There are two things that bother Jay Barlow about the way the federal government treated his dead mother and grieving father. And they should bother all of us as well.
The first is that the feds didn’t see his mother’s contribution to Canadian society as worthy of a CPP death benefit, and denied his father’s claim after she passed away four years ago.
She didn’t quite meet the threshold it seems, in order to be eligible. The government says a person needs to be employed one-third of their working lives to qualify, or at least 10 years. Joan Barlow was largely a stay-at-home mother. She only worked occasionally at jobs outside the home.
The second thing that bothers Jay is the same government flew four officials from Ottawa to Vancouver then to Kamloops — a three-day trip that must have cost several thousands of dollars — to tell Joan’s family one more time she wasn’t eligible. That final one-hour hearing was held at a Kamloops hotel last week, ending the four-year appeal.
The money the government spent to stage the appeal proceedings far outstripped the amount that would have been paid out in the first place, especially after the family learned Joan wouldn’t have even been eligible for the $2,500, which is the maximum CPP death benefit paid out.
Instead, had the government approved her claim, she would have received the equivalent of six months of CPP pension payments. In her case, based on her lifetime contributions, that would have been $240, Jay said.
“I was just outraged,” Jay told me earlier this week. “They will spend (thousands) for a hearing and travel to come here to say no to $240?”
Have to admit, that seems a government boondoggle of massive proportion. Why deny appeals like the Barlow family’s when the process of arbitrating them costs hundreds of times more than what claimants would be entitled to receive? I’d love to hear the bureaucrats explain that one.
Jay said he wanted answers and sought them through our local MP’s office. He didn’t get one; it seems Cathy McLeod was unable to cut through the secret seals that surround a person’s CPP files, he said.
But this issue isn’t about the money, Jay said. His father didn’t need the death benefit; he intended to donate most of it to the hospice house where his wife spent her last days. This issue is mostly about the fact that his mother’s contribution to Canadian society over her lifetime was seen to have so little value.
Joan worked most of her adult life raising her family, he said. His father was in the navy and spent many months at sea. Jay said raising four teenage sons was no easy feat. She worked hard.
She worked enough outside the home, however, to hit 9.3 CPP-calculable years. The government refused to round up her service to 10 years, the minimum required for his father to receive the CPP death benefit. All $240 of it.
I don’t blame Jay for the bitter taste in his mouth. Some processes in government make sense, even if they seem firm or harsh. This example, however, could be its own chapter in a book on government ineptitude and folly.
Joan Barlow and her family deserved better.