Eligibility for Financial Assistance from the Ontario Disability Support Program
It is your responsibility to keep us informed as things change during the ODSP application process and while you are receiving income support through the program. This is crucial, as your circumstances may evolve in the future.
You need to meet these requirements to receive ODSP income support:
- be over the age of 18
- be a legal resident of Ontario
- possess wealth that is below the program's thresholds.
- feel the pinch of a tight budget
- be a member of a protected group or a person with a disability as defined by the program
The application process can be started up to six months before the applicant's 18th birthday if they are under the age of 18.
We will evaluate your income and assets, monthly expenses, family size and composition, and housing costs to determine if you are financially eligible.
You must take part in a process to determine whether or not you meet the ODSP definition of a person with a disability in order to receive financial assistance under the program, unless you belong to a prescribed class.
Learn more about your entitlements and obligations under ODSP.
Criteria for qualification as a disabled person
If you are disabled and live in Ontario, Canada, and you want to apply for ODSP, you must be within the parameters set out by the Ontario Disability Support Program Act.
What it means to say that you are a disabled person is:
- Your mental or physical impairment is severe, ongoing, and likely to last a year or longer.
- your inability to work, take care of yourself, or participate in community life is severely limited as a direct and cumulative result of your impairment
- Your doctor has confirmed your disability, its severity, and its expected duration and limitations.
Your caseworker at ODSP will provide you with a Disability Determination Package to fill out with your doctor(s) when you apply.
The Ministry of Health's Disability Adjudication Unit will accept your package for a full 90 days. Failure to return it within 90 days will result in the withdrawal of your ODSP application unless you request and receive written permission to extend the deadline.
We will evaluate your application to see if you qualify as a person with a disability under the guidelines of the program. The procedure for doing so is known as "Disability Determination."
Your local ODSP office will verify your continued financial eligibility if you are deemed to be a person with a disability according to their criteria. In the event that you continue to meet the requirements, you will be eligible to receive income support.
We will also provide you with a medical review date if we believe your disability or health condition has improved.
Certain groups of people, known as "prescribed classes," are exempt from ODSP's disability adjudication process and are instead automatically approved for cash assistance.
Included among those who belong to protected groups are:
- Any individual who, as of May 31, 1998, was receiving benefits or was the spouse of a recipient under certain case classes of the Family Benefits Act, 1992
- Those over the age of 65 who do not qualify for Old Age Security (OAS).
- Anyone receiving a disability pension from either of these two programs:
- Anyone who has been compensated under the Mercury Contamination Settlement Agreement Act, 1986 for the English and Wabigoon River Systems
- A person who, on or after June 1, 1998, was no longer a resident of a facility designated as Schedule 1 under the former Development Service Act (DSA).
- Huronia Regional Centre (in Orillia), Rideau Regional Centre (in Smith Falls), and Southwestern regional Centre (in Blenheim) are all examples of Schedule 1 facilities from the previous DSA.
- An individual who has been approved to receive services and supports, as well as financial assistance, under the Social Inclusion and Promotion of Developmental Disabilities Act of 2008 (SIPDDA). In this category, we find:
- residents (whether they be homeowners, renters, tenants, or illegal immigrants)
- Individuals residing in a "intensive support residence," as that term is used in the SIPDDA
- Individuals residing in a Supported Group Living Residence (as defined by SIPDDA)
- A person who currently resides in a home under the Homes for Special Care Act or a person who resided in a home under that Act on or after January 1, 2018, but has since left that home (for example, living in the community as a renter, owner, a tenant or a border)
- Somebody who currently lives in or has lived in a home provided by the Community Homes for Opportunity program
- People currently living in:
- a former Provincial Hospital for the Mentally Ill
- the Canadian Mental Health and Addictions Centre (in Toronto).
- Guelph's Homewood Health Centre.
To keep receiving ODSP income support if you fall into one of these categories, you must still apply and satisfy all other ODSP eligibility requirements.
Don't forget to disclose any other income you or your family may be receiving to your caseworker when applying for or receiving ODSP income support.
