Cancer victim denied CPP disability insurance

TORONTO – A Belleville woman thought she would be covered by the Canadian Pension Plan disability insurance after battling cancer and two major surgeries.

She was denied.

“That was the ultimate blow to me,” said Kristy Emigh. “That really brought me down because I don’t know where to turn.”

Among the criteria for CPP disability insurance is the disability must be severe and prolonged.  According to CPP officials, her illnesses weren’t “prolonged.”

“Kristy Emigh was denied for CPP disability benefits based on not meeting the ‘prolonged’ criteria, as she was expected to return to her job,” a spokesperson for the federal government wrote in an email.

Emigh has been off work since early 2013 when she learned she had breast cancer. She is now in remission but has two upcoming surgeries, including breast reconstruction surgery.

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“Yeah I will (return to work),” she said. “But I can’t say if that’s going to be a couple years. I don’t know how long it is once I start my surgeries.”

This isn’t the first battle Emigh has fought with the government. Earlier this year, she was denied EI when she was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after returning to work from maternity leave because she didn’t have enough hours worked.

“People turn to what they think is a social safety net. And there are just great big holes in it in cases like this,” said Deirdre McDade, a lawyer with Community Advocacy and Legal Centre.

McDade said the problem is with temporary, contract or part-time workers who have no benefits through their job.

“Someone has a serious illness, they can’t work but there’s no coverage for them,” said McDade.

The rate of denial is high, she said, but many of those people go on to win their appeals.

However, McDade said the appeal process is delayed with the government’s new Social Security Tribunal.

On Thursday, Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced 22 new part-time hires to help eliminate the backlog at the new federal agency.

Even if Emigh gets to appeal, she may have to wait one to two years for a hearing.

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“If you are a two-income family and you are devastated by cancer, there really isn’t a lot of help from our government,” she said. “And we’re the ones that have paid into it and now we can’t get it.”

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