CPP disability benefits can be a lifesaver for disabled citizens who find themselves unable to work. Still, many people struggling under the weight of such circumstances have questions regarding the Canada Pension Plan benefits program. While there are various sources on the web for such information much of it is cloaked in legalese. So in this post we’ll try and answer several common questions about CPP’s disability program in plain English.
The Lowdown on CPP Disability Benefits
What follows are a series of common questions regarding CPP benefits for the disabled and some straightforward answers.
How Does the CPP Define “Disability”? According to the CPP a qualifying disability is one that exhibits both “severe” and “prolonged” characteristics.
- “Severe” means that your disability prevents you from working on anything like a regular basis.
- “Prolonged” means that your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least 1 full year (12 consecutive months). It may also mean your condition is terminal.
CPP adjudicators may look at your work history, education level, special training (if any) and other circumstances to determine if you are actually able to work or not.
Is that all? – Not quite. Even if you can prove your disability is both “severe” and “prolonged” you must also be able to demonstrate that you made adequate contributions to the CPP fund during your working life. Normally that means:
- That you have contributed to the CPP program in 4 of the 6 years preceding your application for CPP disability benefits, or
- That you have contributed to the CPP program in 3 of the 6 years preceding your application if you can show you’ve contributed for at least 25 years total.
If your disability meets the definition of “severe” and “prolonged” and you have made the necessary contributions to the CPP fund while you were working you stand a good chance of being approved for CPP disability benefits.
Great! How do I apply? – You can download the application for disability benefits from the CPP website or you can call and request an application be mailed directly to you.
- For English service call: 1-800-277-9914
- For French service call: 1-800-277-9915
Or you can drop by your regional CPP office and pick up an application in person.
The application form will need to be filled out by you and there will be a medical report form that needs to be completed by your doctor. If you have more than one physician attending to your health needs make sure the form is completed by the physician most familiar with your disability.
How long does it take to hear back? – You should hear back from CPP within 4 months of your application being received. Before making a decision CPP may request additional information about your condition. It’s in your interest to respond to such requests promptly.
What about an applicant who is terminally ill? – If you or the person you are applying for are terminally ill make sure to indicate this on the application materials. If you do the application will be prioritized and a determination made within 48 hours.
What if I’m turned down? – If you are turned down for CPP disability benefits you can request a ‘reconsideration’ of your case. You can supply new information if you have any, otherwise it will be a review of materials you already sent by a different set of medical adjudicators.
What if the reconsideration is unsuccessful? – If you were turned down again during the reconsideration you can appeal your case to a CPP tribunal. Your request for a tribunal must be made within 90 days of your reconsideration being denied. A tribunal is actually far less formal than a court proceeding. The panel itself is composed of 3 people:
- A CPP lawyer
- A health professional
- An unbiased member of the community
The tribunal will be private and you will be allowed to present new or additional information to bolster your case. You may want to provide any new evidence in your favour before the tribunal because if the evidence is strong your denial may be reversed without the need of a tribunal.
What if I’m denied by the tribunal? – You have one more level of appeal if the tribunal turns you down. You can appeal to the Pension Appeal Board. You’ll have 90 days from the time you receive the tribunal’s decision to file your appeal to the pension board. Since this is your final appeal you should secure representation for this appearance. Having a savvy disability benefits specialist in your corner can make the difference between failure and success.
We hope this Q&A has provided you with easy to understand information regarding the CPP disability benefits program. If you have any other questions or you would like a representative from Disability Credit Canada to assist you in your quest for CPP benefits give us a call. We’re here to help.