Saturday, February 6, 2016

This week, Canada’s Auditor General Michael Ferguson released a damning report on the state of the Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD) program. Among his findings:

  • More than one-half of Canadians who initially applied for CPPD benefits were denied. In the 2014-15 fiscal year, that meant 39,707 or 57 percent were denied. 
  • Canadians who wished to appeal their denial of benefits had to wait on average for almost 2.5 years or more than twice as long to get a decision under the Social Security Tribunal (SST) than the previous system. The SST was set up under the Conservatives and has been a disaster. Since it was set up in 2013, backlogged appeals have grown to 10,871 cases.
  • One in three Canadians who filed appeals to the SST in fact qualified for the CPPD benefits, even though they were denied at the first two levels of decision-making. 
  • Even terminally ill applicants found themselves waiting longer for a decision on benefit eligibility. Only 7 percent of terminally ill applicants had a decision within 48 hours in 2015. 

“Many Canadians with long-lasting and severe disabilities are waiting for years to see if they can even access Canada Pension Plan Disability benefits. It’s a disgrace,” said Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff. 

Working Canadians, even the self-employed, contribute to the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP). CPP Disability benefits are designed to support CPP contributors who find themselves no longer able to work regularly due to “severe and prolonged disability.” The CPPD is not a government income support program funded through taxes but a national, public long-term disability program funded through worker and employer contributions. 

Canadians who paid into the CPP should be able to access benefits when they need it most. Among CPPD applicants are Canadians who have terminal illnesses such as stage III or IV cancer, or grave conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and paranoid schizophrenia. 

However, applying for CPPD takes tenacity. Imagine living with a severe and prolonged disability and having to complete an application kit with eight documents totaling 42 pages.

Even if you are approved, CPPD benefits are modest and is only a partial replacement for income. For 2015, the average monthly CPPD benefit is $928.08 and the maximum monthly amount is $1,264.59, based on CPP contributions during the applicant’s working years. If you are also eligible for workers compensation or private disability benefits, the CPPD amount is often deducted from that. 

Canadians who have exhausted all options to qualify for CPPD often have to turn to social assistance for help as a last resort.

The long list of flaws in the CPPD program penalizes Canadians who are already vulnerable and need to draw on the national public long-term disability program. 

“The CPPD program needs to be fixed. Canadian workers should not be forced through an arduous application process and years of appeals to get the help they need when they need it most,” said Yussuff. 

Requirement to qualify for CPPD:
Severe means that you have a mental or physical disability that regularly stops you from doing any type of substantially gainful work. Prolonged means your disability is likely to be long-term and last indefinitely or is likely to result in death.
Source: Canada Pension Plan