Recently, budget cuts and changes at the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Social Security Tribunal have begun to sow discontent within the disabled community. It seems to some that CPP administrators are not making good faith efforts to address the problems created by changes in the CPP disability benefits application process along with the challenges created by shrinking resources. On the front end of the process this seeming administrative indifference is manifest in ever smaller numbers of applications being approved on the first go round. On the back end of the process it can be seen in changes made to the appeals system that makes that process more hostile than ever toward the disabled.
Your CPP Disability Benefits Application and the New CPP
The purpose of CPP disability benefits is to help prevent contributors to the CPP program from falling into economic hardship if a disability makes it impossible for them to work. To some advocates for the disabled it seems CPP administrators are evading their responsibilities in this regard by responding to budget cuts and staff reductions by “getting tough” with the CPP disability benefits application process. Here are some of the things they cite to support their argument:
- Decreasing Approvals – The approval rate for initial applications has been steadily declining and today stands at just about 40% – one of the lowest acceptance rates for similar programs in any developed country. The reasons given by CPP administrators? Poorly filled out paperwork, failure on the applicant’s part to obtain proper supporting materials, doctor’s forms improperly filled out, or failure to make a case that the applicant is unable to work.
- A Decreasing Number of Successful Appeals – Today just over 40% of initial appeals are successful; another number that has been steadily declining in recent years. In addition applicants are typically given little by way of explanation regarding why their appeal was rejected which makes it even hard to take their appeal to the next level.
- Appeal Backlog – Primarily due to budget cuts the list of those waiting to appeal their initial denial now includes more than 7,000 people. When you consider that Social Security Tribunals heard less than 500 cases last year you start to realize just how big a deal a waiting list of 7,000 really is. Many of the people on the list face the real possibility of dying in poverty while CPP tries to get its act together.
- Changes to Tribunal Rules – Of the relatively tiny number of cases that actually reach Social Security Tribunals new rules now make it possible for many to be summarily dismissed. In addition, you no longer are guaranteed the right to have your case heard in person. These procedural changes are intended, says CPP, to help clear the appeals backlog. Many advocates for the disabled however, see them as a way to discourage new applicants.
- Changes to Tribunal Structure – Until recently tribunals were composed of a lawyer, a medical professional and an unbiased member of the community. New changes to tribunal law have reduced the number of tribunal members from 3 to 1, with the unbiased member of the community being done away with altogether. Again, CPP says this will help streamline the process while advocates say it simply stifles debate.
- Denial of New Evidence – Until recently a claimant was able to present new evidence in support of their case at every level of the CPP disability application appeals process. This is no longer the case. Not only do you stand a slimmer chance of actually having your appeal heard by a tribunal but that “tribunal” is now just a single individual who will not allow you to introduce new evidence on your behalf; that is, if they decide to see you in person at all.
These changes to the CPP disability benefits application process are upsetting too many individuals who believed the system they paid into their whole lives would have their back if something happened to them. Instead of concern they now receive what seems more and more like disdain for their situation and a kind of institutional indifference that many thought developed nations had moved beyond.
The Best Defence is a Good Offense
The best way to defend yourself against an increasingly hostile benefits system is to make sure you don’t provide them with reasons to reject your application and/or appeal. The best way to do that is to make sure you have your ducks in a row before embarking on the application process. Disability Credit Canada will make sure all your CPP disability benefits application materials are properly filled out, comprehensive, properly signed and certified and properly filed. Should your initial application still be turned down we’ll stick with you through every phase of the appeal so that you can be sure you have the best possible chance to gain approval.