Canada Pension Plan disability benefits

Introduction

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Benefit is the largest long-term disability insurance program in Canada. It is designed to provide financial assistance to CPP contributors who are not able to work regularly because of a severe and prolonged disability (as defined by the CPP legislation). Service Canada pays monthly CPP disability benefits to eligible applicants and their dependent children.

This webpage provides general information about CPP disability benefits-who is eligible, what benefits are available, and how to apply for those benefits.

What we mean by “disability”

The CPP defines a disability as a medical condition that is severe and prolonged. Severe means that you have a mental or physical disability that regularly stops you from doing any type of substantially gainful work. Prolonged means your disability is likely to be long-term and last indefinitely or is likely to result in death.

Who is eligible for a CPP disability benefit

To qualify for a CPP disability benefit, you must:

  • have a severe and prolonged disability as defined by the CPP legislation;
  • be under age 65;
  • have earned a specified minimum amount and contributed to the CPP while working for a minimum number of years. For example, in 2014, the minimum level of earnings to qualify for CPP disability benefits is $5,200 (this amount is usually adjusted each year); and
  • have contributed to the CPP in four of the last six years at or above the minimum level of earnings or in three of the last six years if you have contributed at or above the minimum level of earnings for at least 25 years.

To remain eligible, you must continue to have a disability according to the CPP legislation.

For more information on annual minimum levels of earnings and contributions, see Canada Pension Plan Contribution Rates.

What if I have not contributed for enough years?

If you have not contributed for enough years, this would usually mean that you would not qualify for CPP disability benefits.

However, you may still qualify if:

  • you delayed applying for disability benefits (that is, you had enough years of contributions when you first became disabled, and you have been continuously disabled since then, but you do not have enough recent contributions now because you stopped working); or
  • your CPP contributions stopped or were reduced because you were raising your children who were under the age of seven; or
  • you have obtained enough CPP credits from a former spouse or common-law partner through credit splitting to make you eligible; or
  • you had periods of coverage in another country with which Canada has a social security agreement (periods of coverage in that country's benefit plan, when added to your CPP contributions, may be enough for you to meet the minimum requirement); or
  • you were not able to apply because of your medical condition.

If you need more information, please visit the Service Canada website or contact us.

Applying for CPP disability benefits

When to apply

You should apply when you develop a severe long-term or terminal medical condition that prevents you from working regularly at your own or any other job.

Do not delay in sending your completed application forms as you could lose several months of benefits. The date your application is received affects when the benefit begins.

How to apply

To apply, you must complete and sign a written application. Print the Application kit for Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits (ISP1151) from our website, or contact us for an application kit containing the necessary forms.

The kit includes:

  • application forms for you and your dependent children (see "Children's benefits");
  • a questionnaire about your work history and medical condition;
  • a medical report to be completed by your doctor (if you have more than one doctor, choose the one who knows the most about your main medical problem);
  • a consent form to give Service Canada permission to get additional information on your condition from other medical and non-medical sources such as your medical doctor, your employer, disability insurers, and hospitals to process your application; and
  • a form to complete if you reduced your working hours or stopped working to care for your children who were under the age of seven.

If you are not able to apply on your own, you can have someone apply for you. If someone else completes the forms for you, you must sign them before submitting them unless they are your legal representative.

If you are aged 60 to 64…

If you are aged 60 to 64 inclusively and you think you might qualify for a CPP disability benefit, you may want to apply for both a CPP retirement pension and a disability benefit. While you cannot receive both benefits at the same time, you may qualify to begin receiving a retirement pension while you wait for your CPP disability benefits application to be assessed, which usually takes longer.

If you are already receiving a CPP retirement pension when your application for disability benefits is approved, we will switch you to disability benefits if:

  • you are still under the age of 65;
  • you have been receiving your CPP retirement pension for less than 15 months at the time you apply for your disability benefits;
  • you meet the minimum contributory requirements; and
  • you have been deemed to be disabled, as defined by the CPP legislation, before the effective date of your retirement pension and before the age of 65.

Note: Repayment of the retirement pension

If your disability benefit is approved, you must pay back the retirement pension payments you received. Normally, we recover the retirement payments from your first disability payment.

If you are receiving CPP disability benefits when you turn 65, your disability benefit will automatically be converted to a retirement pension. You will not need to apply. Your CPP retirement pension will be less than your disability benefit. However, you can also apply for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). Your spouse or common-law partner may also be eligible for the Allowance benefit if he or she is aged 60 to 64 (up to and including the month of his or her 65th birthday).

