Persons with Disabilities (PWD) is the provincial disability benefit administered by the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (MSDSI). Recently TAPS has been overwhelmed by individuals on PWD who have received letters from MSDSI advising them that they must send information to the “CPP Recovery Program”. The letter may contain instructions, a deadline, and even threats of their cheque being withheld. Individuals are seeking assistance from TAPS because they are unsure what to do, are feeling overwhelmed, and are terrified about having their benefits suspended. This article aims to provide some clarification about the “CPP Recovery Program”, as well as information about what steps to take should you receive such a letter.
What is the difference between PWD and CPP-D?
PWD benefits are available to British Columbians if they are in financial need of assistance, and are significantly restricted in their ability to perform daily living activities due to a severe mental or physical condition. PWD is not related to whether or not a person is prevented from working. In fact, if you do qualify for PWD you can earn $9,600 per year and still retain your assistance. Like other forms of income assistance, eligibility for PWD benefits is tied to an individual’s income and asset levels. Therefore, even if a person is severely disabled, they will not qualify for assistance unless they are in financial need. Once a person qualifies for PWD, they are entitled to an amount of assistance based on their family composition. The maximum for a single PWD recipient is $906.42.
Canada Pension Plan Disability benefits (“CPP-D”) are a form of federal disability benefits. To qualify, an applicant must have a severe and prolonged disability which prohibits them from any substantially gainful employment. In addition, even if a person is disabled, they will not qualify for CPP-D unless they have made sufficient earnings contributions to the Canada Pension Plan. Unlike PWD, CPP-D is not income tested. If an applicant meets the definition of disability and has made sufficient contributions before becoming disabled, they will qualify for CPP-D. The amount of CPP-D a person receives is based on their contributions to the Canada Pension Plan, plus a minimum amount. In 2015 the average CPP-D payment was $929.01, up to a maximum payment of $1,264.59.
Why is MSDSI telling me to apply for CPP-D?
If you are receiving income assistance, it is a condition of your eligibility that you seek all other available income and means of support. This includes federal Canada Pension Plan benefits. Payments from the Canada Pension Plan are considered non-exempt, unearned income by the Ministry. Consequently, federal payments are deducted dollar-for-dollar from a person’s monthly assistance cheque.
What do I have to do?
The first step you must take is to provide the Ministry with a copy of your “Statement of Contribution”. This information, available from Service Canada, shows contributions you have made to the Canada Pension Plan throughout your employment history. Based on this information, MSDSI will be able to see if you have made sufficient contributions to meet the initial eligibility qualifications for CPP-D. If your statement shows very little or no contributions, you should not have to complete a CPP-D application.
However, getting your Statement of Contributions for MSDSI is not as easy as one would assume. Calling Service Canada to request a copy is nearly impossible. Due to high call volumes, you may be prevented from even waiting on hold to speak with a Service Canada representative. You can submit a request in writing by completing an “Application for Statement of Contributions” from the Service Canada website. Alternatively, you can request an Access Code online or in person at the Service Canada office (1401 Douglas Street) to set up a “My Service Canada” Account.
If MSDSI determines you have made sufficient contributions to CPP, the next step will be to complete the CPP-D application package itself. The “application” that you will receive from MSDSI consists of an Application Form, Questionnaire, Medical Report, and Consents to Release Information for your physician and Service Canada. The instructions are to complete the forms and return them to the “CPP Recovery Program” by a certain date.
The CPP-D Application Package also includes a “Consent to Deduction and Payment” form which you must sign. By signing this form you consent to Service Canada directing your retroactive CPP-D payments to MSDSI for the period in which you were eligible for CPP-D, but had been receiving PWD instead. MSDSI is only reimbursed for the amount of PWD assistance you received during your period of eligibility for CPP-D. As well, after MSDSI has been repaid there should not be any further deductions from your CPP-D cheque.
Will I lose my PWD benefits if I am eligible for CPP-D?
Most individuals who are eligible for CPP-D continue to be eligible for PWD because the amount they receive in federal benefits is less than their provincial assistance entitlement. For example, if an individual receives $500 in CPP-D, the province will provide a reduced amount of PWD benefits to ensure that the individual continues to receive assistance equal to the MSDSI rates.
Individuals who receive CPP-D in an amount higher than the provincial assistance rates would cease being eligible for PWD benefits. While disentitled to provincial assistance due to their CPP-D income, they continue to be eligible for some limited health benefits from the province under the “Medical Services Only” (“MSO”) category. This includes such benefits as premium-free MSP coverage, extended medical therapies, and deductible-free PharmaCare coverage. However, individuals falling under the “MSO” category cease being eligible for such vital benefits as diet supplements, monthly nutritional supplements and orthodontics. You also cease being eligible for the BC Bus Pass Program and other general supplements provided by MSDSI, such as crisis grants and moving supplements.
What if I apply and am not eligible for CPP-D?
If you are found ineligible for CPP-D, either because of insufficient contributions or because your disability is not severe enough, your ongoing provincial assistance should not be affected. You should continue receiving provincial assistance with no negative consequences.
HELP! I can’t do this alone!!!!
If you have been asked to apply for CPP-D by MSDSI and are having difficulty, contact the TAPS Federal Disability Advocacy Project (FDAP) at 250-361-3521 for assistance. We can help guide you through the process with the Ministry and can even assist with completing CPP-D application forms.