Timing key in OAS application

National Post

2011-07-16


If you are 65 years old, chances are you are receiving monthly Old Age Security pension payments. If you’re not, it’s probably because your income is high (more than about $108,000 last year) or, more likely, you simply haven’t applied.

That’s right — you must apply to receive the benefits. Failure to apply means you could lose out on potential OAS payments since the government will only pay retroactive payments back to your 65th birthday up to a maximum of 11 months (plus the month of application).

This was the problem facing Allan George Grosvenor, who recently found himself in Federal Court requesting a formal review of Service Canada’s decision to deny him retroactive OAS beyond the 11 months above. Mr. Grosvenor claimed he had received “erroneous advice” regarding his entitlement to OAS benefits.

His story began in August 2004, when he was advised by the government, by way of a letter, that he may be eligible for benefits under the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and/or the OAS Plan. At the same time, Mr. Grosvenor was provided with information sheets for both CPP and OAS benefits which explained the eligibility criteria for each type of benefit.

In February 2005, Mr. Grosvenor applied for CPP benefits and began receiving benefits after he turned 65 in August 2005. He did not actually apply for OAS at the time since he claimed he was told by the Service Canada Centre in Newmarket, Ont., that “he was not eligible for OAS because he was still working.”

He finally applied in April 2007, which means that he was able to receive 11 months of retroactive OAS but did not receive any OAS benefits for the period between the time he turned 65 and May 2006.

The department investigated this claim and Mr. Grosvenor was asked to provide whatever information he felt appropriate to support his claim of erroneous advice. Mr. Grosvenor provided what he says was “five pounds” of documents in response to this request.

It turns out, however, that many of those documents relate to a dispute between Mr. Grosvenor and the Canada Revenue Agency, and do not relate to his dispute with Service Canada.

Last November, the government concluded its investigation and found that Mr. Grosvenor “failed to provide any evidence to support his claim that he had received erroneous advice” which led to his late application. As a result, his claim for the unpaid retroactive OAS benefits was rejected.

The Judge agreed and was satisfied that this decision was reasonable, noting that while the CPP information sheet clearly explained that to be eligible for CPP benefits, he would had to either have stopped working or have monthly earnings below a specified amount. The OAS information sheet did not mention any requirement that he had to have stopped working to be eligible for OAS benefits.

An important reminder to ensure you apply for OAS in a timely manner.