioritized. The Tribunal will make a determination on whether or not exceptional circumstances exist to warrant that your appeal proceed ahead of older appeals.

What is the Hearing Information form and must I complete it?

The Hearing Information form helps the Tribunal Member determine the appropriate form of hearing, in the event that the Tribunal Member decides to proceed with a hearing. It is not mandatory to complete this form, but the Tribunal encourages all parties to do so, to help the member decide the form of hearing and to schedule a date when the parties are available.

Even though I have already filed a notice and indicated that I have no documents or submissions to file, can I now file new documents?

Yes. There will be some delays as a result of the significant number of appeals transferred from the OCRT that are now considered ready to proceed. To ensure that a Tribunal Member can make a final decision based on complete up-to-date information, the parties are provided with an opportunity to file new documents, if they choose to do so. There is no obligation for the parties to file any new documents. After a Tribunal Member has been assigned to the appeal, the Tribunal will send the parties a letter outlining prescribed time limits to file final documents. Any documents filed beyond the prescribed time limits will be considered only at the discretion of the Tribunal Member.

I sent my notice several months ago, indicating that I was ready to proceed. Why has the Tribunal not heard my appeal yet? Given that I have been ready for months, should my appeal not proceed ahead of the others?

Although you may have filed a signed notice with the Tribunal, a party to your appeal did not, or new documents were included with a notice. Since the
Tribunal provides a copy of any new document filed by a party to the other parties involved in the appeal, these new documents provide the other parties with an opportunity to respond, thereby cancelling any notice that may have been previously filed. The time to respond (365 day period) applies to all parties. The Tribunal could not proceed with the appeals before receiving such notice from all the parties or before the expiry of the 365 day period. If a party filed documents or submissions within 30 days of April 1, 2014, an additional 30 days to file documents in response would then be provided to the other parties. In the case of files transferred from the OCRT, the 365-day period ended on either April 1, 2014 or on May 1, 2014, if documents or submissions were filed within 30 days of April 1, 2014. The Tribunal will generally proceed in the order in which the appeals were filed, according to the date that they were filed with the OCRT or with the Tribunal. Therefore, the oldest files will be assigned to Tribunal Members first. After an appeal has been assigned to a Tribunal Member, the Tribunal will send the parties a Notice of Hearing or a letter indicating the Tribunal Member’s intention to make a decision based on the documents that have been filed.

If a hearing takes place by written questions and answers, how will that work?

In the case of written questions and answers, the parties will receive a Notice of Hearing that will contain the following information:
  • the time limit to provide new documents and submissions and responses to these documents and submissions;
  • the Tribunal Member’s questions; and
  • the timeline for the parties to respond to the Tribunal Member’s questions.

Example:

 

Notice of Hearing is dated May 1, 2014 and includes Member’s questions:

  • The parties have until June 15, 2014 to answer the Member’s questions;
  • The parties have until June 15, 2014 to also file other last documents and submissions;
  • The parties then have from June 15, 2014 to July 15, 2014 to respond to each other’s new material; and
  • After July 15, 2014, the Member reviews the answers to the questions and the new material and writes a decision.

 

If an oral hearing takes place (teleconference, videoconference or personal appearance), how will that work?

If the Tribunal Member determines that an oral hearing is required, the Tribunal will send to all parties a Notice of Hearing. The Notice of Hearing will specify the time limits for filing new documents or submissions and for responding to any documents or submissions filed. An oral hearing will be scheduled for at least 90 days after the Tribunal sends the Notice of Hearing to the parties.

The general time limits for filing documents or submissions once an oral hearing has been scheduled are as follows:

  • Parties can continue to file new documents or submissions up to 60 days before the scheduled hearing date;
  • Responding documents or submissions can be filed up to 30 days before the scheduled hearing date; and
  • No documents or submissions should be filed within 30 days of the scheduled hearing date. Consideration of any such documents or submissions will be subject to the discretion of the Tribunal Member and may be excluded from the evidence.

All time limits will be specifically outlined in the Notice of Hearing.

