I Need to Apply for Disability Benefits
If you have disabilities and you are financially eligible, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation ("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. To qualify for the PPMB designation:
- you must have a medical condition (other than an addiction) that seriously affects your ability to look for, accept or continue employment, and
- your doctor must confirm that your medical condition has lasted for at least one year, or has occurred frequently in the past year, and is likely to last for at least another two years.
Please note that PPMB benefits are only available to people who have been on welfare for 12 out of the previous 15 months.
||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.|
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.
- 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)
- Ask a Ministry worker for a Persons with Disabilities Designation Application Form.
- 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.
- Mail your application to the address on the application.
- Tell a Ministry worker you want to apply for the PPMB designation. He or she will do an assessment of your non-medical barriers to employment (e.g., lack of education, literacy or work history) and give you a medical report form for your doctor to complete (see page 46 of How to Apply for Welfare).
- Your doctor must complete the application, including details about why your medical condition stops you from looking for, accepting or continuing to work.
- Get the completed medical report form from your doctor and return it to the Ministry.
What happens next
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
See the Resource List in this Guide for a list of helpful resources. Your best bets are:
- The Legal Services Society publications How to Apply for Welfare and Social Assistance on Reserve in British Columbia.
- Advocacy Access Program, a service of Disability Alliance BC (formerly known as the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities). Also try their Help Sheet Series.
- PovNet, for their "Find An Advocate" feature for welfare advocates near you.
- Access Pro Bono, Lawyer Referral Service, and private bar lawyers.
- The Clicklaw common question "I want to find out about getting BC disability benefits." Clicklaw has many common questions on the topic "Pensions, benefits & welfare."
||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.|
|The above was last reviewed for legal accuracy by Alison Ward, May 2017.|
|Legal Help for British Columbians © Cliff Thorstenson and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|