Social security panel stops tracking appeals

By: Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press

 | Aug 21, 2014 - 12:54 PM |
OTTAWA - Canada's new social security tribunal has suddenly stopped tracking the results of thousands of appeals launched by ailing Canadians after they've been denied Canada Pension Plan disability benefits.

In documents obtained via the Access to Information Act and provided to The Canadian Press, the federal employment ministry says it "does not track" how many appeals have been allowed and dismissed since the tribunal's inception a year ago.

The documents are dated Aug. 11, 2014. In May, however, the government provided the results of more than 300 appeals, the majority of which were dismissed.

The tribunal was created in April 2013 to provide a more efficient appeal process for employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan and old age security decisions. The Conservatives said the new system would save taxpayers $25 million annually.

With fewer than 70 full-time members, the tribunal took over thousands of appeals of income-security cases from an old board of hundreds of part-time referees. Most of those cases involve Canadians who were denied CPP disability benefits.

The latest documents show the tribunal is dealing with an ever-swelling backlog of more than 10,000 ongoing appeals. The head of the tribunal, Murielle Brazeau, recently warned Employment Minister Jason Kenney that the tribunal is struggling to manage the caseload.

In response, Kenney's office said Thursday it's authorizing the hiring 22 additional part-time employees on the tribunal to help tackle the backlog.

The tribunal did not immediately respond to queries about why it stopped tracking appeal results. Under the old regime, appeal decisions were published online and the so-called review tribunal made the statistics public in its annual report.

Allison Schmidt, a Regina-based disability claims advocate and consultant, said she "smells a rat" in the government's recent failure to track how many appeals are allowed or dismissed by the tribunal.

She adds she suspects the Conservatives don't want the public to know how many appeals are being denied.

"Surely the tribunal must know the results of their work," Schmidt said in an interview.

"It is ludicrous to assume that a quasi-judicial administrative government agency would not know the results of the appeals they conduct. All they have to do is count them; the decisions are all on file. What about transparency?"

Follow Lee-Anne Goodman on Twitter @leeanne25

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