Example:

 

Notice of Hearing is dated May 1, 2014 and sets out a hearing date for August 15, 2014 (at least 90 days later):

  • The parties then have from June 15 to July 15 , 2014 to file responses to the other party’s material;
  • The parties have until June 15, 2014 (60 days before the Hearing Date) to file last documents and submissions;
  • No documents may be filed after July 15 , 2014; and
  • On July 16, 2014 the Member reviews the new information and proceeds with the hearing on August 15, 2014.
Can the form of hearing change following the Notice of Hearing?

After reviewing the final documents and submissions filed, the Tribunal Member may decide to change the form of hearing. The Tribunal will notify the parties in the event that there is a change in the form of hearing.

What does it mean if the Tribunal Member intends to make a decision on the basis of the documents and submissions filed?

In the case of a decision based on the information on file, there is no hearing scheduled. Instead, the Tribunal will send to the parties a letter indicating that the Tribunal Member intends to make a decision on the basis of the documents and submissions filed. The parties will be provided with time limits for filing final new documents and submissions.

Example:

 

Letter is dated May 1, 2014:
  • The parties have until June 15, 2014 to file any last documents or submissions;
  • The parties then have from June 15, 2014 until July 15, 2014 to file responses to the other party’s material; and
  • After July 15, 2014, the Member reviews the new material and writes a decision.

 

The Social Security Tribunal knew that there would be appeals that would be considered ready to proceed on April 1, 2014. Why were the changes to the process not made sooner?

The Tribunal expected more appeals to conclude before April 1, 2014. Appeals filed with the OCRT were considered to have been filed with the Tribunal on April 1, 2013 and, according to the law, all parties to the appeal had 365 days to either file new documents or submissions, or to file a notice that they had no documents or submissions to file. The Tribunal expected to receive such notices starting in April 2013, and expected to be in a position to conclude many appeals on a monthly basis. Because a notice was filed from all parties without new documents, some appeals were able to proceed and have since concluded, either based on a settlement or agreement by the parties, or following a decision from the Tribunal Member. But the majority of the OCRT appeals could not conclude, primarily because one of the parties to the appeal did not file a Notice of Readiness within the 365-day period or because numerous documents, Notices of Readiness and submissions were received in the final 30 days which extended the time for a response to May 1, 2014.
Date modified:
2014-04-01

Notice of Readiness - why it's flawed

A client is appearing by video conference before the new Social Security Tribunal next week.

He has been waiting for an opportunity to present the case since 2012 and has finally got a meeting.

He has been dealing with many various symptoms such as weakness, numbness, pain, issues with vision, balance, faigue, etc. for years.  He has had numerous diagnoses and labels assigned to these symptoms.

The beginning of March he had an health incident which led to him receiving an MRI report.  The MRI results came in last week and the MRI results show he has lesions like those found with MS.

Now, this is significant objective information and is an integral piece of the puzzle almost an answer to the symptoms he has been experiencing for years.

What's the problem?

Because the hearing has been scheduled I contact the Social Security Tribunal to find out how I can submit this important piece of medical information.  This is the response that I have received:


You should submit the new information to use immediately (fax or email) being sure to include an explanation as to why you feel it should be accepted.  It will be up to the Member to decide if the new information is accepted.

Okay, I strongly feel that an appellant should be able to submit all the information to help support their appeal - this is his onus - his responsibility - to establish that he meets the criteria for disability - yet a Tribunal Member can decide if additional information can be accepted?  I have said all along that disability is fluid, things change quite often, new answers come to the fore front, new tests reveal new diagnoses, disability gets worse, new doctors come on board, mental health declines, new drugs are tried, there are so many things that can happen.

Yet this Social Security Tribunal feels that I have to ask a Member if they will accept information to help support an appellant's case?  I just do not think that is right. I do not feel that this impartial, arms-length appeal body should be able to decide whether or not pertinent information should be accepted. How is that giving an appellant an opportunity to fully present their appeal?  It worries me because this is a one kick at the can appeal  and if you are prevented by some Notice of Readiness document then how can that person prepare for the ups and downs of the Canadian medical system and the unpredictability of disability?

Okay I will let you know how this all transpires but it is certainly food for thought to keep in mind as you prepare for your appeal.

 

Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits denials continue to discourage

I was not going to blog today. 

However, on Friday I got another ridiculous denial from CPP disability - when I say ridiculous what I mean is - how can any body in their right mind determine based on the medical information that has been filed that they do not meet the criteria of disability? -type of ridiculous.