To ensure that you are receiving a fair amount of financial support, we must have information about your income. Any money you or your family members bring in is considered income and could affect the amount of financial aid you receive.
Types of Money Earned and Where They Can Be Found
- a job
- monetary bonuses
- Benefits from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) or the Québec Pension Plan (QPP)
- Advantages from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
- Salary, tuition, and other benefits from an educational or occupational endeavor
- income earned through farming, business, or self-employment
- help for spouses
- help from sponsors
- Supplemental Annual Income Guaranteed (GAINS)
- Benefits for the elderly, such as Medicare and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), are known as Old Age Security (OAS).
- Benefits for those who are out of work are provided by Employment Insurance (EI).
- alternative government initiatives
- any other sums of money that come into your household or to which you may be entitled
Tax-free resources and other money
Having certain sources of income and other resources does not affect your income support eligibility or the amount you receive.
In particular, the following are not included:
- Family Assistance
- the Canada Child Tax Benefit and other federal tax credits
- benefits from the provincial government such as the Ontario Child Tax Credit
- funding from an RDSP (Registered Disability Savings Plan)
- Financial aid for school from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)
While on income support, there are many restrictions regarding how other money is handled. Identifying exempt forms of income can be difficult; your ODSP caseworker can assist you.
You must disclose any and all financial transactions.
If you are applying for ODSP or receiving income support from the program, you must disclose all assets to your caseworker. When deciding whether or not you qualify, we take your financial resources into account.
A Few Types of Assets
Your assets can be anything of value that you own or that you have access to, such as Some examples are as follows:
- resources stored in financial institutions
- Equities and Debt
- Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)
- real estate or other tangible personal property
- trust money
- any other property you or your kin may possess
Some property is exempt from counting against your asset limit when determining your eligibility for a government assistance program. Some assets that are not subject to the exemption include:
- a place where you and your family have made a permanent
- your primary car (or other vehicle)
- limited trust funds from sources such as an estate or life insurance payout
- within legal bounds, the cash value of life insurance policies
- Burial expenses are covered in advance
- Tax-advantaged 529 Plans (or "RESPs")
- Plans for Retirement Savings for People with Disabilities (RDSP)
- items like furniture and clothing that are essential to daily life but often overlooked
While receiving income support, there are strict regulations regarding how assets should be handled. To find out which of your assets are safe from ODSP seizure, consult with your caseworker.
All of your assets must be disclosed to your caseworker.
Bounds on assets
In order to qualify for income support, you cannot have more than a certain amount of non-exempt assets. The maximum value of assets is:
- $40.000 for an individual
- It costs a couple $50k a year to live comfortably.
For those who have crossed the line
You may be able to get permission to save more than the allowed amount of money or assets. As an illustration, you may put away funds to pay for something you require due to your health or a disability. Ask your ODSP caseworker for more information.
Expenditures on Aid for Disabled
In order to save up for or pay for approved disability-related items and services, ODSP recipients may be granted increased limits and flexibility for their assets and income.
Some examples of accessible products and services are as follows.
- Aids to Daily Living
- prosthetics, life-alert systems, and other medical and security equipment
- auxiliary aids and services for people with disabilities, such as interpreters, adapted vehicles, and accessible bathrooms
- make any necessary changes to your home to meet current health and safety regulations
- Costs of Special Education and Related Training
Caps on assets have been raised
If you have a disability and are trying to save money for a medically necessary product or service, we can raise your asset limits.
There are a few exemptions to income and other cash flows.
You may be able to keep more of the money you earn or receive if you use it to acquire approved items and services related to your disability.
- donations, and other forms of free currency
- trust or insurance payouts
- cash returns from a life insurance policy
- compensation for injuries
You can use your earned income, such as from a job or a business you own and operate, to pay for reasonable accommodations related to your disability, without having to worry about losing any of your income support.
Think carefully about your needs and your budget before making any purchases of disability-related goods or services.
Get in touch with your neighborhood ODSP office. How the program can assist you in saving for or purchasing approved items and services related to your disability can be discussed in detail with your caseworker.
Free money, as in donations
Gifts and voluntary payments to you and your family for any reason will not reduce your ODSP income support.
