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Preparing for Your CPP Disability Appeal Hearing: Tips for Success

A CPP disability lawyer prepares the case for an appeal hearing in the court.

Many legitimate CPP disability claims are denied. If you find yourself in that position, you don’t have to accept Service Canada’s decision to deny your application for CPP disability benefits. There is a process for CPP disability appeals to the Social Services Tribunal (“SST”).


A CPP disability appeal provides an opportunity to convince the SST decision-maker that your claim is valid and you deserve CPP disability benefits. The SST is separate from Service Canada and has the power to make a different decision after conducting a hearing. Read on for information about what to expect at a CPP disability appeal hearing, including tips on how to prepare and present your case effectively.


What happens at a CPP disability appeal hearing?


The purpose of a CPP disability appeal hearing is to convince the independent decision-maker that you are entitled to disability benefits under the Canada Pension Plan. The decision-maker at a CPP disability appeal hearing is a member of the SST.


Others will be present at the CPP disability appeal hearing in addition to the SST decision-maker: you, the other party (a representative of Employment and Social Development Canada), your legal representative (if you have one), any witnesses, and any other parties to the appeal. Hearings are also open to the public, so other people may observe your hearing.


At the hearing, you—or your legal representative if you decide to have one (which is highly recommended)—will have the opportunity to:

  • Present and explain important facts that support your entitlement to CPP disability benefits;

  • Fill in gaps in the evidence;

  • Answer questions from other parties and the SST decision-maker;

  • Ask questions of other parties, witnesses, and the SST member; and

  • Make legal arguments about your case and respond to the other party’s arguments. 

Hearings vary in length, depending on factors such as the issues at stake and the number of witnesses to be called. The Notice of Hearing the SST sends to you will state the length of time it has set aside for your appeal hearing.


What type of hearing will you have?


There are several types of hearing available at the SST Appeal Division:

  • An oral hearing by way of teleconference, videoconference on a personal device, videoconference at a Service Canada Centre, or in-person at a Service Canada Centre; or

  • A hearing in writing.

There are pros and cons to the different types of hearings. For example, a written or telephone hearing does not give the SST member the opportunity to see you and your physical limitations or problems (assuming your illness or injury is visible).


Hearings in writing are less common. The SST member will make their decision based on the written arguments and supporting documents that you and the other parties submit. With a written hearing, there is no opportunity to testify or speak directly to the SST member.

Prior to the hearing, the SST will ask what type of hearing you prefer. If you don’t advise of the type of hearing you want, the SST decision-maker will decide. An experienced CPP disability lawyer can help you determine which hearing option is best in your case.


How to prepare for a CPP disability appeal hearing


Here are some of the important steps you will need to take to prepare for the hearing and present your case effectively:

  • The SST will send you copies of the documents in your appeal file as it receives them. You should review all of the documents carefully as the decision-maker will be reading those documents and using them to help them decide your appeal. Make note of any inconsistencies, errors, new information, or important points that you want to address.

  • As documents are provided to you, you should keep them together, and organize them in a way so you can keep track of them and easily find them. You will need to bring all documents to the hearing and refer to documents at the hearing, so it is a good idea to number the documents, add page numbers, etc. so you can quickly refer the decision-maker to important evidence.

  • Consider any gaps in your evidence. Service Canada’s initial rejection letter and/or reconsideration decision will provide clues about what is missing. You will likely need to obtain and submit new documents to support your disability claim, such as updated medical reports/records and letters from employers about how your disability limited your ability to work.

  • Consider whether there are witnesses you should have at the hearing in support of your appeal. You will want to call witnesses who know you well and can provide evidence about your disability (how it impacts your life and your ability to work, how it has changed over time, etc.). It is usually a good idea to have each of your witnesses prepare a written statement summarizing their expected evidence, which can be submitted to the SST decision-maker in advance of the hearing. Be aware that you have to notify your witnesses of the hearing date and time once you get the Notice of Hearing.

  • Understand the law and how it applies to your case. CPP disability law is a complex area. The SST decision-maker must follow relevant laws, including the Canada Pension Plan and the Canada Pension Plan Regulations.  They are also guided by cases that are similar to yours (SST decisions as well as decisions of the Federal Court and Supreme Court of Canada). You will also need to read the other party’s written legal arguments so you can respond to them.

  • Be prepared to answer questions at the hearing. You will need to be very familiar with the documents, notes, and reports submitted in relation to your case and be ready to answer tough questions, all while staying calm and being respectful to the SST decision-maker and other parties.

Get guidance from a skilled CPP disability lawyer in Alberta and Saskatchewan


CPP disability claim denied? Don’t despair, and don’t give up. At Ludwar Law Firm, our dedicated team will give your case the personal care and attention you need. Our CPP disability lawyer can help you navigate your CPP disability appeal, including handling the paperwork, drafting clear legal arguments, and advocating on your behalf at your CPP disability appeal hearing so you get the benefits you deserve. From our offices in Calgary, we work with clients in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Contact us today to arrange for your free initial consultation.


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