This client has been hoping, that given the medical support that was submitted, that the CPP disability would agree that she meets the criteria and an appeal to the Social Security Tribunal would not be necessary.  All weekend I have asked myself "what is wrong with these people?" because I just cannot grasp how an adjudicator could write such utter rubbish and continue to deny the appeal.  And what I mean by utter rubbish - sentences taken out of context - the totality of the information not included, reliance on dated medical reports, using outdated Pension Appeals Board cases to support their condition, it goes on and on.  I certainly would not do anything like that if I was writing a submission to defend my position but then I had a moment - these CPP adjudicators do not have to defend their decisions and submissions. They do not have to stand there and explain how they came to their determination - everything is on paper - and like an internet bully who hides behind the anonymity of their posts - so do these adjudicators.  It is almost like it is just another file off their desk. In reality, clients are only numbers and their personal situations I assume are irrelevent and inconsequential to the adjudicators who write these submissions and take their pay cheques.

I have had lots of calls today with people who are discouraged and I understand that they must be - they are broke, sick, disabled, unable to pay their bills, their lives as they knew it cease to exist and they are then facing long and unreasonable waits to get an appeal.

I had always expected the high denial rates from CPP disability - I should know better that to wonder what is going on - but I had hope that if a person made it through dealing with the government adjudicators - they would at least have a chance to have a fair hearing at the Review Tribunal - and approximately 50 percent of the CPP denial decisions were overturned.

I should not be surprised that there would be a reasonable and fair adjudication by CPP disability now that there is a new appeal system.  I just had faith that the tribunal members would make the right decision.  Now it is taking so long to get an appeal - all of these people are really suffering and becomming discouraged which is only making them sicker.

I will never understand how the CPP adjudicators can deny these cases especially when so much time and effort has gone in to presenting the best submission with all the information as well as relying on their own adjudication guidelines and previous decisions and legislative tenants. They still deny - even when all the facts point to the opposite.  These are human beings - not just a file to get off your desk. 

 

Rest In Peace Mr. S.

So to top off my week I got word today that Mr. S. client who has been waiting for an Social Security Tribunal passes away as a result of his disability on March 16th, 2014.  Mr. S. applied for CPP disability in May 2012.  He had a complicated case I am not going to deny this - but it was one of those cases where paper documents do not show the totality of this man's disability - nor his story - which was complex and frankly very sad, due to mental illness, addiction, and a host of other problems.  CPP also denied him because he worked after his MQP - but as I have said before, the Feds deny you because they say you have not tried to work in order to test your capacity - and when you do try - they say you are not disabled because you worked.

Anyway, rest in peace Mr. S. It was a pleasure knowing you and you have a wonderful daughter and family who will continue to pursue your fight.

Notice of Readiness for Legacy Cases

I said that I would advise what I know about the Notice of Readiness process for thos people who are legacy cases at the Social Security Tribunal.  A legacy case - is one that was previously lodged with the Office of the Commissioner of Review Tribunals that was not heard prior to the changeover to the Social Security Tribunal.

I had requested extensions on some of these cases because I am having trouble getting some of the medical information from doctors - as well some clients have medical appointments and tests that are occuring after the March 31 2014 deadline.

So here are the reasons for granting the request for extension from the Vice-chairperson of the Social Security Tribunal:

 

"This appeal was deemed filed with the Social Security Tribunal on April 1, 2013 but the Appellant was not notified of the 365 day period until the acknowledgment letter from the Tribunal was sent on May 21, 2013.  The Vice-chairperson grants an extension of time to file additional documents or submissions to a date 365 days after the date of the SST acknowledgment letter."

 

So I would say that for all of the people who received letters fromthe SST on May 21, 2013 (the date the SST sent letters to those cases from the Review Tribunal) that they have until May 20th, 2014 to submit documents.

 

My opinion is this whole Notice of Readiness issue is ill thought anyway given all of the reasons I have submitted in earlier blogs.  My question is though - if there are going to be significant delays and it takes months to get an appeal - what about all the current medical that could be submitted prior to the date of hearing.  If it is going to take a year for example to get a hearing and the only way you can get a hearing is to sign the Notice of Readiness then that is a year of medical information that is missing from your file - and that is old information that the Tribunal member is relying on.  I would tell a client going for an appeal to make sure they had all the current medical to submit (you know their onus to establish disability).  If you are waiting for 12 months or more to get a hearing then there is no opportunity to provide recent medical to support your case.

