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Disability benefits in Ontario: Who can get them and how to apply

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Step 1: Do I qualify financially?

To "qualify financially" you must need financial help to have enough money to live on. You must also meet other rules about income and assets.

When you apply for ODSP, you have to give personal and financial information about yourself, each member of your family, and anyone else who lives with you.

To qualify financially, your income cannot be more than a certain amount. The amount depends on the size of your family and the cost of your housing.

The ODSP office also looks at your assets because your assets cannot be worth more than a certain amount. This amount also depends on the size of your family.

Some examples of assets are savings, registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs), and other valuable property.

There are some types of income and assets that ODSP does not count. For example, they do not count your home, car, and most household items like furniture and appliances.

Income and assets of others you live with

ODSP usually includes income and assets of other people in your household when they figure out if you qualify financially.

They have rules about who they include as part of your household. For example, if you live with your parents, ODSP will not include them if you are an adult who qualifes for ODSP on your own.

ODSP will include your spouse if the two of you live together.

Your spouse can be someone of the same or opposite sex. You could be married to one another or not.

If my spouse does not live with me

Usually, ODSP includes your spouse as part of your household only if you are living together.

But sometimes they treat your spouse as if you are living together, even if you are not. For example, your spouse might be:

  • away at school
  • looking for work somewhere else
  • in another country waiting to get a visa so they can come to Canada

If your spouse is not living with you but ODSP includes them as part of your household, this can affect whether you will get income support. And if you do get it, it can affect the amount you get.

If this applies to you, it is important to get legal advice. A community legal clinic may be able to help you. See How can I get legal help and information?

If I need help right now

It can take months to fnd out if you qualify for ODSP.

If you need money right now to pay for food and housing, you can apply for Ontario Works (OW) to get help while you wait.

OW rules about assets are stricter than ODSP rules. But if you apply for OW because you need money while you wait to find out about ODSP, OW will use the ODSP asset rules.

OW can use the ODSP asset rules only once in your lifetime.

For information about applying for OW, see CLEO's Need welfare? How to apply to Ontario Works.

To fnd your local OW office:

  • Call ServiceOntario at:
  • Toll-free: 1-800-267-8097

    Toll-free TTY: 1-800-268-7095

    Toronto area: 416-326-1234

    Toronto area TTY: 416-325-3408

  • Go to www.ontario.ca/socialassistance and look in the section about Ontario Works.

If someone in my household needs a special diet

People who have certain medical conditions might be able to get a special diet allowance as part of the income support they get from ODSP.

The amount someone gets depends on their medical conditions.

If you or other members of your household qualify for a special diet, ODSP must look at this when they decide:

  • whether you qualify for income support
  • how much income support you should get

To apply for a special diet allowance, you must use the special diet allowance application form.

You can ask an ODSP worker for this form.

A health professional has to fill out the form.

The health professional has to be approved to practise in Ontario as one of the following:

  • a family doctor or a specialist
  • a dietitian
  • a nurse practitioner
  • a midwife, if the special diet is for a baby less than a year old because breastfeeding is not possible
  • A woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding can get a nutritional allowance. This is separate from a special diet allowance. You apply for it using a different form.

You and your health professional both have to sign the special diet allowance application form.

By signing the form, you agree to let your doctor or other health professionals give more medical information to ODSP, if they ask for it. ODSP can:

  • ask for more information to show that you need a special diet
  • ask a different health professional to fill out another special diet allowance application form

The application form lists all the medical conditions that qualify for a special diet allowance. If a medical condition is not on the list, you cannot get an allowance for it.

And for each medical condition on the form, there is a maximum amount of money you can get.

If ODSP refuses your application for a special diet allowance, you can appeal the decision.

There is information about time limits and how to appeal in CLEO's Appealing a decision about social assistance.

To find out more about special diets and which medical conditions are listed, contact your community legal clinic. For information about how to find the nearest legal clinic, see How can I get legal help and information?

If the ODSP office decides that I do qualify financially

If you do qualify financially, the ODSP office will give you a Disability Determination Package. It has forms to fill out that ask about your health.

ODSP uses this information to decide if you meet their definition of a "person with a disability".

If the ODSP office decides that I do not qualify financially

You can appeal the decision. There is information about time limits and how to appeal in CLEO's Appealing a decision about social assistance.

If you decide to appeal the decision, you will still get the forms that ask about your health. This lets you continue with your ODSP application.

It is important to do this because if you win your appeal, you might be able to get income support from the date ODSP got your completed application.