People with either physical or developmental disabilities in the Province of Ontario may be eligible to receive benefits under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). The ODSP is administered by the Ministry of Community, Family and Children’s Services. This program which is often called the Disability Pension is available to people who are over 18 years of age and who meet a very closely regulated set of criteria. These rules surround issues of assets and income of the person with the disability and their medical condition. The purpose of this program is to provide a basic level of income, prescription drugs and dental care to adults with disabilities. It also provides some basic programs such as the current employment program which is designed to encourage people with disabilities to enter into the workplace and to retain employment opportunities. For many people with disabilities in Ontario, it is important to maintain these benefits even though they are somewhat limited. It should also be noted that the benefits under this program are payable until the person with the disability reaches age 65 at which time the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement programs take over. Under these programs, the person will continue to receive a modest income, prescription drugs but they will lose their entitlement to funded dental care.
As previously mentioned, the Ontario Disability Support Program is often referred to as being a pension plan for people with disabilities. It contains several components which will be discussed here in a summary format since the full details of each category are far too lengthy and complex for a web site discussion. If you wish to gain further insights into the Ontario Disability Support Program, please do not hesitate to contact the “Special Needs” Planning Group for assistance and direction.
The Ontario Disability Support Program provides a person with a disability with a tax free monthly cheque based upon the person’s actual expenses up to a maximum of $1,151. (2017 amounts) This amount is reduced to $881 if the person with a disability is living in the family home or in a “room and board” situation. In addition, the amount of the cheque can be reduced by employment income and other income received by the person with the disability. The income rules could eliminate a person’s entitlement to benefits if their income amount is large enough. However, a person receiving benefits under the ODSP program is allowed to receive voluntary payments of up to $10,000 in any 12 month period and unlimited amounts of money if used for disability related expenses without affecting his entitlement to benefits.
Over and above the monthly cheque, the ODSP provides access to a prescription drug plan and to a basic coverage dental plan. Quite often, the drug and dental plans are of tremendous benefit to people with special needs since medication costs can be high. This factor alone can make the preservation of the government program essential. If a person qualifies for benefits under the ODSP, he may qualify for up to an additional $250 for a special diet allowance provided that the specific medical conditions are listed on the ODSP guidelines. This extra funding has been added to the program in recognition of the fact that special diets may be necessitated by various medical conditions and there may be extra costs as a result.
Employment Supports are also available through the ODSP program. These supports are designed to reduce or eliminate disability-related barriers to finding and keeping an income earning position of employment. A person with a disability can access the following assistance under the employment support section of the ODSP.
If a person qualifies for employment benefits under ODSP then the services he or she can receive are as follows:
Assistance Developing an Employment Plan
Employment Preparation and Training:
Interpreter, Reader, Note taker, Intervener Services
Transportation Assistance While in Training Program
All in all, it is easy to see that to live on only the ODSP benefits alone is not living in the lap of luxury. The cost of living in most communities of Ontario far exceeds the benefits available to the people with disabilities. The preceding review is simply an overview of the program. If you are interested in a more in depth view of the ODSP program, simply contact Graeme Treeby at The “Special Needs” Planning Group and he will provide you with additional information.
A person who wishes to receive ODSP benefits must qualify for them on both a financial and medical basis. The Government’s position is that it should be the payer of last resort when it comes to the ODSP program. This means, for the most part, that all other assets and income of the person with the disability must be almost exhausted before the ODSP program will begin to pay. However, there are exceptions to the rules. The regulations surrounding the assets and income of the person with the disability will follow.
The regulations stipulate that a person applying for or receiving ODSP benefits must not own liquid assets in excess of $40,000 (as of September 1, 2017) for a single person or $50,000 for a married person plus $500 for each dependent child. If an applicant or recipient exceeds these values, they are not eligible for benefits. There is no clear or formal definition of liquid assets however, it is generally accepted that liquid assets are cash or anything that can easily be converted to cash. Liquid assets include but are not limited to, money in the bank, stocks, bonds, GIC’s, Mutual Funds, some Tax Free Savings Accounts, some RRSP’s some in-trust accounts and in some cases, even valuable coin or stamp collections. If you are not certain that a particular asset is part of the $40,000 limit or not, don’t hesitate to contact the Special Needs Planning Group for clarification.
The regulations specifically exempt several assets from being considered liquid assets. This means that people can own the following without it being counted against them.
Income can come in many forms. Most often, we think of income as being related to employment and for many people, that is their only source of income. When we discuss income as it relates to people with disabilities and the ODSP, we must focus on all potential sources. It should also be noted that there are a great number of rules and regulations which define exemptions from income according to the ODSP. The following will only summarize the most common items which are typically considered to be income and we will explore how they are treated by the ODSP.
It should also be noted that there are also a large number of items that are specifically excluded from the income calculation. They are:
This exemption applies provided the applicant/recipient files an annual report, which is satisfactory to the Director, documenting all income and expense transactions relating to the inherited assets held in trust;
Note: Interest and dividends from an exempt life insurance policy and loans against the face value of an exempt life insurance policy may be exempt as follows:
Note: Income from the policy, annuity or segregated fund that is not reinvested in the policy, not used for approved disability-related items and services, or applied to the purchase of a principal residence, an exempt vehicle, first and last month’s rent or not claimed under the annual $10,000 exemption, is chargeable as income.
There are a number of other things that affect the ODSP benefits in terms of income. There are rules surrounding Canada Pension Plan and WSIB benefits, the proceeds of the sale of assets, employment bonuses and many other types of income. For a further examination of those income issues, please consult the ODSP Income Support Policy Directives.
As far as the ODSP is concerned, in order to qualify for benefits, a person must be a person in need and a person with a disability. A Person with a Disability means:
The definition a person with a disability does not focus on a person’s abilities but rather on their limitations. It also seems that a “label” has little or nothing to do with whether or not they qualify for benefits. The actual limitations that the person has determine whether or not they qualify from a medical perspective.
In conclusion, the Ontario Disability Support Program has a very complicated set of rules and regulations surrounding the qualification process. People with disabilities who have assets in excess of the allowable amount are not eligible for benefits and people who have income will have to use it first, before receiving benefits from the ODSP. The financial issues must be sorted out before a person will qualify for benefits and a great deal of planning should be done around making certain that assets and income do not fall into the hands of the person with a disability by mistake. This could also make a person ineligible for benefits.
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