EI and CPP Appeals consolidation begins

Regulations guiding the new Social Security Tribunal came into force April 1st, 2013, and are available online at the Canada Gazette.  The SST combines the first and second level of client appeals for CPP, OAS, and EI into one tribunal.

HRSDC expects that the changes will result in $25 million in annual savings, due to centralized administration and the magic of electronic technology. Critics point out that cuts to Service Canada staff and confusing changes to Employment Insurance rules (such as the definition of suitable employment) are likely to result in a large number of clients with good cause to appeal. This is not the best time to completely overhaul an entire appeals process.

Sceptics also wonder if the changes in the appeals process, and the predictable increase in the backlog, were designed to discourage claimants from making an appeal in the first place. In the new process, as far as we understand it at this point, claimants must request reconsideration of the decision that they disagree with, file an appeal, justify their appeal if the Tribunal gives them notice that they are considering summary dismissal, request permission to appeal a decision by the SST, make a final appeal, and then one may take their case to the Federal Court system if necessary.

Causing further concern is the fact that appointments to the SST have been one-sided, compared to the balanced tripartite Board of Referees process.  For example, a former Conservative MLA is the only Nova Scotian that has been appointed to the SST so far.

The commentary following the regulations in the Gazette assures Canadians that efficiency will not trump the delivery of natural justice. Only time will tell.

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