Immigrants face ‘unreasonable’ hurdles with Old Age Security, critics say

posted on April 13, 2014

By CBC News | Link to Article

Branko Sucic has been waiting a long time for his Old Age Security pension.

By CBC News | Link to Article

Branko Sucic has been waiting a long time for his Old Age Security pension.

His daughter says the 78-year-old has been faced with a barrage of government demands for decades-old documents ever since first applying for the payments in 2004, but 10 years later she feels he’s no closer to getting what he deserves.

“He could die by the time this goes through,” said Marianne Rukavina, whose father immigrated to Canada in 1970. “This is so wrong…and I just want to make it right.”

Sucic, however, doesn’t seem to be alone — some advocates for seniors and immigrants claim certain applicants who came to Canada from other countries appear to be treated unfairly when they apply for OAS.

“This is more particular to people who have come into the country some time through their life and moved in and out of the country apparently,” said Susan Eng, a Toronto lawyer and vice-president for advocacy at CARP, a group that defends seniors’ interests.

“I think it’s a practical problem of barriers that are very difficult for people to overcome. If you ask the average citizen whether or not they kept their travel documents from 20 years ago to prove how long they spent some place they would have a hard time coming up with them.”

Service Canada says OAS payments are available to most people aged 65 or older who meet legal status and residence requirements. Applicants living in Canada typically need to be Canadian citizens or legal residents at the time their application is approved and must have lived in Canada for at least 10 years after turning 18.

‘Periods of Canadian residence’

To satisfy requirements, all applicants must provide “supporting documentary evidence” to prove all the dates they entered and exited the country.

Those dissatisfied with decisions from Service Canada can request a reconsideration of their case but it must be made in writing within 90 days of being notified of the decision.

“It is important to establish periods of Canadian residence because, not only does residence determine eligibility to the OAS pension, it can also affect the amount of pension the applicant will receive,” said Eric Morrissette, a spokesman with Employment and Social Development Canada. “An application for an OAS pension cannot be approved until all eligibility requirements have been met.”

Sucic’s daughter can’t believe how onerous the process has been for her father, who grew up in what is now Croatia. He left the country for Italy in the late 50s with his wife, before moving to Australia in 1959, where he became a citizen of that country.

He then brought his family to Canada in 1970, where he lived and worked until December 1993, when he moved back to Croatia to support his extended family during the war in former Yugoslavia. He returned to Canada in 1997 and has lived here ever since.

With three failed applications behind them and a fourth underway, Rukavina has now made it her mission to ensure her father succeeds.