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Vancouver Island senior facing homelessness desperate to expedite pension application

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A Sidney, B.C., senior is desperate to have his pension application with the federal government expedited as he claims a bureaucratic delay is putting him on the brink of homelessness.

“I’m very organized. I don’t waste. I run a tight budget. And I need to get out of this physical situation before it completely crushes me,” says Graeme Teague.

The senior says he’s been struggling financially since the pandemic and money is running out. Because of the hardship, he started collecting the Canada Pension Plan early. And now that he’s 65, he should qualify for Old Age Security and potentially the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

“The pension cheque is absolutely vital. It has to happen,” he says. “Because of the way the economy has gone, the price of everything, I’m on the very edge all the time. I leave my house twice: To go to work, to go to the food bank.”

Teague says he started the application process for OAS and GIC after receiving a letter in the mail a year ago. He says he filled it out and sent it back – then received a surprise response 11 months later.

“They sent a reply saying ‘What country were you born in? When did you arrive in Canada?' I was born in Canada. I never arrived,” he says.

Teague worked as a professional photographer and author outside the country for about two decades – and he feels unheard on that too.

“I told them everything and then they just sent me another form letter about my absences from Canada, which I had already told them in the first letter,” he says in frustration.

CTV News is seeking information on the case from the federal government – and has been passed around departments with no formal comment by deadline.

Teague’s MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, Elizabeth May, says her office is now on the case.

“He’s resubmitted a questionnaire. We’ll stay on it and we’ve flagged it for Service Canada employees to say ‘This is an urgent situation,'” says May.

“I won’t let him be homeless. It can’t happen that somebody who is housed becomes unhoused because of red tape,” she says.

B.C.’s seniors advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, says these application processes can take time when a person’s case doesn’t fit the typical formula. She believes the case is a symptom of a larger issue.

“More and more and more we are marginalizing the people who aren’t able to log in online and do things quickly and know how to fill out forms. And also who have the ability to wait for whatever length of time to process it,” says Mackenzie.

The Office of the Seniors Advocate has an information and referral line to act as a resource for seniors at 1-877-952-3181.

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