THE SOCIAL SECURITY APPEAL TRIBUNAL
WHAT IS THE SOCIAL SECURITY APPEAL TRIBUNAL
The Social Security Appeal Tribunal is a 3 member panel which convenes to hear appeals against decisions of the Social Security Board regarding claims for benefits. The 3 member panel of the Appeal Tribunal consists of:
- A Chairman (who is an attorney-at-law of at least 3 years standing);
- A Person representing Employers; (from a list of persons submitted by the Belize Chamber of Commerce and the Belize Business Bureau) and
- A Person representing Insured Persons (from a list of persons submitted by the National Trade Union Congress of Belize.
WHO CAN APPEAL & WHAT QUESTIONS CAN BE APPEALED
An Insured Person who is not satisfied with a decision of the Social Security Board has the right to appeal that decision to the Appeal Tribunal. A trade union can file an appeal at the Appeal Tribunal on behalf of its members. Generally, Insured Persons or their trade unions can appeal any question regarding any right to benefit decided by the Social Security Board, EXCEPT:
- reserved questions (defined in the Social Security Regulations), and
- questions based on a medical board’s determination of disability, when no substantial issue of law is involved.
HOW TO SUBMIT AN APPEAL
A Notice of Appeal must be submitted in writing to the Social Security Board. The notice can be made by filling out an appeal form, known as an AP.1 or by writing a letter to the CEO of the Social Security Board. Regardless of the form, the notice of appeal should state clearly:
- the full name of the person appealing,
- the social security number of the person appealing,
- the address of the person appealing,
- the decision being appealed,
- the date of the decision,
- the type of benefit involved, and
- the grounds for the appeal.
Appeals can be submitted to any Social Security office, or sent by mail to the Headquarters in Belmopan. Appeals must be received by the Social Security Board within 21 days of the date of the decision being appealed.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU SUBMIT A NOTICE OF APPEAL
The Social Security Board will notify Appellants (the persons appealing) that their appeal notices have been received; and of the date, place and time of the appeal hearing. The appeal will be scheduled for a hearing according to the order in which it was received. Persons appealing may send a competent representative (someone who is knowledgeable of the case) to represent them at the hearing. Anyone can be a representative, not just a lawyer, but the representative must have written authority signed by the Appellant, authorizing him or her to act on behalf of the Appellant.
ATTENDANCE AT HEARINGS
Appellants must inform the Social Security Board in advance if they are unable to attend the scheduled hearing. Appeal hearings may be rescheduled if requested beforehand. Appellants and/or their representative are expected to arrive at the hearings on time. If an Appellant does not attend a hearing or send a representative, his or her appeal may be considered in his or her absence, or the appeal may be dismissed.
PROCEDURE OF HEARINGS
Appeal hearings are private. The Appellant and/or his/her representative will be asked to explain why he or she disagrees with the decision of the Social Security Board. The Appeal Tribunal panel members may ask questions to clarify their understanding of the appeal. Representatives of the Social Security Board will be present to defend the decision. Witnesses may be called by the Appellant or by the SSB representative, and both sides have the right to question witnesses of the other side. The Appeal Tribunal panel members may request additional information from the Appellant or from the Social Security Board.
After both sides complete their statements, the Tribunal will deliberate. The Tribunal may conclude that the decision of Social Security Board was indeed correct and uphold it; or it may decide that the decision was not correct, and reverse it; or it may modify the decision. The Tribunal may or may not notify the Appellant of its decision at the conclusion of the hearing. Usually, the Tribunal submits its decision to the clerk of the Appeal Tribunal, who sends a written record of the decision to the appellant or his/her representative. If the Appeal Tribunal reversed or modified the decision of the Social Security Board, the Appellant should return to the SSB branch office where the decision was made, for information as to any change in his/her entitlement to the benefit.
APPEAL TO THE SUPREME COURT
Decisions of the Appeal Tribunal are generally final, but either party may appeal an Appeal Tribunal decision to the Supreme Court if the appeal raises a substantial question of law. Appeals to the Supreme Court must be lodged within 21 days after the date of the decision.