National News

Fewer hearings by social security tribunal

By The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - In its first year of existence, the federal government's new social security tribunal concluded just 461 hearings on appeals launched by Canadians denied Canada Pension Plan disability and old-age security benefits — and most of those appeals were dismissed.

That's compared to thousands of hearings conducted the previous year under the old regime.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney's office recently announced 22 new part-time hires for the tribunal to help it deal with a growing backlog of more than 10,000 cases.

The tribunal, which began its work on April 1, 2013, spent its first year seriously under-staffed, with several full-time positions remaining vacant until this July.

Richard Beaulne, a spokesman for the tribunal, says the new panel "managed to conclude" almost 1,600 appeals on Canada Pension Plan and old age security cases from its first day until June 30 of this year.

But Beaulne says just 461 were "decisions on merits" resulting from actual hearings; the majority of those 1,592 appeals were agreements between all parties that the tribunal "reviewed and approved."

Of those 461 hearings, 158 were approved and 303 were dismissed, according to the tribunal — amounting to an approval rate of just 34 per cent for Canadians who have appealed decisions to deny them benefits.

The tribunal was ostensibly created 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.

Follow Lee-Anne Goodman on Twitter at @leeanne25

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