4 Reasons Why Hiring A CPP Disability Lawyer is a Mistake

While hiring a CPP Disability lawyer may seem like the most efficient way to apply for CPP Disability, doing so can end up costing you much more time, effort and money than necessary. Here are 4 reasons against it, and some much better alternatives.
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December 18, 2020 by dcci

Each year, over 25,000 working Canadians who cannot rejoin the workforce due to an illness, impairment, or accident submit a CPP Disability application to Service Canada, hoping to get approved.

Applying to the CPP-D can be done by anyone eligible (we will touch on that shortly), but most Canadians choose one of the following options when preparing their CPP-D application:

  1. The “DIY” option – Printing out forms, taking them to their doctor, and submitting them to Service Canada themselves
  2. Hiring a company specialized in CPP Disability applications
  3. Hiring a CPP Disability lawyer

Each person has different circumstances and will make their decision accordingly. Still, many believe that hiring a CPP Disability lawyer will increase their chances of approval or that it is necessary to hire a lawyer to represent you during the appeal process – this, however, is not the case.  

Throughout this article, we will dispel this notion and share the four main reasons hiring a CPP Disability lawyer to help you with your CPP-D application or appeal is not your best option and at times could be a mistake.

What is CPP Disability?

Before jumping into why a CPP-D disability lawyer isn’t needed or required, let’s first cover what CPP Disability is.

The Canada Pension Plan (in Quebec, called the Quebec Pension Plan, i.e. QPP) came into effect on January 1st, 1966 because the Canadian government was facing a severe shortfall for the old age security program (OAS) and needed to fund the pensions of future retirees. Since then, all working Canadians are to pay a percentage of their income into the Canada Pension Plan through their employer and these contributions are saved for when they retire and start drawing from that money.

The CPP Disability program is an integral part of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). It is meant to replace a portion of your income if you’re under 65 and can no longer work due to severe and prolonged medical impairments.

The CPP-D is available to you only if you have contributed substantially to the CPP over the years (we will discuss the contribution requirements later in the article) and are under 65. 

If approved for the CPP-D you can receive:

  1. A one-time retroactive payment – covering the time frame since you had to stop working (up to 18 months)
  2. A monthly payment – a set amount decided according to your past contributions to be paid to you until you reach 65 when the regular pension plan kicks in.

There are three criteria that you must meet to be eligible for the CPP-D, including: 

  • You must be between the ages of 18 and 65
  • You must have contributed to the Canada Pension Plan in four of the last six years, or three of the previous six years if you contributed to CPP for 25 years or more. 
  • You must show that your physical or mental disability is considered severe or prolonged.

For a disability to be considered severe, it must prevent you from regularly pursuing any substantially gainful employment. For a disability to be considered prolonged, it must be regarded as long, continued, or indefinite duration or is likely to result in death. We keep an updated list of disabilities to inform you about the types eligible for credit and help you apply. 

Also, if you qualify for CPP-D, you are eligible for a flat-rate monthly benefit for any children you have under the age of 18 or up to the age of 25 if they are attending school full-time.  

To learn more about the CPP-D, read our comprehensive CPP Disability guide that walks you through everything you need to know before applying.

The 4 Reasons Hiring a CPP Disability Lawyer May Be a Mistake

With only 40% of all first-time applicants getting approved for CPP-D, many will seek assistance to improve their chances of being accepted. You can choose a few different options when looking for help with your application, but in this next section, we will share four reasons why choosing a CPP disability lawyer isn’t in your best interest.

With only 40% of all first-time applicants getting approved for CPP-D, many will seek assistance to improve their chances of being accepted. You can choose a few different options when looking for help with your application, but in this next section, we will share four reasons why choosing a CPP disability lawyer isn’t in your best interest.

Service Canada Doesn’t Require CPP Disability Lawyer

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding CPP disability lawyers is that they are needed or required by Service Canada during the CPP-D appeal process. 

Following the denial of your CPP-D claim, you have the option to appeal your case. You can then provide more information regarding your claim and ask for a reconsideration. From there, your claim will receive a second review by a different medical adjudicator. If denied again, you may appeal the decision to the Social Security Tribunal (SST). The SST consists of levels: the General Level and the Appeals Level – this is where most applicants “believe” a lawyer is necessary.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Appeal a CPP Disability Ruling?

The truth is anyone can appeal the decision made by the Appeal Division; this includes a claimant, a beneficiary, the Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada, or an added party. Hence there is no need to hire a lawyer to represent you or argue on your behalf, so hiring a lawyer is an unnecessary additional expense.

CPP Disability Lawyers Fees add up

So, how much does it cost to hire CPP Disability Lawyers? 

Most CPP Disability lawyers work on a no-win, no-fee basis, meaning that they only get paid if they win the case and your CPP-D application gets approved. CPP-D lawyers usually charge around 35% of the one-time retroactive settlement you receive following your CPP-D claim’s approval on top of other additional fees. 

Extra fees you wouldn’t usually face when applying for CPP-D come from lawyers taking over a large portion of the application process. These fees include: 

  • Assessment fees for the examination performed by a doctor to evaluate your disability
  • Fees for processing and preparing documents that are needed to apply to CPP-D 
  • The hourly rate for the lawyer with most costing between $300-$400

With the right resources and knowledge, you could win your claim or appeal on your own. However, if you seek outside help from a professional, you are better off enlisting the help of an advocate or a CPP-D firm as they work solely on no-win, no-fee terms with no additional fees. 

