Insult to Injury: A Need for Canadian Pension Plan Disability Reform

There have been a whole laundry list of problems that have come to light around the Canadian Pension Plan Disability (CPPD) benefits program. This program is designed to take care of the most vulnerable Canadians. The purpose of the CPPD program, the country’s largest public disability insurance program, is to replace a portion of the earnings of contributors who cannot work due to a severe and prolonged disability.

The Canadian workforce pays into the CPPD pot. Doing so makes you a contributor. The idea behind this program is to give financial relief to Canadians that suffer from some sort of prolonged and severe disability. This program is meant to work in a timely fashion by getting Canadians the benefits that they paid into the pot. CPPD has had many issues over the years and has made the terrible scenario of coping with a disability much worse.

In 2014 the CPPD program had an initial application rejection rate of close to 60%. This means that 6 out of 10 Canadians that were applying to have access to the money and benefits that they paid into were denied. This is one of the highest rejection rates in the world (among nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).

If this news wasn't disturbing enough it gets worse. To alleviate the backlog Employment and Social Development Canada reviewed the files of appellants who were waiting for a decision from the Social Security Tribunal and found that 1/3 were eligible for benefits. This begs the question, why does the success rate of the appeal process have close to the same success rate of the initial application process? Some may say that this is just the short comings of the bureaucratic process. Others feel that the process is meant to be difficult as a way of delaying or discouraging Canadians from claiming their benefits.

There have been many issues with the CPP disability program that have been brought to light over the last few years. The Auditor General just recently released a report outlining these problems. The government would tell us that the system in place is broken and needs to be fixed. A more cynical view may be that perhaps by giving long wait times and high rejection rates the program is doing exactly what it is designed to do. So we may need to think about it a different way. The current CPPD system and procedures are not broken and require fixing, rather they are working and need to be broken. If we as Canadians don't stand up for our most vulnerable, than who will?