When someone suffers a significant injury and disability, she understandably typically focuses on the benefits to which she may be entitled from insurance companies (e.g., Income Replacement Benefits and Long-Term Disability Benefits). What is sometimes overlooked is the monthly Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Benefit which can provide a much-needed financial safety net to protect the injured person and her family.
The purpose of this blog post is to provide a general description of the CPP disability benefit and the manner and timing for which you should apply for this benefit.
What are CPP Disability Benefits?
The CPP disability benefit is available to individuals who suffer a “severe and prolonged” disability:
- “Severe” means being incapable of regularly pursuing any substantially gainful occupation; and
- “Prolonged” means the disability is long-term and of indefinite duration or is likely to result in death.
Medical evidence must be provided to CPP to prove that a disability is severe and prolonged. CPP typically takes about 6 months to make a decision about whether the application is approved. If an application is denied, there is an appeal process which includes strict time limits. If your CPP Disability Benefit application is denied you should get legal advice promptly.
Here are some facts regarding the CPP disability benefit:
- To be eligible for the benefit, you must have made contributions to CPP in at least four of the last six years before you became disabled.
- There are exceptions to the minimum contribution periods set out above which could apply in your case. For example, if you did not make sufficient CPP contributions because you were out of the workforce raising children, you may still qualify for the disability pension. Details regarding the special exemptions can be found at http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/isp/cpp/exceptions.shtml.
- The CPP disability benefit is paid on a monthly basis. The amount you receive will depend on your contributions. In 2019 the average CPP disability benefit is $980.24 per month and the maximum monthly benefit is $1,362.30 per month.
- If you qualify for the CPP disability benefit, then you may also receive additional benefits on behalf of your children. In 2019, CPP pays $250.27 per month for each eligible child of a parent receiving the CPP disability benefit. To be eligible the child must be under 18 years of age (or under 25 years of age and in full-time attendance at a recognized school or university).
- The CPP disability benefit is indexed to inflation. In other words, it increases each year with inflation.
When to Apply?
You should apply for CPP disability benefits as soon as you:
- know that you have a serious disability
- have stopped working, and
- can get all the documents and evidence, including medical reports, you need about your disability.
CPP will only consider you to be disabled for a maximum of 15 months before you apply for the benefit. Since CPP starts paying benefits 4 months after you are deemed disabled, you can only get disability benefit payments for up to 11 months before the date you applied. A significant delay in applying, therefore, may result in you not receiving all the benefits to which you are eligible.
That being said, there are potential problems if you apply for the CPP disability benefit too early. Remember that you are required to prove that your disability is severe and prolonged (essentially permanent or of an indefinite duration). If you apply for the CPP disability benefit too early, your application may be denied because there may be the possibility of a recovery sufficient enough to allow you to perform some kind of employment. A psychological disability, for example, such as depression, can certainly be considered ‘prolonged’. The reality, however, is that healthcare providers are usually reluctant, at least initially, to consider depression a permanent condition. They hope that treatment and medication will eventually lead to recovery. It is often only after years of unsuccessful treatment that a psychiatrist will concede that that the patient’s depression is likely permanent.
If you are considering apply for the CPP disability benefit you should have a frank discussion with your healthcare providers about the likelihood of your condition improving. If they are optimistic about your future recovery (at least to the extent that you may be able to work) you should consider delaying the application.
If you have any questions about the CPP disability benefit and the application process you should get legal advice so that it addresses your specific circumstances. Similarly, if your application for the CPP disability benefit has been denied you should get legal advice promptly to ensure that you do not miss any deadlines.
 The purpose of this blog is to provide general advice regarding the CPP disability pension. If you think you may qualify for this pension you should obtain legal advice so that it can be tailored to your specific situation.
 If you have contributed to CPP for more than 25 years, you must have made CPP contributions in at least three of the last six years, before becoming disabled.
 A child includes one who is adopted “legally” or “in fact” by the contributor while under 21 years of age. It also includes a child “legally” or “in fact” in the custody and control of the contributor while under 21 years of age.