Digest of Benefit Entitlement Principles Chapter 10 - Section 3
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A person's statements are not always clear and convincing and may at times be inconsistent with one's actions. Hence, it is necessary to determine how much weight should be given to statements not supported by any action on the part of an individual.
Plausible and uncontradicted statements should be accepted at face value. Conversely a statement which appears to be based solely on self-interest and which has not been supported by any action, documentary evidence or plausible explanations, may be considered doubtful Footnote 1 .
Once notified that a statement has resulted in a disentitlement, the claimant will frequently supply another statement in an attempt to re-establish entitlement to benefit. In cases of this nature, it is necessary to determine in which category the subsequent statement falls: is it an explanation of the previous statement, a contradiction, or does it indicate a change in attitude?
Where a statement is vague or contains obscure or ambiguous wording, clarification is certainly acceptable and should have been requested in the first place. In essence, an explanation will clarify and expand on the statement already provided, without contradicting it. Any subsequent statement which meets these criteria will be accepted as being as credible as the initial statement Footnote 2 .
10.3.2 Contradictory statements
Frequently, an individual who has been interviewed and has made a self-disentitling statement will later deny that part of the statement which led to the disentitlement from benefits. A signed statement constitutes prima facie evidence of its authenticity and accuracy, and even an unsigned statement must be given greater weight than a mere subsequent denial. It is not enough to contend that the initial statement did not reflect what one really had in mind or that one did not understand its contents Footnote 3 .
The subsequent statement is even less acceptable where the initial statement is simple and straightforward or unambiguous; where there are indications that it was objectively taken; where it agrees with other facts reported or with information obtained from another source; or where the claimant had ample opportunity to point out anything in it that was allegedly incorrect. Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, such as the initial statement being implausible or indications that it was obtained under duress, the first statement retains full value in spite of subsequent denials by the claimant.
Based on these principles, any subsequent statement which clearly contradicts a prior statement or tends to minimize the weight to be given to that prior statement is suspect. As a general rule, a spontaneous statement made before the individual had a detailed appreciation of the facts required to justify a claim for benefit, will be preferred to a statement made after that individual has become aware of the reason for which the claim was disallowed Footnote 4 . This is simply a common sense rule and not an absolute principle. It may be departed from as often as circumstances warrant, for example by reason of the claimant's age, education, cultural background or state of health.
In cases where contradictions are coupled with language difficulties, deafness, or misunderstanding, it becomes even more difficult to determine where the truth lies Footnote 5 . It is up to the claimant to make the subsequent explanation so plausible and credible that it would logically set aside the prior statement. It would be even better if the claimant could provide documentary evidence or show that the subsequent statement is supported by verifiable facts.
10.3.3 Change in attitude
A change in attitude refers to a situation where the claimant does not deny any part of a prior statement. The claimant may actually confirm the accuracy of the earlier statement but, having learned what the duties and obligations are under the legislation, now expresses a genuine desire to comply with the existing rules Footnote 6 .
Any convincing statement to this effect may be accepted from the date it is submitted or, if there is no delay in submitting it, it may even be considered valid from the earlier date on which the claimant's attitude changed about accepting a job. Should the alleged change in attitude lack credibility, the claimant may be required to substantiate it by verifiable facts or actions.
Accepting a job does not necessarily lead to a finding that the claimant was available much earlier. It is possible that the change in attitude was quite recent and that the claimant began to look for work only at that point in time.
[ January 2014 ]
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