Government announces rethink of flawed process
In a welcome change of direction, the government has just announced that they are rethinking the way that ODSP medical reviews are done.
In an article in the Toronto Star from Sunday, May 17, a spokesperson for the Minister of Community and Social Services said that they “want to take the time to get the process right.”
Medical reviews are an important part of the ODSP system that allows people with short-term disabilities to access critically important financial supports. You don’t have to be permanently disabled to get ODSP benefits, so a review is required for people with disabilities or medical conditions that could improve over time.
But, as we have been saying for years, the way that medical reviews are done is wrong.
Currently, instead of asking doctors the relevant questions about whether a person’s medical conditions have in fact improved, the process requires people on ODSP to complete the same 21-page package of forms that they completed when they first applied. Asking people to effectively re-apply for benefits makes the process difficult for clients and confusing for the doctors who have to complete the forms.
Many vulnerable clients were not able to navigate the initial application process on their own, receiving help from community-based programs that make up for the lack of supports from the Ministry. But these supports are not likely to be available for medical reviews, increasing the risk that people with the most serious disabilities may lose their benefits as a result.
This flawed process is also waste of resources, as the unnecessary time doctors have to spend filling out application forms takes away from seeing their patients. And it often results in incorrect denials, consuming the resources of community legal clinics on appeals that wouldn’t be necessary if a better process were in place.
In the Star story, the government confirmed that they are taking a step back from their plan to eliminate a backlog in the system through doing 1900 medical reviews per month.
After many years of advocating for a better review process, the Minister appears to have heard our concerns. The government has said that they want to get the process right.
This is really good news and a first step in the right direction.
But the Ministry continues to do 600 medical reviews per month, using this same flawed process. We’re calling on them to stop sending out the re-application forms and wait until the new process is put in place.
The government has also said that they are looking at engaging ODSP caseworkers when clients don’t respond to their medical review notice. This needs to happen immediately to ensure the most vulnerable clients do not lose their benefits for not responding.
Together with our partners in the legal clinic and health care sectors, we’ll continue working to make sure that a new medical review process is put in place that asks the right questions, reduces the burden on clients and those who provide assistance to them, and doesn’t put the most vulnerable at risk of losing their benefits.
See the Star story here: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/05/16/ontario-to-rethink-disability-welfare-reviews.html