I Need to Apply for Disability Benefits

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If you have disabilities and you are financially eligible, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction ("the Ministry"). There are two main types of disability benefits: disability assistance for people who the Ministry designates as Persons with Disabilities (PWD), and PPMB benefits for applicants who the Ministry designates as Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers to employment (PPMB).

To qualify for the PWD designation:

  • you must be at least 18 years old,
  • you must have a severe mental or physical impairment that is likely to last at least two years,
  • your disability must directly and significantly restrict your ability to do specific daily activities (either continuously or for extended periods of time), and
  • you must need significant help from another person to do specific daily activities, or else require help from an assistive device or assistance animal to perform those activities.

If you do not qualify for the PWD designation, you may still qualify for the PPMB designation. There were major changes to the criteria for the PPMB designation in

To qualify for the PPMB designation, you must:

  • be at least 19 years old;

• be receiving income assistance or hardship assistance; • have a health professional confirm that you have a health condition that

       (A)has continued for at least one year and is likely to continue for at least 2 more years, or
       (B)has occurred frequently in the past year and is likely to continue for at least 2 more years; 

• have the Ministry agree that your health condition "seriously impedes" your ability to search for, accept, or continue in employment. "Seriously impedes" means your health condition stops you from working in any job that would allow you to earn enough money to get off welfare completely. • You must also have at least one additional barrier that seriously impedes your ability to search for, accept or continue in employment. An additional barrier can be anything from this list:

o experience family violence or have experienced family violence in the past six months o are homeless or have been homeless in the past 12 months o have less than a Grade 12 education o need English language skills training o don’t have basic skills for employment o have a criminal record o have used emergency health services, mental health service, or addiction services multiple times in the past 12 months o are a recent Convention refugee (in the last 24 months) or a refugee claimant o are a former child in care (Ministry of Children and Family Development or similar Canadian jurisdiction) o have other severe barriers to employment listed on your application.

Before July 1, 2019, the Ministry did not consider addiction to be a "health condition" that could qualify someone for the PPMB designation. If you applied for the PPMB designation before July 1, 2019 and were refused, you can apply for the PPMB designation again under the current criteria.

The criteria for PWD benefits and PPMB benefits are complicated. Try to get help from an advocate in filling out your application. A lot of people tend to minimize their disabilities. It is much better to put in a very thorough application, than to be turned down and have to appeal.

First steps[edit]

See the Legal Services Society publication How to Apply for Welfarefor a summary of the process for applying for PWD benefits and PPMB benefits, at pages 44 to 46.

PWD benefits[edit]

  1. If you are not already receiving income assistance or PPMB benefits, you must first apply for welfare (see page 44 of the Legal Services Society publication How to Apply for Welfare)
  2. Ask a Ministry worker for a Persons with Disabilities Designation Application Form.
  3. Complete the application carefully. It is more than 20 pages long and has three parts: Part 1 for you to complete, Part 2 for your doctor to complete, and Part 3 for an assessor to complete. The assessor can be your doctor, or an occupational therapist, physical therapist, social worker, registered psychologist, registered nurse, registered psychiatric nurse, chiropractor or nurse practitioner.
  4. Mail your application to the address on the application.

PPMB benefits[edit]

  1. If you are not already receiving income assistance or hardship assistance, you must first apply for welfare;
  2. As soon as you start receiving income assistance or hardship assistance, tell a Ministry worker that you want a PPMB designation application form;
  3. A health professional must complete section 1 of the application, including details about why your medical condition stops you from looking for, accepting or continuing to work. Health professionals that can complete the PPMB application form are:

•medical practitioners (doctors); chiropractors; registered psychologists; nurse practitioners; occupational therapists; school psychologists; registered nurses; registered social workers; registered clinical counsellors; registered psychiatric nurses; physical therapists

  1. 4 Once you get the completed medical report form from your health professional, you must complete section 2 of the application to provide information about additional barriers you face. Include any supporting information you have to confirm any additional barrier(s). Once all sections of the application form are completed, return it to the Ministry.

What happens next[edit]

A decision will be made and you will be advised of the decision. If you are not happy with the decision, you can ask for a reconsideration, and then an appeal. See the section "I have been denied or cut off welfare," as the process is the same.

Where to get help[edit]

See the Resource List in this Guide for a list of helpful resources. Your best bets are:

If you have contributed to the Canada Pension Plan through employment and have a disability that prevents you from working at any job on a regular basis, you may qualify for Canada Pension Plan disability benefits. To get more information or apply for CPP disability benefits, call Income Security Programs at 1-800-277-9914 or go to the CPP website.
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Alison Ward,July 2021.

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