I do not know if this is the "new approach" that I spoke of in my last blog- but even if it is - how is this going to reduce the large volume of back logged appeals that is only going to continue to grow in my opinion.

How about this for a "new approach"?  CPP disability actually approve the claims they should rightly be approving. That would do wonders to alleviating the back log - has any one from the government thought about that?

 

Social Security Tribunal Delays.

This is the email that I sent to the Chair of the Social Security Tribunal:

 

Dear Madam Chair.

 

It is now March 10th and I have three weeks until the deadline for the legacy cases.

I have submitted documents back in September and October going forward complete with signed Notice of Readiness and yet I have not received any acknowledgement or Minister's Explanation on what the case will be for the other side, leaving me little time to fix any deficiencies or collect any additional documentation before the deadline expires.

 

I have clients who are literally losing their homes, claiming bankruptcy and who are phoning me weekly to find out the status of their appeal.  I cannot tell them anything - and when I reach out to the staff I am told the file is being processed. What does this mean?

 

May I please kindly ask, what the strategy is for hearing all of these legacy cases?  At least then I can tell my clients and let people know what we can all expect after the expiry of the March 31 deadline.  Is there some sort of plan to handle all of these cases?  What happens when I have had no documents from the department?  Are they even receiving the cases so that they can respond to all of the work and additional documents that have been submitted on the clients behalf?

 

We have all been patient while this transition year has gone by but I think it is time that we all get some clear answers and direction as to what to expect next.  If I can tell the clients that their appeals will be heard in three months or six months - at least i can tell them something.

 

I do not feel that this tribunal is meeting its mandate.  Especially when getting a document or an idea of when the appeal is going to be heard is not at all forthcoming.

 

Please can you advise how this overwhelming back log of appeals is going to be managed? 

 

Thank you.

 

Mrs. Allison Schmidt

DCAC Inc.

 

This is the response from the Social Security Tribunal:

 

 

Dear Ms. Schmidt,

 

Your email of March 10th addressed to Murielle Brazeau regarding the Income Security Section process has been forwarded to me for response.

 

As you know, the majority of appeals initially filed with the OCRT will be deemed ready to proceed as of April 1, 2014.  In preparation for this, the Social Security Tribunal has been working on an approach to deal with this large inventory so that it may continue to process cases transferred from the OCRT fairly and as efficiently as possible.

 

On or around April 1, 2014 the Tribunal will send a letter to all Appellants whose appeals were transferred from the OCRT, as well as to their representatives, to inform them about this new approach that will be implemented to administer the appeals.  More detailed information about this process will also be available on our website.

 

We understand how difficult it is for representatives to advise their clients in this transition period and as such we have decided to hold a teleconference with yourself and other representatives where we will present the process and answer any questions.

 

Please be assured that the Tribunal is taking this very seriously and we are committed to processing this important caseload as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

 

We will be in touch with you shortly.

 

What is the new approach?

I have asked for a response and my stomach is turning because I cannot fathom what the possible "new approach" the Social Security Tribunal has in mind to manage the volume of cases and delays.  Surely after the last year of transtion they would have recognized what was coming down the pipes and now they only realize that they need a new approach?  Oh boy. Before this system was put in place by the government, and all of these people were left to languish in a new appeal system left to wait and wait and go bankrupt - now 10 days before these people will finally be able to have their cases heard - they say there will be a "new approach"

Discouraged, upset, frustrated, and dismayed for Canadians who wound up in this system.  I hope the new approach will help you all out and so now we all wait until we get another letter advising us what is next in this process.

 

 

 

 

PLEASE GET HELP IF YOU ARE DENIED CPP DISABILITY BENEFITS.

 

 

Riding on the CPP Disability Denial train.

I am so very disgusted. 

This week I finally have got some submissions from CPP disability arguing why the client still does not meet the legislative provisions of CPP disability. 

These clients are going before the Social Security Tribunal they have come over from the old Review Tribunal and have had to have their documents prepared by the March 31 deadline (which seems to have changed but I will address that later).

