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How do I prepare for a hearing about ODSP income support at the Social Benefits Tribunal?

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How do I prepare for a hearing about ODSP income support at the Social Benefits Tribunal?

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Reviewed: 
November, 2016
Answer

It’s best to get help to prepare for your hearing at the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT).

A community legal clinic may be able to:

  • explain what you can expect at your hearing
  • tell you what documents or other evidence you should try to get for your hearing
  • help you get medical evidence that shows you’re a person with a disability
  • tell you about the rules that you have to follow

They may also represent you at the SBT.

“Early Resolution”

The SBT might send you what’s called a “Notice of Early Resolution Opportunity Session”.

The Notice will give the time, date, and purpose of the Session.

The Session is a meeting that could be in person or by telephone. An Appeal Resolution Officer from the SBT meets with you and someone from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

The Appeal Resolution Officer tries to help you and ODSP agree on things. For example, you and ODSP could:

  • make an agreement so you don’t need to have a hearing
  • make an agreement about some things so that at the hearing, the SBT only has to decide about things you did not agree about

Things that you or ODSP say or share at an Early Resolution Opportunity Session can’t be used at the hearing. 

You don’t have to go to a Session. If you get a Notice and don’t want to go to the Session, you should tell the SBT within 10 days of getting the Notice.

1. Think about what you need to prove at your hearing

You need to show the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT) that the decision about your Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) income support is wrong.

So it’s important to know why the Disability Adjudication Unit or the local ODSP office made the decision you’re appealing.

What ODSP says about their decision

After ODSP gets a copy of your Appeal Form from the SBT, they have 30 days to fill out a Response to Appeal (Form 3) and file it with the SBT.

You file documents when you give them to the SBT and have followed the rules about how to do this.

ODSP can also do what’s called a “written submission”. This means that they explain in writing:

  • why they made the decision you’re appealing,
  • why they think it’s correct, and
  • what evidence they have that supports their decision.

If the Disability Adjudication Unit or local ODSP office does a written submission, they have to send it to the SBT within the same 30 days.

And they have to send you a copy of whatever they send to the SBT.

If you don’t get a copy of a written submission, call the Disability Adjudication Unit at 1-888-256-6758 or your local ODSP office.

You can also contact a community legal clinic for help.

Explaining why you disagree with ODSP

You need to prove to the SBT that the ODSP decision is wrong. How you show this depends on your situation.

If you’re appealing a decision by the Disability Adjudication Unit

The Disability Adjudication Unit decides if you’re a person with a disability. So you might need to get more medical information.

If you’re appealing a decision by your local ODSP office

Your local ODSP office makes all other decisions about whether you qualify for income support. So, for example, you might need to prove that:

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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2. Gather your evidence

It's up to you to prove that the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) decision is wrong. You do this by presenting evidence that the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT) considers in making its decision.

The evidence has to relate to what it is that you need to prove. Evidence includes what you and any other witnesses say and documents that you give to the SBT.

Documents that show you have a disability

If you’re appealing a decision by the Disability Adjudication Unit, you need medical evidence that shows you’re a person with a disability.

The SBT will have the Disability Determination Package that you sent to the Disability Adjudication Unit when you applied. You may want to contact a community legal clinic to find out if you should get more medical evidence.

Any new medical evidence that you get has to show that you had a disability when the Disability Adjudication Unit made their decision.

Documents that relate to whether you qualify financially

If you’re appealing a decision by the local ODSP office, below are some documents that may be useful as evidence:

  • financial records, such as bank statements
  • separation agreements, divorce papers, or custody documents
  • rental agreements

Bringing witnesses

You’ll be an important witness at your appeal hearing. And you may know someone else who can give evidence that will help you.

You can ask the SBT to require a witness to come to your hearing. You do this using a Request for Summons.

You’ll need to do this if the witness:

  • isn’t willing to come unless they’re forced to
  • needs an official document, for example, to show their employer why they need to take time off work

If you think you’ll need to do this, you may want to contact a community legal clinic for help.

Following SBT rules

The SBT has detailed rules that you have to follow if you want them to consider your evidence.

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December, 2016
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3. Follow the SBT rules

The Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT) has detailed rules about appeals that you have to follow.

Rules about documents

There are rules about how you must prepare the documents that you create. And you must include a cover page that lists all of the documents that you file with the SBT.

You file your documents when you give them to the SBT and have followed the rules about how to do this.

These are 3 ways to file documents with the SBT:

  1. taking them or having someone else take them to the SBT head office
  2. sending them by mail
  3. faxing them to 416-326-5135, if you have no more than 30 pages

If you have more than 30 pages and you want to fax them, you have to ask the Registrar of the SBT if you can do this.

Deadlines

If you’re appealing a decision that says you’re not a person with a disability, you have to file any new medical information at least 30 days before the hearing.

Any other documents are due at least 20 days before your hearing.

You must also give copies of the documents to the office that made the decision you’re appealing. This is either the Disability Adjudication Unit or your local ODSP office.

To prove that you’ve done this, you fill out a Statement of Delivery (Form 7) and file it with the SBT.

Rules about witnesses

You’ll almost always be a witness at your hearing.

If you have other witnesses, you must give their names to the SBT and to the office that made the decision you’re appealing.

You must do this at least 20 days before your hearing.

Keep copies

Keep a copy of everything you file with the SBT. And make sure you have proof of the date that you:

  • file something with the SBT
  • deliver something to the Disability Adjudication Unit or the your local ODSP office

If you don’t follow the rules

If you don’t follow all of the rules, the SBT can refuse to:

  • consider documents
  • hear from a witness
  • consider evidence
  • consider your reasons for appealing

Even if you don’t follow the rules, the SBT may decide that they will still:

  • look at your documents and evidence
  • hear from your witnesses

But they do not have to do this. So, it’s very important to follow the rules if you can.

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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4. Tell the SBT if you’re including a human rights issue in your appeal

Ontario’s human rights laws say that Ontario Disability Program (ODSP) rules and decisions should not discriminate against you for a reason that goes against your human rights.

Discrimination happens if you’re treated differently because of:

  • your race, colour, ancestry, ethnic origin, citizenship, or where you were born
  • your religious beliefs
  • a physical or mental disability, including an addiction
  • having children, planning to have children, or being pregnant
  • your marital status, for example, married, divorced, single, or living common-law
  • your sex or gender
  • your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression
  • your age, if you’re 18 or older

What you need to do

Fill out a Notice of Human Rights Code Claim (Form 4) and send it to the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT), if you:

  • think that the ODSP decision or rules discriminate against you
  • want the SBT to consider a human rights issue as part of your appeal

You have to do this at least 60 days before your hearing.

The SBT will give a copy of your form to ODSP.

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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5. Ask to change your hearing date, if you need to

The Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT) expects you to be ready to go to your hearing on the date that they set.

If you need to change the date, ask the SBT as soon as possible.

Unless it’s an emergency, you have to write to the SBT and:

  • explain why you need to change the date
  • suggest new dates that are within 60 days of when your hearing is set to happen

There are detailed rules about how to ask the SBT to change the date. You might have to contact the Disability Adjudication Unit or your local Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) office first, to ask if they agree.

If you miss your hearing

If you miss your hearing because you can’t get there or get there late, the SBT might decide your appeal without hearing from you.

So, if you have an emergency and can’t get to your hearing on time, call the SBT at 1-888-256-6758.

 

Reviewed: 
December, 2016
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Learn more about this topic
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Hamilton Community Legal Clinic / Clinique juridique communautaire de Hamilton
Community Advocacy & Legal Centre (CALC)

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