Social Security Tribunal of Canada

CPP disability Appeal Division: Your reasons for appealing

If you agree with everything in the General Division decision, there’s no reason to appeal. If you disagree with the decision, you can appeal, but only for specific reasons.

You can’t appeal to the Appeal Division simply because you don’t agree with the General Division decision. If you appeal, explain clearly how the Social Security Tribunal (SST)’s General Division member (the decision-maker) made a mistake in the General Division decision. You have to base your arguments on 1 of 4 grounds of appeal. You can’t argue the same thing that you argued at the General Division. 

Ground 1: Natural justice

Legal wording The General Division failed to observe a principle of natural justice.
Plain language wording The General Division didn’t follow a fair process.

What’s natural justice?

Natural justice is about fair process. This includes things like the right to see all the evidence, the right to make your case, and the right to an impartial (unbiased) decision-maker.

Here are examples of mistakes the General Division could make, based on this ground:

Example: You didn’t get all the documents

The General Division didn’t give Rachael copies of all of the documents Service Canada used to make its reconsideration decision or that it gave the SST for the hearing.

Example: The hearing happened without you

The General Division held a hearing, but Imani didn’t get a Notice of Hearing telling her about it. 

Ground 2: Error of jurisdiction

Legal wording The General Division acted beyond or refused to exercise its jurisdiction.
Plain language wording The General Division dealt with an issue it didn’t have the power to deal with. Or it didn’t deal with an issue it was supposed to deal with.

What’s jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction is the SST’s legal power (authority) to deal with a dispute. There are some things the SST has the power to decide, and some things it doesn’t.
Here are examples of mistakes the General Division could make, based on this ground:

Example: The General Division considered unsuccessful applications made earlier

Omar applied for Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefits in 2015. Service Canada turned down his application. He applied again in 2019. This time, Service Canada accepted his application and gave him 1 year of backdated benefits. That’s the maximum the law allows. Omar appealed the 2019 decision to the General Division. The General Division decided that he should get benefits based on his first application. That was a mistake. The General Division only had the authority to deal with Omar’s second application.

Example: The General Division didn’t decide an issue under appeal

Service Canada decided that Cheryl wasn’t entitled to the disability pension or the post-retirement disability benefit (PRDB). Cheryl appealed to the General Division. The General Division decided that Cheryl could not get the disability pension because she had already started getting her retirement pension. But the General Division didn’t make any decision at all about whether Cheryl should get the PRDB. That was an error of jurisdiction. The General Division had to decide both issues that Cheryl had properly appealed.  

Ground 3: Error of law

Legal wording The General Division erred in law in making its decision, whether or not the error appears on the face of the record.
Plain language wording The General Division didn’t apply the law correctly.

What’s an error of law?

An error of law happens when the General Division:

  • makes a decision using part of the legislation (laws from Parliament) that doesn’t actually apply to your situation
  • makes a decision using an interpretation of binding case law (established law from a court) that doesn’t apply to your situation
  • doesn’t apply the correct law
  • uses the correct law, but misunderstands what it means or how to apply it

Here are examples of mistakes the General Division could make, based on this ground:

Example: The General Division didn’t consider your background

Nora is 58. She only ever worked in factory jobs. She never graduated from high school. She has chronic back pain, but the General Division decided that she wasn’t disabled. It said she could get an office job. A decision from a court states that the person’s background must be considered but the General Division didn’t consider her background. It didn’t consider her age, education, or job history. This is an error of law.

Example: The General Division used the wrong legal test

Aaron applied for a CPP disability pension. He said he could not work as a construction worker anymore because of his disability. But he said he could do office work. His medical reports confirm this. The law says that you can get a disability pension if you’re unable to regularly do some kind of work you could earn a living from.

The General Division decided that Aaron should get a disability pension because he can’t work as a construction worker. But it didn’t look at whether he could do other types of work. The General Division didn’t consider all the requirements of the law. This is an error of law. 

Ground 4: Error of fact

Legal wording The General Division based its decision on an erroneous finding of fact that it made in a perverse or capricious manner or without regard for the material before it.
Plain language wording The General Division got important facts wrong because it overlooked or misunderstood evidence.

What’s an error of fact?

The General Division has to review and consider all the evidence before deciding what facts it accepts. This is called “finding the facts” or “making a finding of fact.” When the General Division makes a finding of fact that’s important to its decision, but ignores or misunderstands evidence about that fact, that’s an error of fact.
Here are examples of mistakes the General Division could make, based on this ground:

Example: The General Division didn’t consider important evidence

Mo applied for a CPP disability pension because his back problems stopped him from working. Mo’s appeal file also had medical reports about his serious psychiatric condition. 

The General Division denied Mo a disability pension. It said that Mo only had back problems, and these weren’t serious enough to keep him from working another job. The General Division ignored the medical evidence about Mo’s psychiatric condition when it made findings of fact about his health condition. That’s an error of fact.

Example: The General Division mixed up important dates

To get a CPP disability pension, Eva must show that she became disabled before the end of 2001. The General Division decided that she was disabled, but only from 2007. It based its decision on a medical report that it says was from 2007. But the report was from 2001 and spoke of Eva’s conditions in 2001. The General Division mixed up important dates on file and mistakenly found that Eva became disabled in 2007 instead of 2001. That’s an error of fact. 

New evidence isn’t a ground of appeal

At the Appeal Division, new evidence isn’t a ground of appeal. You have to show that the General Division made a mistake based on 1 of the 4 grounds of appeal. To do that, you have to use evidence the General Division had. The Appeal Division can’t look at new evidence about your claim for benefits.

Sometimes, you can ask the General Division to consider new facts and reopen your General Division decision.

Learn about reopening a decision and the limited circumstances when that’s allowed.

You can apply to reopen a General Division decision and appeal the same decision to the Appeal Division at the same time.

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