So this client - let's call her Shelley - I wonder if I have written about her before, but she is a young woman, a woman who had a heart attack in 2004 in which she coded.  She survived but since that incident is no longer the lady she once was.  Here are her functional limitations taken directly from her CPP disability application.

-          Sitting/standing – one to two hours of sitting at a desk her legs and ankles are all cramped and numb.  After half hour swelling, numbness, pain and dizziness occurs and blood pressure drops.

-          Hearing – comprehension is poor.

-          Walking – at Cardis Rehab she could walk for 10 minutes before her leg cramped, went numb and shortness of breath was hard to control.

-          Speaking – talking is fine but processing what she wants to say is difficult.  She has trouble finding the right words.

-          Lifting/carrying – no more than 5 pounds for a very short distance.

-          Remembering – short term memory is poor; long term memory is fuzzy at times.

-          Concentrating – after five minutes she fights sleep and can’t recall what task she is doing.

-          Bending – at times gets dizzy when she bends down.

-          Sleeping – she wakes at times because she has stopped breathing.  She has to cough her way back to breathing.  Since her heart attacks the first and second one, she wakes up at 3am and is not able to go back to sleep.  She explains it doesn’t matter what time she goes to sleep.  If she happens to get a full night sleep, she still has a hard time staying awake during the day.

-          Breathing – she has asthma.  When she does too much or walks too fast she is short of breath and is very exhausted.

-          Driving – is limited to less than an hour due to exhaustion, especially in the winter.

-          Household maintenance – after 15 minutes of shopping she becomes very weak and tired and needs to rest.  Cleaning and cooking she can do for about 10 to 15 minutes then requires rest for 15 to 30 minutes.

-          She does not have access to public transportation where she lives.


Her family doctor had mentioned in his medical report that he had noticed that she appeared to have cognitive deficits he noted that after her heart attack that she "struggled to do the work and suffered severe chest pains primarily caused by the stress she experienced to meet the deadlines.  Her short term memory was not fucntioning and routine tasks and procedures had become almost impossible."


This mid forty year old woman was unable to complete her own CPP application and her mother writes that due to her problems with comprehension and expressing herself that she had to help her complete the application.

T    The doctor notes that she had two major heart attacks in 2004 and 2011 - and that her condition was "permanent with no hope of improvement" and he goes on to say that "she is unable to perform any kind of work as she cannot walk great distances, nor stand for any prolonged period of time."

She tried to go back to work after her first heart attack from March 15 - March 30, 2005 and she was let go because she was unable to do the work.  She tried again in May 2006 to May 2007 but she was laid off because she was falling asleep at her desk. She tried again in October 2008 to May 2009 and was fired because she could not get the work done because of her "bad memory" and because she could not recall procedures under stress.  Her final attempt was in February 2012 when she tried to be self-employed with two clients but she could not concentrate or recall information and was only able to manage two pay-roll cycles.

Because Shelley had noted all of these  issues she was experiencing in terms of her memory and concentration I thought this need to be quantified objectively so I arranged for her to have a neuropsychological assessment with a trained professional.  It was a day long assessment in which Shelley and her family were interviewed.  The final results of this assessment said that there was " A pattern of CLEAR AND SIGNIFICANT objective deficits in cognitive function.  Deficits were particularly noted in the areas of attention, information processing speed and memory.  The overall pattern of the findings are consistent with acquired impariments in cognitive functioning that are out of keeping with Shelley's age and estimated pre-morbid level of intellectual functioning.  The deficits in cognitive functioning that were found ARE CONSISTENT with acquired cerebral dysfunction and are in-line with those seen in individuals with significant coronary disease and cardiac arrest...The findins are consistent with the report of every day functioning and are also of SUFFICIENT SEVERITY to translate in to significant performance-related deficits and it is my opinion that as a result, Shelley is unable to function in a competitive work environment"


After this report was received her family was relieved in a way to find out that the problems Shelley had been having since 2004 could finally be explained.  An 18 page submission was prepared providing details using the documents on file to support her appeal. 

These are the reasons I have received from the CPP Disability to deny her appeal:

Shelley continues to be overweight and to smoke and that she bears the responsibility to engage in activities to improve her medical condition.

