June 4, 2003 (37th Parliament, 2nd Session)

LIB

Diane St-Jacques

Liberal

Ms. Diane St-Jacques (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Dartmouth will understand that, for reasons related to privacy, I cannot comment on this individual's case. However, I can confirm that, last year, less than 2% of applications for leave to appeal to the Pension Appeals Board were made on the minister's behalf.
The Canada pension plan disability benefit represents an extremely important part of Canada's social safety net, and it provides handicapped Canadians who are unable to work with income support until they are entitled to their retirement pension.
Each year, we pay benefits totalling $2.8 billion to 280,000 persons, as well as to 90,000 of their children. We know that severely handicapped Canadians face challenges. Our goal is to provide disability benefits to each eligible individual who applies. Only those applications from individuals who do not meet the eligibility requirements set out in the Canada pension plan are turned down.
The Subcommittee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities has undertaken an in-depth review of the Canada Pension Plan Disability Program. I want to thank the subcommittee for this work and for its broad consultation with Canadians, because the government is looking forward to studying this report as well as the suggestions and recommendations it contains.
As the program's administrators, it is absolutely imperative that we make sure that decisions are founded in law. Only when a serious error in law has been made do we seek the authorization to appeal a decision made by a review tribunal in favour of a client.
In addition, the determination of eligibility for CPP disability benefits is a complex process requiring the careful assessment of many factors. To ensure that their decisions are fair to the client, the CPP staff often has to request additional medical information, which may further delay the processing of applications.
To encourage those eligible to apply, we must enhance the understanding the public has of the Canada Pension Plan Disability Program. In recent years, the approval rate of initial applications for disability benefits has increased. In 2001-02, we approved 38% of all initial applications, compared to 32% in 1999-2000.
We will continue to ensure that all clients who meet the program's eligibility criteria are treated equitably and receive the benefits they are entitled to.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
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