The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) provides a monthly income to adult Ontarians with disabilities who qualify for the program. There are two fundamental factors a person must satisfy to secure ODSP. One, a person must have a disability that satisfies the program’s definition and, two, the person must be in financial need.
To satisfy ODSP’s definition of disability, one must have a physical or mental impairment; it must be substantial; it must last for at least a year; and it must significantly restrict the ability to attend to personal care, functioning in the community, or functioning in the workplace. The definition of disability is an entire topic of its own, not meant for this piece, but important to be aware of at least the basic factors.
Even if somebody satisfies the definition of disability, they will not be eligible for ODSP if they do not pass that financial test, first. Until the applicant passes the financial test, ODSP will not examine the medical aspects of the application. So, before you run to your medical practitioner to fill out the medical forms, you might want to determine financial eligibility first.
ODSP is an income and asset tested benefit. In other words, the amount of income you earn and assets you hold are a major consideration to qualify, since the program is geared for people in financial need.
There is no hard and fast rule about the maximum amount of income you are allowed to earn and still qualify for ODSP. Suffice it to say, if the applicant earns a comfortable income, there is a reasonable chance they will be denied.
An individual is not allowed to have more than $40,000 in “non-exempt” assets and a couple is not to have more than $50,000 (add $500 for every dependent). If these limits are exceeded, ODSP can be revoked. Non-exempt assets include most investments, cash, most property, and pretty much anything ODSP deems to have value and is prohibited.
“Exempt” assets include your own residence, your primary vehicle, necessary household and personal items, cash surrender value in a life insurance policy up to certain limits, RESPs, RDSPs, and a pre-paid funeral. An ODSP recipient could own a $400,000 residence and a $20,000 vehicle and still receive ODSP payments.
ODSP applicants who have cash, investments, real estate (other than a primary residence), ownership in a business or other assets worth more than $40,000, combined, are not able to simply rid themselves of these assets by giving them to another family member, for example. Assets must be disposed of at fair market value, so giving them away does not work. However, what can be done, at least in some circumstances, is transfer non-exempt assets into exempt assets. Before making such transactions, you are strongly advised to consult with a lawyer and/or financial professional who understand ODSP rules and regulations.
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