CPP Disability Lawyers Prefer Appeals and Tribunals 

In most cases, CPP disability lawyers will not take on CPP-D cases if the application is in its early stages. Instead, lawyers prefer to take on CPP-D cases in the appeal phase because if the case is in its early stages, the one-time, retroactive payment will not be sufficient enough to cover their expenses or valuable time.

The CPP-D retroactive payment is a one-time payment you receive when approved for the benefit. The payment covers up to 18 months to compensate you for the months passed until your application’s approval. 

To calculate the amount you can earn from a retroactive pay, multiply the months between when you applied and your application’s acceptance by the regular monthly amount you will be earning from CPP-D. 

Following your application’s submission, there is a four-month waiting period before you hear back from the CRA. If denied, you can appeal the decision up to three times. Each stage of the appeal process, including the reconsideration of your case, the Social Security Tribunal (SST) at the General Level, and SST at the Appeals Level, also take a few months each. 

Going through all of these stages could take up to a year or more, causing the retroactive payment to grow. So you may be asking, would hiring a CPP disability lawyer expedite the claim and appeal process? 

The answer is not so clear – CPP Disability lawyers have little incentive to take on cases that end quickly. The longer your case goes on, the larger your retroactive payment will be, making prolonged cases the only way retroactive payments would be enough to cover a lawyer’s expenses and valuable time.

CPP Disability Lawyers Don’t Help Formulate Your Case

In most cases, a CPP disability lawyer will gather the various documents (medical and others) and refer you to the medical practitioners they usually work with to assess your impairments and provide them with a report. Once the documents are collected, the lawyer will submit them to Service Canada as part of your application.

In some cases, this process may work; however, some CPP-D applications may be more challenging to prove and require a deep understanding of how the applicant’s impairments need actual case formulation to get approved.

In our experience, most applicants believe they are eligible for CPP-D because of their impairment and their CPP-D, so they underestimate the need for proper documentation and case formulation. The problem is that you won’t know if you have adequately formulated your case until it’s too late, as you only find out following the denial of your application. Therefore, if your impairment is complex and requires case formulation, you are better off hiring a specialized CPP Disability firm to handle your application.

What Are Some CPP Disability Lawyer Alternatives? 

With all of the reasons listed above, you may be wondering if there are other alternatives to hiring lawyers for CPP-D. Luckily, there are a few different options, all with pros and cons of their own. 

Here we will break down three different alternatives to hiring lawyers for CPP-D to educate you about your options. 

Apply Independently (DIY Approach)

Technically, applying for the CPP-D is not that difficult and thanks to the extensive literature on the internet, all of the resources and information you need to apply are readily available. We cover the application process in depth in our Ultimate CPP Disability Guide.

To apply for the Canadian Pension Plan Disability Benefit on your own, you will only need to fill out two forms: 

  • The CPP Disability Benefits Form (ISP-1151), which includes personal information about you and your condition
  • ; and the Medical Reporting Form (ISP-2519), which a health practitioner must fill out.

After completing both forms, you must find your nearest Service Canada to find out where to submit your application. 

If your CPP-D application was denied you must consider your next steps carefully because appealing the decision is possible but limited and you must work much harder to prove your claim as further along you go. This is where you should pause, rethink your “DIY” strategy and consider hiring a firm that is specialized in CPP Disability applications and reconsiderations.

Licensed Paralegals

Paralegals are regulated and licensed legal professionals with one to two years of general legal education. Paralegals are very much like CPP Disability lawyers when it comes to CPP-D applications. They are not needed nor required and their handling of your CPP-D application is purely technical, they can do the paperwork but can they handle complex difficult cases?

The arguments we made regarding the CPP-D lawyers also apply to paralegals.

Advocates for CPP Disability

There are several disability advocacy groups in Canada. Disability advocates provide support, information, and one-to-one assistance when applying and appealing the denial of CPP-D. Unlike lawyers and paralegals, advocates for CPP disability are unlicensed.

Advocates will help you with filling out and submitting forms, provide information through articles, workshops, and webinars to educate you, and offer free legal clinics and social

workers’ assistance when applying. 

Some advocacy groups may offer their services for free or for a flat fee but can they get you approved? Are they incentivized to work hard for you?

Specialized CPP Disability Firms

Specialized CPP disability firms, such as Disability Credit Canada, are professional teams dedicated solely to CPP-D claims and appeals. These firms are teams of experts that have vast experience working on a variety of disabilities and complicated CPP-D cases making them very familiar with the process’s ins and outs.

Specialized CPP disability firms operate on a no win-no fee agreement therefore they are incentivized to get you approved. Unlike hiring a CPP Disability law firm, hiring a firm specializing in CPP disability ensures you’re hiring a professional team hyper-focused on CPP Disability cases just like yours, they will formulate a case for you and will more than likely lead to faster approval due to their extensive knowledge of the process.

About Disability Credit Canada

Disability Credit Canada (DCCI) is different from other firms that specialize in CPP-D cases as we take extra steps to ensure we stand above the rest. What sets DCCI apart is our team of professionals with medical degrees, social work degrees, and experience with disabled people and medical assessments.

We will work with you one on one throughout the entire process, starting with interviewing you to ensure we can formulate a case tailored around your disability and personal circumstances. We also set you up with a doctor to evaluate your disability, collect and help you complete any necessary documents, covering any fees that may arise, unlike CPP-D lawyers. 

At Disability Credit Canada, we understand the financial burdens that can accompany disabilities. Our goal is to educate you on your rights and the government support you can attain for your disability. We will help you get the most out of your CPP-D application so that you can feel confident about your claim, whether you are applying for yourself, your child, or your spouse.

We are dedicated to providing you with the information you need to get the most out of your CPP-D application. 

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