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've had the opportunity to see lots of examples of what works and what doesn't when it comes to winning an appeal.

While each CPP disability appeal is unique, there is 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?

the "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 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 in situations where the disability is caused by a very clear and visible source (cancer, amputation, paraplegia, loss of vision, etc).

However, if your disability is caused by a chronic medical condition (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.

Why? 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 
  3. Your credibility is critical. 

It's hard — if not impossible — to address these issues using a bare minimum approach.

Let's take a look at each one in more detail. 

Three Reasons Why a Bare Minimum Approach to CPP Disability Claims DoesN't 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 it 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, question your motives, or believe you may be exaggerating your problems.

Disability claim appeals involving invisible illnesses must be handled very carefully. Your personal credibility is 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 mentioned this above, but credibility is key 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

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

For example, one of the key tactics for winning your disability appeal is to present a persuasive story to the decision-maker.

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 of why you can’t work even though many other people with your medical condition can. 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.

Next Steps

Learn the other key tactics we use by ordering our CPP disability appeal checklist.


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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.