Helen Smith was a 46-year-old woman who suddenly began suffering cognitive impairment, chronic pain, muscle weakness and fatigue. She tried to remain at work as a sales consultant, but by February 2010, she had to stop working due to her symptoms.
Helen underwent numerous medical tests, and doctors could not agree on the cause of the symptoms. Helen moved out of the province, which further complicated her situation. She had to find new doctors and medical providers.
Unfortunately, her new doctors were not supportive and even questioned if she was exaggerating or lying about her symptoms.
Does Own Appeal and Loses
Service Canada seized on the negative comments by the new doctors as a reason to deny Helen’s claim for disability benefits.
Helen handled her own appeal but was denied again because she didn’t have a firm medical diagnosis and because of the negative comments by her new doctors.
Helen changed doctors — again.
Helen appealed to the Social Security Tribunal and planned to represent herself with help from her husband. Helen got notice that her hearing was scheduled before the Tribunal.
As her hearing date approached, Helen became worried that she would again lose her appeal. She felt overwhelmed by the process. Her husband contracted Resolute Legal after ordering our Free Guide: The CPP Disability Approval Blueprint.
Helen Hires Resolute Legal… At the Last Minute
By the time Helen contacted us, her hearing was only a few weeks away, and the deadline for filing new documents and submissions had already passed. Not ideal.
We rarely take on cases this late in the process because our ability to win the case is severely limited. This is because it’s too late for us to get new medical information or send written submissions to the Tribunal Judge. This puts us at a big disadvantage.
Upon reviewing Helen’s information, we knew she was an honest person. She had been unfairly judged by doctors who didn’t understand her condition.
It was also clear that her appeals were done poorly. There was very little medical information or records included as part of her appeals. Helen had recently seen two new doctors who had given more favourable opinions, but she had not included their records or reports as part of the appeal.
We ordered copies of these records but didn’t receive them from the doctors until two days before the tribunal hearing. We gave these records to the judge at the hearing, but the judge refused to accept the documents because they were filed late.
We had anticipated that this might happen, so we had arranged for one of Helen’s new doctors to testify as a witness at the tribunal hearing. He called in and gave his testimony by teleconference. His testimony was critical to winning the case, and I have no doubts we would not have won had we not arranged for him to testify.
A second problem with Helen’s case was that she tried to prove her disability at the current time (2015). This was a problem. For her to win CPP disability, she had to prove she was disabled in December 2009 —not 2015! She had built her entire case around showing she was disabled at the present time. We changed things up and presented her case at the hearing to show she was totally disabled as of December 2009.
Finally, the third major problem was that Helen did not stop working until February 2010. Remember, she had to show she was totally disabled as of December 2009. We got around this by focusing on Helen’s testimony and reviewing the evidence at the time to show that she was totally disabled even though she “technically” continued to work for two months after December 2009.
Even though we encountered several setbacks in this case, we still ended up winning. We knew what the issues were, and we made sure we addressed them. However, not everyone is always that lucky. If another person made the same mistakes Helen did, it might have cost them the lawsuit.
So, What Can You Learn?
There are a few learning opportunities from this case.
Don’t wait until the last minute to hire a disability lawyer. We won this case by the skin of our teeth. We could have won this case much more easily if we had been involved earlier on when we could have gathered the right medical information and prepared written submissions to Service Canada and the Tribunal Judge. We were able to win the case by getting the doctor to testify at the hearing and by re-focusing the case on proving disability back in 2009 rather than just in 2015. I have no doubt that Helen would have lost this case had she not hired us and made these changes to her appeal strategy.
Don’t use a bare minimum approach to your appeals. Helen made the classic mistake of taking what we call the “bare minimum” approach. This means she provided very little evidence or medical records in support of her case. She relied too heavily on her own written submissions and testimony. This case was almost lost because she did not have the right medical records provided as part of her appeal.
Make sure you know “when” you have to prove you were disabled. Helen was focused on proving she was disabled in 2015. This was a mistake because she actually had to prove she was disabled as of December 2009! This is a very common mistake that people make when handling their own appeals. We had to totally change how her case was presented.
We provide these real-life success stories so you can see how we handle cases. We use these case studies to help show you what it takes to win a CPP disability appeal. With that said, success in past cases does not mean that we would be successful with your case, even if you have the same type of medical condition or life circumstances.
** All names have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients**
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