Applying for disability benefits

I am reposting this article because I have received some interesting and helpful comments. Why? Because applying for disability income benefits, whether short term or permanent, can be a very complicated and time consuming process. Contrary to what some people think, such support is not automatic just because a person has a disability. It is only for people with disabilities who ALSO have a financial need. In other words, if one spouse has a disability and the other is working, it is unlikely the one with the disability would be eligible for any government support.

Although each Canadian province has their own set regulations and procedures, provincial eligibility is fairly consistent. In Ontario the program is called The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). It has both employment and income supports. To qualify for ODSP:

  • A person must have a verified physical or mental disability that is expected to last at least one year or more;
  • The disability makes it very difficult for the person to take care of themselves or participate in their community;
  • The person must be financially eligible;
  • The person must be 18 years of age or older; and
  • The person must be a resident of the province where they are applying.

There are other circumstances where a person may qualify for financial aid as well, such as if they are 65 years of age but don’t qualify for Old Age Security; they live in a psychiatric facility; and/or are about to turn 18 and, in Ontario at least, currently get a benefit called the “Assistance for Children With Severe Disabilities Benefit.”

In addition, readers who have contributed to the Canada Pension Plan will have to check out eligibility for that disability program here because if people “are” eligible for a CPP disability pension, they will not likely be eligible for ODSP benefits — although partial benefits may be possible. As well, of course, there are also a number of insurance plans that cover disability and loss of work benefits. Each such policy would have to be checked for eligibility criteria.

Whatever the case, when applying for ODSP, there is a package that must be completed called the Disability Determination Package (DDP). This package is key to acceptance and should be done VERY carefully. There are three parts to the package:

  1. The Health Status Report and Activities of Daily Living Index. A variety of people need to fill out this form and it should be done in detail.
  2. The second part of the package is the “Medical Consent Form” which must be signed so that the applicant’s doctor or medical professional has permission to release medical information.
  3. The final component is the “Self Report.” And, like the Health Status Report and Daily Living Index, this should be done in detail and carefully. If the applicant is not able to compose and write it themselves, someone should help them. Remember the Disability Adjudication Unit (DAU) doesn’t know the applicant and has to completely rely on what is supplied to them to make a decision. 

Yet, even after all this process is completed satisfactorily and the person is deemed eligible, the applicant must still disclose all their assets and expenses. Sometimes this is done by phone, other times there is a form to be filled out. The reason it has to be done on a regular basis is because financial or disability circumstances can change. But, whenever this review is completed, it must be done accurately. It is an offense to do otherwise and it could mean benefits never starting or, if already started, being cut off.

What the income and expenses review involves is declaring every single asset the person has, including money in the bank. However, applicants are allowed up to a total of $100,000 of inheritance income plus a certain amount of that income allowed annually (e.g., $5000.00 for a single person).  Here is a good source for those types of details.

While applying for disability benefits is a long and complicated process, the time taken can be speeded up when everything is completed thoroughly the first time around.


Note: Right now in Ontario, the monthly support for a single disabled person is $957.90 plus a drug card and certain other benefits (like dental and glasses). For a married couple who are both disabled with no other source of income, the monthly income, plus the same drug and other benefits, is just over $1600.00.  Clearly, the topic of another article, it is clearly not enough for a single or married couple with disabilities to live on over a long period of time. 

H/T to Jack at Jack’s Newswatch for CPP link and to Louise M. re the fact that anyone who has contributed to CPP must first apply there before ODSP.


9 thoughts on “Applying for disability benefits

  1. I do hope that all families with a person with a disability applies for the disability tax credit. If an adult qualifies, and has no taxable income, this credit can be transferred to the working spouse. If you have not been taking advantage of it, and do qualify, there is a fairness doctrine that can apply this credit back for several years. Either parent can use this credit on their tax return. Also, there are tax benefits for people who care for a family member in their home, parent, grandparent, and others. Last year there was an additional deduction if you have a handicapped child. The form must be filled out by a doctor, audiologist, etc and remitted to the tax dept for acceptance. This amt is around 10,000. dollars, which is about 1500. in reduced taxes due.