For more information on the eligibility requirements for the OAS pension, the GIS and the Allowance, visit the Old Age Security Program section of our website.

What if you die before your application for CPP disability benefits is received

Generally, CPP benefits cannot be paid unless an application is received before the contributor dies. However, an application for disability benefits that has been signed before the contributor's date of death and that is received after the date of the contributor's death may be considered. Also, the estate may apply and be eligible for the CPP death benefit, and the surviving spouse or common-law partner may apply for the CPP survivor's benefit. Dependent children (including those who are between age 18 and 25 and attending school full time) may be eligible for the CPP children's benefit.

Receiving CPP disability benefits

When to expect a decision on your application

Whether your application for disability benefits is approved or not, we will contact you in writing to let you know our decision.

Note: Terminally ill applicants

Applicants who are terminally ill will have their disability applications reviewed within 48 hours of our receiving the completed application forms.

When to expect to start receiving the disability benefit

If you are eligible under the terms of the CPP legislation, your disability benefits will start the fourth month after the month you are determined to be disabled. You may receive up to a maximum of 12 months of retroactive payments from the date your application was received.

If you choose to sign up for direct deposit when you apply, your benefit payment will be deposited automatically into your bank account on the third-to-last banking day of the month. Otherwise, a benefit payment cheque will be sent to you by mail, usually during the last three banking days of each month.

The amount of disability benefits you may receive

For up-to-date information on benefit amounts, see Canada Pension Plan - Payment Amounts or contact us. As an example, the maximum monthly disability benefit you could receive in 2014 is $1,236.35. The maximum monthly child benefit payable in 2014 is $230.72.

Increases in your benefits

Your CPP disability payments can increase to reflect changes in the cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index. We adjust payments in January of each year, if needed. Your monthly payments will not decrease if the cost of living goes down.

If you are eligible for more than one CPP benefit

If you are eligible for both a CPP survivor's benefit and a disability benefit, they will be combined into a single monthly payment. However, the combined amount you receive cannot be greater than the maximum CPP disability benefit, which is more than the maximum CPP survivor's benefit.

Volunteering, attending school, or working while receiving CPP disability

  • You can volunteer or attend school, participate in training, or upgrade your skills without affecting your CPP disability benefits. However, you need to notify Service Canada when you are in a paid education or training program, or when you successfully complete a school, university, trade, technical training, or rehabilitation program.
  • You can work and earn up to a maximum amount in a year (for example, in 2014, $5,200 in gross income before taxes), whether you are employed or self-employed, without having to report these earnings to Service Canada. This figure is normally adjusted annually, so please contact us for updates or to learn more about employment supports to help you return to work.
  • Once you have earned the maximum amount for the year, you need to contact Service Canada. This amount is not a point at which benefits are stopped; rather, it is an opportunity to see if you would benefit from some additional support that may help you continue working on a regular basis.

Employment supports

In consultation with Service Canada, you can:

  • plan a return to work tailored to your needs through our CPP vocational rehabilitation and return-to-work services; and
  • participate in a paid work trial for up to three months while continuing to receive CPP disability benefits. This gives you an opportunity to test your ability to work on a regular basis.

Contact us for more information.

At what point would your disability benefits stop?

Your CPP disability benefits are stopped if:

  • you are capable of working on a regular basis;
  • you are meeting the performance expectations of your job and making enough money from your job for it to be considered as substantially gainful employment; or
  • you die.

If you are still receiving a CPP disability benefit when you turn 65, it will automatically be changed to a CPP retirement pension.

If your disability recurs

A provision in the CPP called automatic reinstatement helps take the risk out of returning to work. It provides a financial safety net for clients whose benefits stopped because they returned to regular employment. If within two years of stopping your benefits your disability recurs and you can no longer continue working, your benefits will be quickly reinstated. All you and your doctor have to do is fill in a simple form. There is no limit to the number of times you may request reinstatement, provided you meet the requirements. Your request for automatic reinstatement must be received within one year of stopping work.

There is also a fast-track reapplication available for up to five years after your benefits stop if you have been contributing to the CPP. To obtain a reapplication form, please contact us.

Children’s benefits

The CPP provides monthly benefits for dependent children of parents who are receiving the CPP disability benefit. If both parents are receiving CPP disability benefits, their dependent children may receive two children's benefits-one for each parent.

