When people hear the word Canada Pension Plan they immediately think of retirement benefits. What many people do not realize is that the Canada Pension Plan also has a very important role to play with respect to disability benefits. Canada Pension Plan provides disability benefits to someone who has paid into the plan for a certain length of time, and who has suffered a “severe and prolonged” disability.
Canada Pension Disability Benefits
So an individual may have a motor vehicle accident claim and litigation proceeding and if that individual is unable to work at all he or she should also pursue Canada Pension Plan disability benefits. If approved the CPP disability benefit strongly attests to the nature and extent of an injured person’s stage of disability. Therefore, the injury lawyer for the victim in the motor vehicle accident should advise the victim to apply for CPP disability benefits and even if denied there are several levels of appeal which the lawyer may assist with in ultimately obtaining benefits for the victim.
Previously the tribunal was called the Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits Review Tribunal. Now it has been changed so that the appeal will go through the Social Security Tribunal, a tribunal which has been implemented as an impartial, quasi-judicial appeals unit under the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Pension Plan, and the Old Age Security Act. This all occurred as of April 1, 2014.
The leading case in determining whether a victim will qualify for Canada Pension Plan disability benefits is Villani v. Canada (Attorney General)  F.C.J. No. 1217. This case stands for the proposition that, “the legislation has a benevolent purpose and ought to be interpreted in a broad and generous manner with any doubt arising from the language in the legislation being resolved in favour of the claimant”. The word “severe” in the legislation is defined in the Villani v. Canada (Attorney General) case as, “the person in respect of whom the determination is made is incapable regularly of pursuing any substantially gainful occupation”. Reading between the lines, this means that the person need not suffer from a complete inability to work.
The phrase, “gainful occupation” has evolved over time and there is case law which holds that having the capacity to work 14 – 16 hours per week at $8.40 per hour is not considered “gainful employment”. There is also a real world test that is applied which means that the tribunal must look at the reality of the situation of the injured victim and whether or not an employer in the real world would actually hire an individual with the disability in question in a productive employment situation; if the answer is no, then the individual would qualify for a CPP disability benefit.