The Ontario Disability Support Program
The Ontario Disability Support Program (“ODSP”) is one of two social assistance programs provided in Ontario. This program is designed to help people with disabilities who are in financial need pay for living expenses like food and housing (Income Support). It can also give support in finding a job (Employment Support) if the person is able to do some work and wants this help. ODSP is managed and delivered by the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
In order to qualify for ODSP you have to:
- be 18 years of age or older,
- live in Ontario,
- demonstrate a financial need, and
- have a substantial physical or mental disability that is expected to last a year or more and makes it hard for you to care for yourself, take part in community life or work.
Therefore, when determining your eligibility for this assistance ODSP will look at both your financial situation and disability status.
We can help
Neighbourhood Legal Services (London & Middlesex) can assist you with your Internal Review and appeal of ODSP issues if you have applied for ODSP benefits and have been turned down. It is important that you contact us as soon as possible with the written decision you need help with.
We can only represent you if you qualify financially for our services and in this case the work we do for you is free. We only ask that you reimburse us for the medical reports we pay for on your behalf if you win your appeal and start receiving this benefit.
We can also help you if you have had your ODSP benefits reduced, cancelled and/or suspended. We also provide information about the program and can answer questions you have regarding eligibility for benefits, and the amount of assistance and benefits available for ODSP recipients.
Recent changes to ODSP
ODSP has recently changed some of the rules to help people receiving this benefit.
Increase in asset limits
Assets are things that someone owns which can include money, such has any savings or investments someone has. As of September 1, 2017, the amount of assets you are allowed to have while receiving ODSP benefits went up:
- from $5,000 to $40,000 for single individuals, and
- from $7,500 to $50,000 for couples.
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Increased limit on gifts
As of September 1, 2017, the annual income exemptions for gifts or other voluntary payments has gone up from $6,000 to $10,000. A recipient of ODSP benefits can receive monetary gifts up to this amount every 12 months.
Some gifts are exempt from this rule, which means they don’t count towards the total $10,000 you are allowed to receive. The exempted gifts can be used to:
- to purchase a principal residence,
- to purchase an exempt motor vehicle, or
- to pay the first and last month’s rent necessary to secure accommodation for the benefit unit.
Compensation award exemptions
As of August 1, 2017, the cap on how much you are allowed to receive for various court and tribunal awards and still remain eligible for ODSP benefits was removed. This means there is no limit to how much you are entitled to keep if you receive money for:
- compensation for pain and suffering,
- expenses incurred or to be incurred as a result of an injury to or the death of a member of the benefit unit,
- care and companionship awards under s. 61(2)(3) of the Family Law Act, and
- compensation for non-economic loss under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA) or Workmen’s Compensation Act (WCA).
2022 Rate Increase ODSP Benefits
ODSP benefit rates increases on September 2022 by 5% for most areas of assistance eligibility, including basic needs allowance, maximum shelter allowance, and board and lodgings rates, etc.
Changes to Employment Earnings
An ODSP recipient can now earn $1000 in monthly employment earnings before employment deductions start. After the first $1000 in earnings, 75% are then deducted off the ODSP monthly entitlement. This is effective as of March 1, 2023. For a spouse of an ODSP recipient, the old employment earning rate apply [first $200 exempt as income and then 50% deducted].
Employment Earning Rules apply to self employment situations as well.
Applying for ODSP benefits
On an ODSP application, it is important that the health practitioner (e.g. family doctor) you ask to complete the medical forms provides the correct information to support the application that is to be reviewed by the ODSP Disability Adjudication Unit (“DAU”).
Here you can find a checklist that you may wish to provide to the health practitioner completing your ODSP application form. This checklist outlines what should be done to support the application.
If the DAU denies your application, please contact us for help requesting the Internal Review and Social Benefits Tribunal appeal.
If you have applied for ODSP and have been denied or your benefits have been altered in any way you can always challenge that decision.
The first step in challenging any decision is to request an Internal Review. The deadline for requesting an Internal Review is 30 days from the date ODSP has issued their decision. If you miss the 30 day deadline to submit an Internal Review request, you can request an extension of time if there are circumstances that prevented you from filing the Internal Review request on time.
If your request for an Internal Review is denied, the next step is to file an appeal to the Social Benefits Tribunal (“SBT”). The SBT is an administrative tribunal that deals specifically with appeals regarding social assistance. The deadline for filing an appeal to the SBT is also 30 days from the date of the Internal Review decision.
If you are found eligible for an ODSP benefit, the benefit is usually not for life. A medical review date is placed on your file. It is important that you continue to seek medical treatment for your conditions so that there is up-to-date information about the current status of your health.
If the ODSP office requires that you undergo a medical review, you will have to visit your health practitioner to complete another ODSP application form. Here you can find a tip sheet to give to your health practitioner to assist them in completing the medical review form.
If you are denied benefits after a medical review is completed, you can contact our office for assistance.
Those on ODSP may be eligible for Discretionary Assistance and Housing Stability Bank benefits–see Ontario Works page for more.
You can download the various assistance rates that a recipient of ODSP benefits may qualify for. Current as of September 2017.
In order to apply for ODSP you need a health care practitioner to fill out certain forms to submit with your application. If you don’t have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, Health Care Connect can help you find one.
CLEO produces clear, accurate and practical legal information to help people understand and exercise their legal rights, including information about social assistance.
Your Legal Rights is a project of CLEO that is designed to make legal resources more accessible. You can find websites, webinars, FAQs and more delivered in plain language and available in a variety of legal topics including social assistance.
ISAC is a specialty legal clinic that focuses on income security issues such as social assistance. ISAC has a number of resources and releases up-to-date information.
Last updated September 19, 2023