Like all CPP benefits, children's benefits must be applied for in writing. You can apply for your dependent child(ren) under the age of 18 when you apply for your CPP disability benefit. Eligible dependent children between the ages of 18 and 25 must apply for the children's benefit themselves.

Don't forget to let us know if your family situation changes while you are receiving benefits. You must inform us if children are added to the family, or are no longer in your care and custody. We need to know about changes in your situation so that we can offer additional benefits, or cancel existing ones to prevent an overpayment that would have to be repaid later.

Who is considered to be a “dependent child”?

Your child is your natural or adopted child, or a child in your care and custody. To be considered dependent, your child must be either under the age of 18, or between 18 and 25 and attending a recognized school or university full time.

When do children’s benefits stop?

Children's benefits stop when one of the following occurs:

  • the parent stops receiving a CPP disability benefit;
  • the child is no longer dependent;
  • the child is between 18 and 25 and no longer attends school full time;
  • the child turns 25;
  • the child dies.

Other disability benefits

You may be eligible to receive a number of other disability benefits from other programs. The Employment Insurance program offers short-term sickness benefits to people who are unable to work because of sickness, injury, or quarantine and who meet the specific criteria for receiving them. For more information, visit Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits.

Disability benefits may be available from Veterans Affairs Canada for those who have served in the armed forces. For details, visit the Veterans Affairs Canada website.

All Canadian provinces and territories have workers' compensation benefits for work-related illnesses or injuries. Provinces and territories offer social assistance to people with disabilities who have a low income. You may also qualify for benefits from private insurance or through your employer, union, or professional association.

If you lived or worked in a country with which Canada has an international social security agreement, you may be eligible for disability benefits from that country as well. Please visit the International Benefits section of our website or contact us for information on countries with which Canada has such agreements.

There are other programs that offer health care assistance and support to specific groups with special needs, such as people with disabilities. If you have not already done so, you may want to contact your provincial or territorial government to determine whether you qualify for benefits.

The following websites provide links to useful information:

  • Canada Benefits provides information on provincial, territorial, and federal benefits.

Will receiving CPP disability benefits affect amounts received from other programs?

They may. If you have questions about how your CPP disability benefits might affect other benefits you are receiving, you should contact the organizations offering those programs.

Taxation and CPP disability benefits

CPP disability benefits are taxable income. You can ask Service Canada to deduct income tax from your monthly benefit by completing the Request for Voluntary Federal Income Tax Deductions (SP 3520CPP) form.

The Government has also introduced a number of tax measures, including the Working Income Tax Benefit, the Disability Tax Credit, as well as other tax credits and benefits that recognize the additional costs faced by people with disabilities.

If you have tax-related questions concerning CPP disability benefits or tax relief measures for people with disabilities, visit the Person with Disabilities section of the Canada Revenue Agency website or contact them at 1-800-959-8281 (TTY: 1-800-665-0354).

For more information about the CPP

The CPP operates throughout Canada. The Province of Quebec administers its own program, the Quebec Pension Plan, for workers in Quebec. The two plans work together to ensure that all contributors are protected no matter where they live.

For more information about the CPP, visit the Canada Pension plan section of our website or contact us to request a copy of the booklet, The Canada Pension Plan Retirement Pension (ISPB 147).

What if I lived or worked in another country?

If you have lived or worked in another country, or you are the survivor of someone who has lived or worked in another country, you may be eligible for benefits from Canada and/or the other country because of a social security agreement.

Canada has international social security agreements with many countries. A social security agreement coordinates the pension programs of two countries for people who have lived or worked in both countries. These agreements can help you qualify for benefits by allowing you to combine periods you have lived or worked in Canada and the other country to meet minimum eligibility requirements. For example, if you did not live or work long enough in another country to qualify for a pension or benefits under its rules, the time you spent there and the contributions you made in that country’s pension plan may be taken into account in the calculation of your contributions in Canada to allow you to meet the eligibility requirements.

Visit the International Benefits section of our website for more information and a list of social security agreements that Canada has with other countries.

Contact us

  • Click servicecanada.gc.ca
  • Call 1-800-277-9914 (from Canada and the United States) / 1-800-255-4786 (TTY: if you have a hearing or speech impairment and use a teletypewriter) / 1-613-957-1954 (from all other countries, collect calls accepted)
  • Visit a Service Canada Centre
Note: When you call

Please have your social insurance number ready when you call.

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