Support for the disabled

Need financial help for yourself or a loved one? Here's how to get it.

Gail Bebee 6 January, 2014 | 7:00PM
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The costs for treatment and care due to a sudden illness such as a heart attack, a chronic disease such as cancer, or a physical or mental disability can be staggering. Provincial health insurance rarely covers all the bills. These plans pay only for medically necessary hospital and physician services.

Other essential health care and support such as prescription drugs, assistive devices and support services may or may not be covered, depending on personal circumstances and the province of residence.

The many expenses incurred can be a major drain on family finances. However, money is available from a variety of sources to help ease the financial impact.

Each provincial government has its own line-up of specialized financial-assistance programs to help residents who meet specific requirements pay for health care and other living costs. For example:

Private-sector supplementary health insurance pays for some expenses not covered by public health insurance, such as prescription drugs, certain professional services and assistive devices. There are typically coverage limitations such as deductibles, payout maximums and exclusion of drugs not on an approved list. These insurance plans are an employee benefit for some or may be available through membership in a professional association, or as an individual policy.

For many, taking time off work to help a sick family member is not financially feasible. If the family member is gravely ill and at risk of death, workers who pay Employment Insurance premiums may be able to take up to six weeks of time off and be paid EI Compassionate Care Benefits.

Numerous federal and provincial tax provisions are intended to reduce the burden on a disabled person and his or her family. A disabled person, as defined by the Canada Revenue Agency, is someone with impairment in physical or mental functions.

The disability-related tax breaks include:

 Medical Expenses. A disabled person or the person who financially supports her may be able to claim a portion of medical expenses as a tax credit. Transportation and travel expenses to obtain medical services may also qualify for this credit.

 Disability Amount. For the 2013 tax year, this non-refundable tax credit for taxpayers who qualify as disabled is $7,697 for an adult or $12,187 for a child under 18. It is possible to apply for the credit retroactively and it can be transferred to a spouse or supporting parent.

 Caregiver Amount. A person who provides a home for an adult with a disability may be able to claim this tax credit as well as the relatively new $2,000 Family Caregiver Amount Tax Credit.

 Disability supports deduction Expenses paid by a person with a disability in order to be able to work, do research or attend school may be eligible for a tax deduction.

A complete list of tax deductions and credits available to persons with disabilities is posted at the Canada Revenue Agency website.

Planning retirement finances is a challenge for those disabled individuals who are unable to work or have a low income. RRSPs are not a realistic option because contributions are income-based, but a Registered Disability Savings Plancan provide long-term financial security. Parents and others contribute to the RDSP and the government adds in an income-tested grant.

No contribution is required for low-income disabled individuals to qualify for a disability savings bond of up to $1,000 a year. RDSP contributions can be made until the beneficiary turns 59. Withdrawals are taxable in the beneficiary's hands, but no tax is owed on the amount contributed.

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefit is a taxable monthly payment that is available to people who have contributed to the CPP and who are not able to work regularly at any job because of a disability. For 2013, the basic monthly CPP amount was $453.52 and the maximum disability benefit was $1,212.90, based on how much you contributed to the CPP during your entire working career.

Charities focused on specific medical conditions can also be a useful resource for information on applicable government-assistance programs and other sources of financial support such as local service clubs, social-service agencies and hospital and private foundations. Some charities even run their own programs. For instance, the Canadian Breast Cancer Support Fund provides short-term funding to breast-cancer patients in financial need, and the Diabetes Hope Foundation awards scholarships to students living with diabetes.

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About Author

Gail Bebee

Gail Bebee  Gail Bebee is an independent personal finance speaker, teacher and the author of No Hype--The Straight Goods on Investing Your Money. She can be reached at; her website is

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