The Carlington Summit
by Laurie E. Joe.
Clinic Lawyer.
West End Legal Services.

Do you know someone suffering from a disability who is living in Ontario? That person may be eligible for provincial disability benefits from the Ontario government.

Disability benefits are not a new concept. Under the former Family Benefits Act, people with health problems were eligible for a disability if they suffered from a disability or that the combination of ill-health, age or other factors made it impossible for them to work. Persons who were “permanently unemployable” due to a number of factors, including health, were eligible for disability.

Who is eligible?

Last year, the Ontario government passed the Ontario Disability Support Program Act (ODSPA). Under that new law, a person is defined as disabled if:

However, persons who may have been considered permanently unemployable under the old law may not be eligible for a disability pension under ODSPA unless they fit the criteria of being “disabled”.

How to apply?

The Ontario government has set up a centralized unit called the Disability Adjudication Unit (DAU). It replaces the former Medical Advisory Board which was essentially made up of medical doctors who reviewed disability applications.

If the application is denied, the person must request, in writing, an internal review of the negative decision. If the DAU does not reverse its negative decision, an appeal can be filed before the Social Benefits Tribunal within 30 days after the request for internal review has been denied. If no decision is given, the 30-day limitation date starts to run 10 days after the request for an internal review is sent.

Often the DAU can request additional information regarding the person's disabilities, even if an appeal has been launched. The DAU can, at any time, reverse its decision. Any additional medical information should be sent to the Social Benefits Tribunal 20 days before the date of any appeal hearing.

Any person who has already qualified for disability benefits under the Canada Pension Plan automatically qualified for ODSPA benefits. The requirements for Canada Pension Plan disability are slightly more restrictive. Also, persons who were receiving a disability under the former Family Benefits Act normally would continue to receive benefits under the new law because of a grandparenting clause that makes it unnecessary for them to re-apply under the new law.

For more information about applying for a disability pension, please call the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton at 560-6000 or contact a community legal clinic in your area.

For residents living west of Holland and Fisher Avenues, please contact West End Legal Services at 596-1641.