Are You Making This Mistake With Your CPP Disability Appeal?

By David Brannen

Has your CPP disability claim been denied? Are you planning on doing your own CPP disability appeal? Do you want to learn the secrets for maximizing your chances of winning?

This article is part of our Ultimate Guide to CPP Disability. 

As a disability lawyer who works on CPP disability appeals for many people, I have the opportunity to see lots of examples of what works and doesn’t work...when it comes to winning an appeal.

While each CPP disability appeal is unique, there is without-a-doubt a common mistake I see with every winnable CPP claim that has been denied. I know these cases were winnable because I have been able to win after my clients had already had one or two denials from Service Canada.

So what is this big mistake you must avoid?

Using a "Bare Minimum" Approach for Your CPP Disability Appeal

The biggest mistake you can make is doing the bare minimum with your CPP disability appeal.

By “bare minimum”, I mean you are limiting yourself to doing only those things that are required to have a complete application or appeal. For example, in terms of the application for CPP disability benefits, it means you only submit the required forms and little else. For a CPP disability appeal, it means you simply write a short letter asking for a reconsideration, and at best, ask your doctor to write another report.

It is possible for some people to win using the bare minimum approach, such as in situations where the disability is caused by a very clear and visible source (e.g., Cancer, amputation, paraplegia, loss of vision, etc).

However, if your disability is caused by a chronic medical condition (e.g., chronic pain, arthritis, mental illness, chronic fatigue, epilepsy, Fibromyalgia, Lyme Disease, etc), then the bare minimum approach has a very low chance of success for you.


There are a few reasons that are very closely related: 1) Your symptoms are invisible; 2) The same medical condition can result in a spectrum of disability severity; and 3) Your credibility is critical. It is hard if not impossible to address these issues using a bare minimum approach.

Let's take a look at each one.

Three Reasons Why the Bare Minimum Approach to CPP Disability Claims Does Not Work

1. Your symptoms and disability are invisible

For most people, seeing is believing. When people can't see something, they are more likely to believe that thing doesn't exist. Most chronic medical conditions are invisible. These invisible conditions are real, but others can't see the condition or its effects on you. When others can't easily see your medical conditions and disability, they are more likely to doubt you. They are more likely to question your motives or believe you may be exaggerating your problems. Disability claim appeals involving invisible illness must be handled very carefully. Your personal credibility will be paramount. Your appeal should focus on identifying and addressing any issues that would reduce your credibility in the eyes of a judge. 

 2. The same medical condition can result in a spectrum of disability severity

Most chronic medical conditions result in a spectrum of disability: from very little disability at one end of the spectrum, to high levels of disability at the other end.  You need to prove where you fit on that spectrum of disability. This is why a medical diagnosis is not the key to winning CPP disability benefits...and this is where many people go wrong.

For example, simply having a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia is not enough to win payment of CPP disability. Fibromyalgia results in a spectrum of disability that is different from person to person. Many people with Fibromyalgia have minimal disability and can work. To win CPP disability payments for Fibromyalgia, you must show that your disability is severe. This is not easy to do if you limit yourself to the bare minimum approach to your application and appeals.

3. Your Credibility is Critical

I have already mentioned this above, but credibility is the key issue in any disability appeal involving a chronic medical condition. For example, symptoms of chronic pain or fatigue can't be measured with an x-ray or other medical tests. There is no way to independently verify how much pain you are in, or how fatigued you are.

Credibility.jpgMany people have prejudices and biases (conscious or subconscious) against people who claim disability related to chronic illness. This means that you have to do everything possible to improve or bolster your credibility in the eyes of the CPP disability appeals reviewer and/or tribunal judge.

If you stick to the bare minimum approach, there are few opportunities to bolster your believability and credibility.

A comprehensive approach is the key to winning your CPP disability appeal

So if you used the bare minimum approach with your initial application (and got a denial), then it is critical that you now take a comprehensive approach with your appeals. Using a comprehensive approach is how some disability lawyers (including myself) are able to win disability appeals that have already been denied one or two times.

I have written a free guide that sets out the exact approach I use to win CPP disability appeals for my clients. I have called it the CPP Disability Benefits Claim Approval Blueprint. I call it a "blueprint" because it has the exact process (or blueprint) that my law firm uses on all CPP disability appeals for our own clients.

I didn’t invent all of the strategies and tactics in the Guide, rather I have learned most of these approaches from top disability lawyers in Canada and the United States. I’ve tested them out and refined them for CPP disability appeals.

Lets look at one of the key tactics from the Guide.

The Key Tactics for Winning Your CPP Disability Claim

1. Develop a Persuasive Story for Your CPP Disability Appeal

Top trial lawyers know that storytelling is the most effective way to persuade  and convince others of your point of view. When information is presented as a story, it is more interesting and easy to understand.

persuasive narrative.jpgWhen preparing your CPP disability appeal, your focus must be on developing a persuasive story that both enhances your credibility and proves you are disabled from work.

To be persuasive, your story must be authentic and fit with all the facts about your situation (both good and bad facts). Your story must address key issues like why you had to stop working when you did. Why could you work the day before you stopped working, but not work on the day you stopped?

Your story must address the issue for why you can’t work, even though many other people with your medical condition can do so. Most importantly, your story must show how you have struggled to remain in the workforce, but have finally reached the breaking point.

Once you develop a story for your case, you then go about gathering all the evidence and medical opinions to support your story.

Persuasive storytelling is just one of the secret strategies that I discuss in the CPP Disability Benefits Claim Approval Blueprint. Others include:

  • How to supplement the claim forms with information that will help you win
  • Getting written statements from key witnesses
  • Giving guidance to doctors on how to write better medical reports
  • Getting your own medical testing, assessments and reports
  • Writing an appeal brief for the appeal adjudicator or tribunal judge

Final Thoughts

We believe using the bare minimum approach is the number one reason your legitimate CPP disability claim will be denied. By bare minimum approach, we mean that you have submitted the minimum of information, forms and documents. You have not considered organizing your appeal around a compelling story. You haven't taken a comprehensive approach with gathering supporting documents or addressing key issues. We have created a system to maximize our client's chances of winning CPP disability payments. We call this the CPP Disability Approval Blueprint System. Click below to order your own free copy of the Guide.

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Tags: CPP Disability

David Brannen
Founder & Managing Lawyer, Resolute Legal
As Resolute Legal's managing lawyer, David spends his days representing people with disability claims and overseeing other disability lawyers within the firm. David is a former occupational therapist and is one of the few lawyers in Canada who focus exclusively on disability-related claims. David is the author of A Beginner's Guide to Disability Insurance Claims in Canada and The Beginner's Guide to CPP Disability.

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