Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Social Security Tribunal says more than 14,600 Canadians are now waiting for a hearing

Social Development

    Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday the chair of the Social Security Tribunal confirmed that there are significant delays in the processing of cases: 14,677 cases are languishing on her desk.

    At this rate it will take 11 years to clear the backlog just for the income security section. That is shameful. For over a year, Ms. Brazeau has been in regular contact with the minister about the lack of staff at the tribunal, but the minister is asleep at the switch.

How can the minister allow such an administrative nightmare?

    Mr. Speaker, thanks to my department's efficiency, we have seen a 90% decrease in employment insurance appeals. That means that almost 90% of cases are handled by public servants, without appeal. The service is quicker.

    In the case of Quebeckers, the Government of Quebec has its own appeal process for benefits paid by the Quebec pension plan, which does not fall under the Social Security Tribunal.

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the chair of the Social Security Tribunal told the human resources committee that she had been in continuous contact with the minister regarding the backlog. Yet, for 18 months now, that backlog has continued to grow, while the tribunal has been understaffed and working without performance standards. More than 14,600 Canadians are now waiting for a hearing.

    Why did the minister not take action sooner to address the enormous mess at the Social Security Tribunal?

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, again, in fact our ministry did take action by introducing a new approach toward reconsideration of EI refusals. That now happens quickly, by a public servant who, remarkably, actually picks up a phone and calls the person who has asked for a reconsideration, and sorts it out, often getting additional documentation.

    This means that we are now resolving about 90% of those refusals at a reconsideration stage in a matter of weeks, without having to go through a lengthy multi-month quasi-judicial process.

    In terms of the CPP cases before the tribunal, we are adding additional decision makers and taking other administrative measures to speed up the process.

Mr. Mike Sullivan (York South—Weston, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, behind every one of those numbers is a person who needs to put food on the table and pay the bills.

    People cannot wait years for the government to get its act together. Nearly 10,000 Canadians still waiting for an appeal are living with a disability. In many cases the uncertainty and stress of financial insecurity makes their medical conditions worse.

    Will the minister commit to eliminate the backlog and finally give these Canadians the justice they need and deserve?

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, CPC):  
    Yes, I will, Mr. Speaker. That is, in part, why we have legislation before the House in the budget implementation act, which we hope the NDP will support. This would allow us to hire up to an additional 22 decision makers at the tribunal. 

    I am very pleased to highlight that the faster informal reconsideration process for refused EI applications means a 90% reduction in the caseload for EI, meaning we can reallocate those decision makers over to the income security division. This means we will get at that backlog of cases so we can provide the kind of service that Canadians expect and deserve.

Source: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=2&DocId=6781650#Int-8510994

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