  2. In addition to the above, it is also possible to claim a medical expense for some of the costs of long term care. That also is a very new deduction.
    It will soon be tax time again so I implore all of you who use a tax preparer or computer program to explore all the options and click on every line to get every deduction coming. As a rule of thumb, no tax preparer will volunteer info, you have to ask the question and tell them everything. As I was told by the manager of a firm I worked for, If they don’t ask, don’t tell. Something about being sued if things don’t work out.
    I tell my clients, I don’t guarantee this will be accepted but all they can do is say NO. But, in most cases they say yes. Once you have been oked for the disability tax credit, you never have to send the form in again, just fill in the proper box when asked.
    If in doubt, call the tax department and get the info you need, and the forms.


  3. Mary T — Actually our experience has been a little different. My son has been disabled since birth and will have autism for life, yet my husband has had to submit a new T2201 several times to prove its a lifelong disability. Also, the federal tax people have made things far more difficult to even use the deduction or to be able to transfer it to the caregiver.

    For example, people no longer quality for the disability deduction unless they are nearly totally incapacitated or bed ridden.

    As far as the long term care deduction, good luck with that one. It’s based on income. My mother’s income was barely over the $11,000 limit so neither she nor I ever qualified even though we subsidized her for years.

    So, yes the deductions are there but as you say “all they can do is say NO” and they seem to do everything they can to do just that.

    And, by the way, if a person calls the tax department they can get someone who has just been trained and has no idea about disability issues. I would recommend asking people ask for a “supervisor.”

    IMO, the most important thing for any family who has a disabled adult is to have a “discretionary trust” set up so that they are financial secure once a primary caregiver dies — with a very trusted person as trustee. It will allow the disabled adult to collect on the interest (or principal) of a $100,000 inheritance trust once or twice a year for clothing and/or furniture, without reducing ODSP benefits a penny.

    I am not a lawyer so haven’t said a lot about this, but recommend people look into it. The word “discretionary” is key. It is not looked at as regular trust, RRIF or life insurance annuity because there can be no regular or set dates for payments. Otherwise, payments are deemed income and deducted from ODSP monthly assistance.


  4. We fought for the medical expense for a resident of LTC, and were told by the CHR, we don’t give receips etc. It took a long time, but the guys nephew didn’t give up. Finally, receipts were given and broke down, so much for food, laundry, CARE, rent etc. We had to make the decision, attendant care or medical expense. Can’t do both. Medical expense was most beneficial for him. When our grandson reached 18, and the DTC was reviewed, we just kept it. It is getting more difficult to get it, but worth the fight. So many people are unaware of it.
    For 18 yrs, all costs were paid for by the govt. Then he reached 18, and AISH. Funny, alto he has received new hearing aids every 4 yrs till 18, now he is eligible for 1 new one, every 4 years. Same with some equipment he needs. Do you realize that ABs health system is so great that they cured the deafness in one ear, fixed it so that he will never grow or gain weight, thus needing a new chair, and so many other items and disabilities he no longer has. Of course, when he reached 65, all these problems will reappear and be funded.
    Instead of raising royalties, our govt should sell these cures to the rest of canada. Of course most of the decisions made re disabilities are made by people appointed to various boards, who have never been around a disabled person.


  5. Thanks Jack & Mary T — CPP is okay for people who have at one time or another been employeed and paid CPP premiums. But, that is VERY relevant when people acquire a disability as a result of illness or accident. So, I have added it to the article.


  6. I don’t think it’s been pointed out that when you apply for ODSP and you have contributed to CPP, ODSP will require you to apply for CPP disability benefits. The definition of disability is different in each program. It is more difficult to qualify for CPP disability.
    Mind you, I can see the Province’s point. If a person qualifies for CPP, the Province saves money as it only has to top up the difference between the two benefits. It makes the process even more lengthy and complex for CPP contributors.


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