Ontario introduces welcome changes to its Disability Support Program
The Ontario Disability Support Program provides financial assistance to disabled individuals and their families in need of help with essential living expenses. Included among the benefits of ODSP are prescription drugs, vision care and career and employment guidance. Individuals receiving compensation for pain and suffering in personal injury cases could lose all or part of their ODSP benefits, but recent changes in the government program could eliminate that risk.
ODSP benefits and eligibility
ODSP provides income support for eligible individuals. Income support is in the form of a monthly benefit to help with necessities, including:
- Prescription drugs
- Vision care
There is a broad array of employment services available under Ontario Works for individuals capable of being employed. Some of the available services include the following:
- Job coaching
- Help finding and keeping a job
- Job training
- Assistance with transportation
- Tools and equipment needed for a particular job
- Helping a person advance in a career
Program eligibility is not limited to individuals with a disability. Income support through ODSP is available to any Ontario resident who is at least 18 years of age and is in financial need provided the person suffers from a disability or is part of what the law refers to as a prescribed class. Class members include individuals who are at least 65 years of age and ineligible for Old Age Security.
Personal injury claims and ODSP eligibility
Until this past year, settlement of a personal injury claim could result in a loss of ODSP eligibility. Personal injury claims resulting in payments to the victim were exempt up to $100,000. The new rules eliminate the $100,000 cap for the following personal injury settlements or awards:
- Pain and suffering due to a personal injury or death of a family member
- Expenses attributable to personal injury or death
- Loss of care and companionship of a family member due to death or injury
- Related to non-economic losses under provisions of the province’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act
- Prejudgment interest is exempt as long it does not include interest on income
The cap for individuals receiving benefits through Ontario Works increased from $25,000 to $50,000.
Another result of the changes for ODSP recipients are increases to the amount of assets they are permitted to have without it affecting their eligibility. Single individuals are now permitted to have liquid assets totaling $40,000. This is a substantial increase from the previous limit of only $5,000. The limits for couples also increased from $7,500 to $50,000.
Individuals and couples receiving benefits under Ontario Works also benefitted from the rule changes. Exempt assets increased from $2,500 to $10,000 for individuals and from $5,000 to $15,000 for couples.
How will ODSP changes affect personal injury claims?
Individuals with personal injury cases pending after August 1, 2017, date the ODSP changes become effective, receive the benefit of the new exemptions. Settlements and awards prior to the effective date cannot be reopened to take advantage of the more favorable exemption guidelines.
The new ODSP rules are complicated. For example, any portion of an award or settlement attributable to income replacement, non-earner benefits and future income losses are not exempt. Amounts received for any of those items must be included in a person’s income to determine their continued eligibility for ODSP.
Experienced personal injury lawyers
The personal injury lawyers at Diamond & Diamond have years of experience successfully handling claims for individuals receiving ODSP and other government benefits. Their understanding of the laws and the eligibility rules make them an excellent resource for accident victims. Contact our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now about your claim. Consultations are free, and we have offices located throughout Ontario.