Is CPP disability turning into a tax grab?
July 11th, 2014 - 3:38pm
People who had been denied federal disability benefits were thrown a curve ball as new rules have stripped them of their right to have an appeal in person. Where in the past individuals were able to meet face to face with an adjudicator, they will no longer be legally entitled to this method of final appeal. The change in policy reflects a government attempt at cost cutting for adjudicators but the problem appears to be how many people may be cast aside as the government works through a backlog that was already growing before the change was made.
In the past there were 350 individuals across the regions who heard appeals to applications that had been denied. Now those part time positions are scrapped and have been replaced by a centralized panel of 35 full time individuals who make up the Social Security Tribunal. While this new tribunal did inherit a significant backlog, they have not made a dent and a full year later the number has grown by more than 25%. For people waiting to hear their fate, this news is not good. Factor in the inability for any recourse on the tribunals decision and the outcome could be devastating for applicants who truly require the benefit.
It is important to remember that CPP disability benefits are only made available to people who have paid into the pension plan and can no longer work because of an ailment. This is not a handout, but an insured safety net that applicants have contributed to throughout their working lives. Too often the Conservative government has misrepresented social programs in a way that does not reflect the fact that the people accessing them have also contributed to them. Pensions and employment insurance are constantly being undermined by penny pinching budgets that threaten to turn contributions into nothing more than taxes.
Until these changes came into effect an individual whose paper application was found insufficient had the right to tell a three-person review tribunal why that decision may be wrong. Now these applicants can be dismissed at any stage and have no legal right to a final appeal process - which has changed decisions in the past.
People who have been waiting are getting nervous as the tribunal seems to have set plowing through the backlog as their overarching priority, instead of ensuring that those who truly deserve the benefit receive it. Imagine how crushing it would be to have lost the ability to work, waited years on an application for a benefit you have paid into, found your case summarily denied, and be left with no course for appeal because of the government’s desire to save money – probably for a splashy pre-election budget.
People pay into these benefits in good faith. The government appears to be using them as a source of revenue instead of what they are designed to do. They brag about low taxes, but in truth they are just spreading the misery to places where they hope fewer Canadians will notice.