Income support options for people with disabilities

The two main public income support programs for people with disabilities are Canada Pension Plan disability (CPPD) benefits and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits.

This month's On the Radar talks about key differences between these programs, and how some people may be able to get benefits from one or both of them.

Who can get benefits

To get Canada Pension Plan disability (CPPD) benefits, a person must:
  • have made enough contributions to the Canada Pension Plan, and
  • prove they have a disability.
To get Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits, a person must:
  • show they're in financial need, and
  • prove they have a disability. But there are some exceptions to this.

What is a disability

The two programs use different definitions of disability. For example, the CPPD definition focuses only on someone's ability to earn a living.

The ODSP definition looks at the effects of the disability on other aspects of the person's life too.

Someone who gets CPPD doesn't have to prove they're a person with a disability to qualify for ODSP. But the reverse isn't true. A person on ODSP still has to meet the CPPD definition of disability to get CPPD benefits.

Financial eligibility


CPPD is only available to people who contributed to the Canada Pension Plan for enough years. And CPPD isn't based on financial need, so it doesn't take into account the person's income or assets.


ODSP is the other way around. It's based on the person's financial need, not contributions.

When someone applies for ODSP, they must show that their household income and assets are below certain amounts. And to keep getting benefits, they must continue to show that they're in financial need.

Financial and family changes while on ODSP

If someone on ODSP earns more than $200 in a month, their benefits will usually be reduced.

And if their income or assets go too high, they could lose their benefits completely.

More commonly, people can lose their benefits if they get into a relationship with someone that ODSP considers their spouse. This is because ODSP takes into account this other person's income and assets.

Financial and family changes while on CPPD

Those kinds of things don't affect CPPD benefits. As long as the person still has a disability, CPPD won't cut off or reduce their benefits because of changes in their financial situation or who they live with.

But someone getting CPPD must report if they return to work, finish school, or earn more than a certain amount that the government sets each year. This could trigger CPPD reviewing whether the person still meets the program's definition of disability.

Other key differences

CPPD income is taxable but income from ODSP is not.

People can continue getting CPPD while living anywhere in the world. But ODSP can be cut off if the person is outside Ontario for more than 30 days.

When a person turns 65, their CPPD benefits are replaced by Canada Pension Plan retirement benefits. But they can keep receiving ODSP if they're still financially eligible.

CPPD doesn't include any health care benefits. People on ODSP get drug, dental, vision, and hearing coverage for themselves and their families.

When people might apply for both programs

If someone is already on CPPD

People who get CPPD can sometimes gain from applying for ODSP as well. If their CPPD benefit is lower than what they can get from ODSP, their total income will increase if they qualify for ODSP as well.

If someone is already on ODSP

Because ODSP benefits are based on need, people on ODSP must also try to get income from other sources. This usually means they must apply for CPPD if there's a chance they might qualify.

If they succeed in getting CPPD, the amount of their CPPD benefit will be deducted from their ODSP payment. But even if this reduces their ODSP payment to zero, they still might continue to get health care benefits from ODSP.

Getting legal help

For advice or help dealing with ODSP or CPPD, people can contact a community legal clinic.

To find the nearest legal clinic, visit the Legal Aid Ontario website.
This email alert gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.
February 2016
On the Radar is a monthly email alert from CLEO that highlights timely legal information.

Other related resources

Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit - Overview (Government of Canada)
Application for Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits (Service Canada)
Ontario Disability Support Program - Overview (Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services)
Applying for ODSP Income Support (Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services)
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