Lothar Schiese is wondering how to pay the bills after the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation ceased sending his disability cheque because he refused to take early retirement.
The situation began in August when Schiese was told as a ministry client aged 60 to 65, he would need to submit papers showing he had applied for Canadian Pension Plan early retirement benefits, and if the paper were not submitted to the ministry by Oct. 14 it would hold back the November cheque and future assistance “until we are able to determine your ongoing eligibility”.
Schiese said forcing someone to take early retirement and thus give up full retirement benefits under threat of removing social assistance is simply not fair.
“It is like I have no rights, that’s how it feels. It’s like I either sign the papers or go homeless and live in the woods somewhere … in any other situation, you have recourse to appeal. In my case, nobody is talking to me with advice or the next steps to take,” he said, noting the loss of the cheque has cause excessive mental stress.
“I have no cheque, I have no money … I don’t think I have a leg to stand on. I have no voice and no connection to anyone to help.”
However, a ministry spokesperson said asking people eligible for early retirement to take it is standard practice across the province.
“Income and disability assistance in B.C. is an income- and asset-tested program of last resort, meaning all individuals are required to pursue all other forms of income before being eligible for provincial assistance. This income includes the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Canada Pension Plan-Disability (CPPD) for which Mr. Schiese is eligible to apply,” said the ministry.
While the ministry notes some people taking early retirement have their retirement income after age 65 negatively impacted, Schiese would not be losing any income in the immediate future.
“The ministry may then provide a “top up” to ensure that the total is equal to current income assistance rates. In Mr. Schiese’s case, he would be eligible for a top-up of up to $906.42 a month.”