83,000 seniors in Western Canada and Ontario are being mailed Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) payments that they qualified for, but never received. Bureaucratic errors on the part of the government were responsible for the mistake, and some seniors will be getting back payments from as early as 2008 as a result.
The massive error occurred when a new computer system was implemented and 140,000 files were skipped over by mistake. Government officials are calling and emailing seniors who qualify for over $10,000 in payments, and the rest will just be mailed cheques.
What is the Guaranteed Income Supplement?
The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) is an additional supplementary payment for seniors receiving Old Age Security (OAS) who have a low monthly income. You can read more about eligibility requirements and the application process on the Government of Canada website. Unlike OAS, the GIS is not something you automatically receive – you must apply for it.
How do I find out if I have a cheque in the mail?
If you have an online account with My Service Canada, you can log in and check it to see if you have an outstanding payment, or call 1-800-277-9914. If you have been receiving GIS payments, you will likely not qualify as for the error to have happened your application would not have been processed. Government officials are working to ensure that other benefit programs are not impacted by the large cheque if you are qualified to receive it.
12,000 files are still being reviewed, so if you think you may be on the list, your file may not have been reviewed yet. Government officials are pushing for all files to be reviewed by the end of March.
Beware of fraudsters
While this isn’t something that has been reported in the news yet, remember that if you are contacted by a government official about an overdue GIS payment, they will only ask you questions to verify your identity. They shouldn’t be requesting banking information, since a cheque will be mailed to you. If you receive a call and are suspicious, get their number, verify that it belongs to a government office by searching for it on the Internet, and call them back.
No interest on overdue GIS payments
Despite the error being on the part of the government, there is no law on the books that state that it owes interest for back payments of benefits. Government officials are working to ensure that any large cheques don’t impact any other benefits.