Social Security Tribunal of Canada

Other CPP General Division: Your reasons for appealing

If you agree with everything in Service Canada’s reconsideration decision, there’s no reason to appeal. If you disagree with the decision, even just a part of it, you can appeal to the Social Security Tribunal (SST).

You have 90 days to appeal after you receive the reconsideration decision.

If you appeal, then change your mind, you can withdraw (cancel) your appeal. If you do this, Service Canada’s reconsideration decision will remain valid.

Let’s look at common scenarios for appealing to the SST.

Generally, people want to appeal a reconsideration decision because they feel that the decision was unfair and that they’re actually eligible for benefits.

When you appeal to the General Division, you need to give details. For example, if you think you actually meet the eligibility requirements for benefits, you need to mention how you meet those requirements. Or, if you think Service Canada didn’t follow the law correctly, you need to mention how.

This is what we mean when we talk about explaining your “reasons to appeal.” You’ll also need to send us documents to support those reasons.

Here are some examples of things the SST can make a decision on:

Scenario 1

Tatyana applied for a Canada Pension Plan (CPP) survivor’s pension when her common-law partner, George, died. Service Canada denied her application because it said that she wasn’t living with George when he died. She feels that they were still in a common-law relationship even though George was living somewhere else at the time. There were special circumstances that forced George to move out for a short while.

Common-law partners can get a CPP survivor’s pension. To be considered a common-law partner, you have to have been “cohabiting” for at least a year when the contributor dies. Cohabiting isn’t just about living in the same place.

If Tatyana decides to appeal, she can explain why George had temporarily moved out. She can show the things they did that prove they were still a couple even though they were physically separated.

We’ll look at Tatyana’s appeal and decide whether George and Tatyana were in a common-law relationship.

Scenario 2

Julie’s mother passed away without a will. Robert applied for the CPP death benefit. In his application to Service Canada, Robert said that he’s the common-law partner of Julie’s late mother. He also said that he was responsible for the funeral expenses. He sent Service Canada a bill showing that he paid for all the funeral expenses. Service Canada decided to pay the death benefit to Robert.

Julie also applied for the death benefit. In her application, she said that she was the court-appointed administrator of her late mother’s estate. Julie thinks Service Canada should have paid her the death benefit so she could reimburse the estate, rather than Robert.

We’ll look at Julie’s appeal and decide who’s entitled to the CPP death benefit.

Here are some examples of things the SST cannot make a decision on:

Scenario 1

Beth applied for a CPP retirement pension when she turned 60. Service Canada approved her application and started paying her pension the month after it received her application. Beth is getting $465.22 a month, and she thinks she should get more. She says she can’t live on such a small pension.

The law says that your CPP retirement pension is based on your contributions to CPP while you were working.

The SST member assigned to Beth’s appeal notices that the facts aren’t in dispute (Beth and Service Canada agree on the amount of money Beth paid into CPP while she was working).

We can’t change the law. We don’t have the authority to tell Service Canada to pay Beth more money.

Scenario 2

Puneet applied for a CPP survivor’s pension in January 2021. Service Canada approved his application and decided to pay him benefits retroactively starting in February 2020. Puneet thinks his payments should start the month his wife died in December 2019. He didn’t apply for a survivor’s pension earlier because he found it too difficult to deal with her loss.

The law says that your survivor’s pension can start 11 months before Service Canada got your application. The payments can’t go back any further unless Puneet can establish he was unable of forming or expressing an intention to make an application, which he can’t establish.

We can’t make exceptions to the law. We can’t tell Service Canada to start Puneet’s payments the month his wife died because that’s more than 11 months before Service Canada got his application.

What if you don’t have a “reasonable chance of success”

If you appeal, an SST member will look at your case and the documents you send us. A member is the decision-maker in an appeal. They have to look at your situation and see what the law says about it. They can’t change the law. They have to follow what it says.

A member will consider whether your appeal has a “reasonable chance of success.” That means the member will consider whether you have an argument that could possibly succeed. If they think you do, then they’ll want to hear more about it in a hearing.

If the member says you don’t have a reasonable chance of success, the member may start the summary dismissal process. 

What’s a summary dismissal?

When an SST member starts the summary dismissal process, it means they’ve decided that you don’t have an argument that could possibly succeed. They think your case might not have a reasonable chance of success.

Example

Tanya applied for a Canada Pension Plan (CPP) retirement pension in July 2020 when she was 62. Service Canada approved her application and started paying her in August 2020. Tanya wants her payments to start in May 2020 instead. On her application, Tanya asked that her payments start in May 2020. 

The law says that you can start getting a CPP retirement pension on 1 of these months, whichever comes last:

  • the month you turn 60
  • the month after Service Canada gets your application
  • the month you say your CPP retirement pension should start on your application

Tanya turned 60 in January 2018, and she asked that payments start in May 2020. But she applied in July 2020. This means that the last month in Tanya’s case is August 2020—the month after Service Canada got her application.

The SST member assigned to Tanya’s appeal is thinking about summarily dismissing her appeal. SST members have to follow what the law says. They can’t make exceptions. For Tanya, the summary dismissal process will start.

If your appeal starts down the summary dismissal process, we’ll send you a letter. The letter will explain that your SST member thinks they may have to summarily dismiss your appeal.

You can tell us in writing why you think your appeal should not be summarily dismissed.

The member will look at what you send us.

Then the member will do 1 of 2 things:

  • summarily dismiss your appeal in writing
  • allow your appeal to go to the next step

If the SST member summarily dismisses your appeal, there won’t be a hearing, and we’ll close your appeal file. You’ll get the summary dismissal decision in writing. Service Canada’s reconsideration decision will remain valid.

You can appeal the member’s decision. If you want to appeal their decision, you have to appeal to the Appeal Division. The Appeal Division is the second level in the appeal process after the General Division.

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