Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadians with Terminal Illnesses Face New Rules in Test for Speedy Benefits

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadians with Terminal Illnesses Face New Rules in Test for Speedy Benefits

Article excerpt

Feds re-do benefit test for terminal Canadians


OTTAWA - The people who walk into Ilene Shiller's office are usually more stressed about their finances than the diagnosis that they only have a short time left to live.

Shiller helps terminally ill Canadians fill out the forms needed to receive a federal disabilities pension and hear back from officials in short order about whether they qualify for benefits.

In a few weeks, these Canadians will face a new test for fast-tracking their Canada Pension Plan disability requests in a bureaucratic bid to finally unclog a system that has faced years of criticisms.

The $4.3-billion CPP disability program aims to rush through benefits decisions for dying Canadians, but has faced hurdles in meeting the processing timelines.

Now, the government plans to change the rules in a few weeks to grant an expedited review to people whose doctors declare they have just six months left to live.

"The certainty of the six months is a good thing because it's a been little bit open-ended in terms of what 'terminally ill' meant," said Shiller, a case manager with Wellspring Centres, which helps patients navigate myriad benefit systems.

The decision to set the standard for six months was aimed at untangling -- again --problems in how the government decides who deserves a speedy decision, according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the access to information law.

Auditor general Michael Ferguson's February 2016 review of the disability pension program found people with terminal or grave conditions were waiting too long for benefits, or being snowed under by complicated paperwork.

Ferguson's teams found that only seven per cent of dying people who sought disability payments got a decision on their application within the government's 48-hour guideline, while just over half of those with chronic conditions had their cases decided within the established 30-day window. …

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