That her medication is causing her memory and fatigue problems.

That the neuropsychological assessment happened after the MQP therefore it could not be considered.

That Shelley is non-compliant because she has not lost weight

She could do sedentary work.

That even though the medical report said that she "coded" after her heart attack there was no other documentation suggesting this occured and that she did not suffer any type of cognitive problem as a result of her CARDIAC ARREST

That she was employed gainfully after her 2004 cardiac arrest.

 

Okay the overweight argument - if you read the file you will note that she cannot exercise because she is short of breath of exertion as well she is unable to walk for longer than 10 minutes and despite her best efforts has not been able to lose weight - really CPP?  Smoking  yeah not a good thing but not a reason to deny a claim.

The SEVERE DEFICITS are noted by a well respected journal published trained expert to be as a result of her hypoxic brain injuiry due to cardiac arrest - she lost oxygen to her brain people - she coded - she had cardiac arrest - what the CPP people reading?  How arrogant to say that the memory deficits are a result of medication  - when a trained professional clearly states that is not the case - and further the argument that the neuropsych assessment happened after the MQP so it is not valid - the genesis of the disability was in 2004 she has not been the same since - she has a son who is going without - she has parents who have to help her financially - she is on welfare - she is unable to manage her home. 

She is non -compliant they say because she has not lost weight. 

She worked they say after her cardiac arrest in 2004 - I have explained what happened with her work attempts - she should be lauded for trying to attempt to work given the significance of her disability - can you imagine what it would be like to not be able to provide for your son one day and then not be able to despite how hard you try?

I am sorry I do not usually get so wound up over the CPP denials but this case has really upset me.  I cannot believe the blantant disregard for the information on file that has been evidenced by the submission of the CPP medical adjudicator.  To continue to deny this woman depsite all of the information to the contrary it is obvious to me - that this government could give a rat's ass about paying people the benefit they are entitled to after paying in to this system.  I have also mentioned how many of the submissions that I have put in to the Social Security Tribunal for clients that are legacy cases.  Despite solid medical evidence and strong support for their cases, CPP continue to submit the same denial submissions, wiith the same denial reasons, riding the same denial train.  When you look at the CPP Adjudication Framework - I believe that it is fair for me to say - that CPP Disability are deliberately flouting the policy and procedures and are only instructed to deny these cases - how else could you explain the denial that I have just described?

S

 

 

 

 

 

An

 

H

 


 


 

Social Security Tribunal - When will you get an appeal?

I have had several emails this week asking me what will happen after the 365 days expire on March 31, 2014 for the legacy appeal cases that came over to the new Social Security Tribunal from the old Review Tribunal.

Many people have asked me when they can expect that their appeals will be heard.

On March 10, 2014 I emailed the Chair of the Social Security Tribunal to ask what the strategy would be in terms of what the Social Security Tribunal will be in terms of managing this large volume of appeals - to date I have not got a response but as soon as I do I will post this information on the blog.

What I do know is that I have sent in many appeals with Notice of Readiness signed and I have not got any response from the Minister in terms of their position.  The expiry is coming up so am I to assume that they are not going to add their position?

I also know that I have sent in appeals in September 2013 and I have not had any indication when an appeal will be held.

So the short answer to when you will get an appeal - well who knows and I am hoping once I hear back from Madam Chair at the Social Security Tribunal that we will be able to have some answers.

If you are not prepared and have not submitted all of your appeal information you will need to request an Extension of time to submit the Notice of Readiness to the Social Security Tribunal.  You will need to provide reasons why you are requesting an extension.  I have been able to request extensions on files in which I have asked for additional medical and I have yet received this from the doctor.  Frankly I  think this whole Notice of Readiness process is flawed because disability is fluid and Appellants who have forward MQPS should be able to continue to submit information, also I do not feel that anyone should be prevented from providing information which will help support their appeal. 

I have noticed that the Minister's Explanation of Decision are pretty much identical in most cases - except for the name change - but basically they argue the same points everytime - you would think that they would be more creative with denials - but perhaps they have no other way but to follow the denial script.  When I have some time after this deadline expires, I will write about the Explanation and how to address these points.

Any questions please call or email, and as soon as I hear what the strategy is for the SST hearing these appeals I will advise.