In any given year, you and your loved ones can receive a maximum of $10,000 from any combination of the following sources:
- payments made voluntarily
- trust fund distributions (including interest)
- the money you receive from your life insurance policy (and any interest or dividends you earn on those funds).
- unexpected gains such as those from the lottery
Gifts from churches and other charities won't affect your ability to get government assistance.
A gift or voluntary payment is not considered income if it is used to offset the cost of approved, disability-related expenses (such as interpreter services) that have been pre-approved in advance. This means that it will not reduce your income support eligibility or amount and will not count toward your $10,000 lifetime cap.
If you or a family member receive more than $10,000 in a calendar year, the full amount will be counted as income in the month it is received. This additional sum could reduce or eliminate your income support benefits.
If you have never received any gifts or voluntary payments before, but receive $11,000 in August, we will count $10,000 as exempt and the other $1,000 as income when determining your August income support.
However, if you use this money to purchase a preapproved service or product for your disability, it may not count against your income support.
For the following month (September in the previous example), we will consider any remaining funds to be an asset. The value of your assets may be considered when determining whether or not you qualify for government assistance.
If you need assistance understanding how these regulations apply to you, speak with your ODSP caseworker.
The Purpose of Life Insurance
Multiple varieties of life insurance are available. To qualify for ODSP, you must have certain types of life insurance, which include:
- delayed annuities
- separate accounts
The cash surrender value of a life insurance policy is excluded as an asset under ODSP up to a maximum of $100,000 for you and each member of your family. Therefore, it will not have any bearing on whether or not you qualify for government assistance.
When a life insurance policy is canceled before its normal term ends, either by the insurance company or the policyholder, the insurance company will pay the policyholder the cash surrender value of the policy.
Up to $100,000 of the total value of a trust and a life insurance policy's cash surrender value may be exempt from taxation if you or a family member owns both.
We do not count life insurance policies as assets unless they have a cash surrender value.
Depending on the terms of your policy, your ODSP caseworker can help you determine whether or not you will be eligible to receive income support from the program.
Earnings from a life insurance policy
Earnings from a life insurance policy, such as dividends or interest, are not considered taxable if they fall into one of the following categories:
- it is put back into the insurance plan
- As of right now, the policy's cash value is below the maximum surrender value.
You have a legal obligation to keep your employer apprised of any and all changes to your life insurance policy, as well as any dividends or interest you receive.
Death benefit payments
In the event that you receive life insurance benefits, you are obligated to notify your employer. For example, if you receive interest or dividends, those are part of this category.
As with other forms of income, life insurance benefits are taxed when received.
The rule has a few exceptions. In a given year, you are not required to report as income the first $10,000 of the total value of all gifts, voluntary payments, and payments from a life insurance policy or trust that you receive.
It's possible that the payment won't be considered income and won't factor into the $10,000 cap if you use it to buy or pay for something specifically related to your disability (like attendant services).
Inheriting money, property, or other valuables may reduce or eliminate your ODSP income support benefits.
The government might not tax any or all of your inheritance. If this is the case, it will not have any bearing on whether or not you receive income support, or how much you receive.
You can discuss the potential impact of an inheritance on your ODSP income support with your caseworker.
If you receive or expect to receive an inheritance, you must notify your caseworker immediately.
One way to get rich is to inherit
The laws governing gifts and voluntary payments may exempt a portion of the inheritance you receive.
In a given year, you can exclude from your taxable income up to $10,000 worth of gifts, voluntary payments, and payouts from a life insurance policy or trust.
If you receive an inheritance during the month you are applying for income support, the amount will be counted as income for the purpose of determining your eligibility. If you receive an inheritance in August, for instance, that sum will be included in your August income support calculation.
In the following month (September in the previous example), we will consider the remainder of your inheritance to be an asset. Income support eligibility may be affected by the value of your assets.
The funds are still available for use on assets that will not affect your ability to receive income assistance, such as:
- Putting money into a RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan) for your kids' future
- using a RDSP (Registered Disabled Savings Plan) to put money away
- Investing in a Place to Call Home
Bequests and Trusts
As long as the trust is established within six months of the inheritance, up to $100,000 of the trust assets may be exempt from taxation.
