Disability Benefits: The Significance of Synthesis


Ryan Tonkin

Identifying Need
For many years TAPS has provided high quality, face-to-face legal advocacy to people seeking Person with Disabilities (PWD) designation through the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (MSDSI). More recently, Tony Pullman has guided the expansion of TAPS' services to include free income tax preparation for low income individuals, seniors and persons with disabilities.

These two projects clearly highlighted a gap in access to services. The Income Tax project observed that many TAPS clients do not claim the Disability Tax Credit (DTC), though they may be eligible to do so. As a result, these clients also do not take advantage of the tremendous benefits of Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs). In addition, TAPS’ disability advocacy project consistently receives a high volume of inquiries regarding the federal Canada Pension Plan disability benefit (CPP-D).
TAPS: Increasingly Comprehensive Service
Many clients require information and advice not just about the benefits and burdens of various government programs considered in isolation, but also about the relationships between the benefits themselves, as well as interactions between disability benefits and the diverse and often unique circumstances of their own lives.

In order to address the identified access gaps, TAPS is excited to introduce its Federal Disability Advocacy Project (FDAP). This project enables TAPS to offer more comprehensive, unified service to persons with disabilities. It is intended to synthesize TAPS' services. FDAP connects TAPS' provincial, income tax and federal benefits programs, so that persons with disabilities are empowered to pursue income security in the most informed manner possible.
FDAP services include information, eligibility assessments, and application assistance. These three services are offered for each of three federal benefits: CPP-D, DTC and RDSP.

Almost all individuals who have worked in Canada have contributed to the federally managed Canada Pension Plan. This pension plan provides a benefit to contributors who become disabled. The disability benefit is a taxable monthly payment available to contributors who have a severe and prolonged disability, and are thereby not able to maintain gainful employment. The various differences between CPP-D and PWD were discussed in issues #95 and #96 of Taproot. A distillation results in four primary categories of applicants who might benefit from a CPP-D application:

  1. Your (or your spouse's) income or assets make you ineligible for PWD.
  2. You can complete the activities of daily living without assistance, but cannot be employed.
  3. Your monthly payment would be higher on CPP-D than on PWD.
  4. The Ministry (MSDSI) has lawfully required you to apply for CPP-D.

The Disability Tax Credit is a non-refundable amount that can be claimed both federally and provincially. This means that qualified persons or their spouses/caretakers can pay approximately $1,500 less income tax each year. Income tax can be refiled for up to ten years, which may trigger significant refunds. In addition, qualifying for the DTC triggers automatic eligibility for a Registered Disability Savings Plan. The RDSP makes the DTC valuable, even if a person pays no income tax and can therefore not benefit from the tax credit directly.

The federal government contributes $1,000 each year to low income RDSP holders under the age of 50. In addition, the government will also contribute significant matching funds to account holders able to make contributions. For example, an RDSP holder able to contribute $500 will attract an additional $1500 in government grants. Persons with prolonged disabilities that are present at least 90% of the time and significantly restrict them in one or more of the following eight categories should consider contacting Ryan Tonkin at TAPS for information about RDSPs: (1) speaking, (2) hearing, (3) walking, (4) bowel or bladder functions, (5) feeding, (6) dressing, (7) vision or (8) the mental functions necessary for everyday life.