Inheriting a trust established by a will shields the income from taxes and allows you to keep up to $100,000 in the trust tax-free.
Up to $100,000 of a trust's value and the cash surrender value of a life insurance policy can be protected from creditors under certain circumstances.
The "cash surrender value" of a life insurance policy is the amount of money that the insurance company will pay the policyholder if the policy is canceled before its normal expiration date.
In the event that you receive an inheritance, you may be entitled to
All of the things you inherit will be considered assets. Possible asset rules that could reduce your income support eligibility.
If certain conditions are met, the inheritance you receive may be exempt from taxation. An exception could apply, for instance, if:
- You Take Inheritance of a Home and Make It Your Home
- You Take Your Inheritance Car and Make It Your Daily Driver.
If you receive an inheritance, let your caseworker know so they can determine if any of it is exempt.
The amount of money in a trust for you and your family is taken into account when determining whether or not you are eligible for ODSP income support.
All or some of the funds in a trust established for your benefit or that of a close relative may qualify as exempt assets. That's why it won't have any bearing on whether or not you get income support.
If the funds used to establish the trust came from either of the following sources, you and your family members may be able to exclude up to $100,000 in assets from your taxable estate:
- a bequest
- life insurance payouts
To the extent that you or a family member owns a trust and a life insurance policy, the total value of those two assets may be exempt from the estate tax. This amount cannot exceed $100,000.
When a life insurance policy is canceled before its term ends, either by the insurance company or the policyholder, the cash surrender value is the amount the policyholder receives.
The specifics of an individual's trust will determine how it affects their Income Support. If you have questions about how a trust might impact your ODSP benefits, feel free to consult with your caseworker.
Money invested in a trust that yields interest
Earnings on funds held in trust for you are not considered income if:
- funds are invested back into the trust.
- A review of the trust's value reveals that it remains within legal parameters.
You have a legal obligation to keep your employee apprised of both the trust's earnings and any changes in its value.
Distributions from a trust
You are required to notify your employee of any trust distributions you may receive. All interest earnings and distributions are included.
When you receive money from a trust, it will be counted as income.
Some conditions are not met. In any given year, you can exclude from your taxable income up to $10,000 worth of gifts, voluntary payments, and payouts from a life insurance policy or trust.
Additionally, the payment may not be considered income if it is used to purchase an approved disability-related item or service (such as attendant services), and therefore may not contribute to the $10,000 lifetime cap.
Trusts whose distribution is subject to the discretion of the trustee
It's possible that the bequest you're expecting is actually held in a trust that the will's creator has set up for his or her own discretion. The trustee of a discretionary trust decides on behalf of the beneficiary how the funds will be distributed to them. According to ODSP, trusts of this nature are handled differently. You should discuss the possible implications of being named in a trust with your caseworker if this is the case.
Your continued eligibility for ODSP services as a person with a disability depends on the results of a medical review of your condition. In the event that a patient's health improves over time, a medical review date will be scheduled.
Dates for medical reviews only apply to those who were given one when they first qualified for the program.
If you continue to meet the program's other eligibility requirements, you will be eligible to receive your income support and other benefits.
Details of the medical review procedure
You will be contacted and sent a Medical Review Package when it is time for your review.
Your doctor or other licensed medical professional must complete the medical review paperwork.
Please note that you have 90 days to submit your paperwork. The Disability Adjudication Unit will grant extensions if you need more time to fill out your paperwork.
Following the receipt of your completed forms, we will:
- Please take a look at the data you provided.
- evaluate whether or not you still qualify as disabled under the program's guidelines.
- a letter informing you of our decision
Call the Disability Adjudication Unit if you have any questions about the medical review or if you need an extension.
Internal Appeals and Review Procedures
Do not be afraid to ask for a review of a decision if you do not agree with it. An internal review is the initial phase of the appeals process.
You may be able to file an appeal with the Social Benefits Tribunal if you disagree with the outcome of the Internal Review.
Those who have had their income support cut off but who still require financial assistance can apply to Ontario Works.
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