Disability Tax Credit — falling through the cracks again

Canada’s Disability Tax Credit is supposed to help lower the tax burden on “persons with disabilities or their supporting persons.” Registered disability savings plans (RDSPs) are also available to people who qualify for the tax credit to help fund the long-term care of people who qualify for the disability tax credit.

Note that, if I didn’t have my family supporting me financially, I would not be able to afford to work because my income from work is too low for me to support myself. Instead, I’d have to be on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). If this were the case, I would not be permitted more than $5,000 of assets (savings) because I don’t qualify for the Disability Tax Credit or an RDSP. As I pointed out before, that is one Remicade reimbursement mistake.

Here’s why someone who has trouble working 14 hours a week because of severe fatigue, who gets sick frequently and unpredictably, often for weeks at a time, and who misses 5 days of life every 6 weeks regardless of other health issues because of steroid-related side effects does not qualify for the Disability Tax Credit.

In order to qualify, a person must meet at least one of 3 criteria. The criteria are that a person must have either

  1. impairment in physical or mental functions [that has] lasted, or is it expected to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months

    — so intermittently manifesting problems like those associated with Crohn’s, epilepsy, and MS would not count —

or, 2. be on life-sustaining therapy,

or, 3. need help with basic activities of daily living.

Life-sustaining therapy is defined as therapy that meets both of the following conditions:

  • the therapy is needed to support a vital function, even if it eases the symptoms
  • the therapy is needed at least 3 times per week, for an average of at least 14 hours a week [original bolding]

OK, fair enough; although people on biologics meet the first criterion, the second criterion is too restrictive to include cases like mine.*

Also, many people on biologics are able to work enough hours to support themselves. I was, too, until the combination of fatigue and viral illnesses got really bad in recent years. And I can perform the basic activities of everyday living (seeing, speaking, hearing, eating, going to the washroom, dressing myself, walking and performing the mental functions necessary for everyday life) unaided.

I and people in similar situations therefore do not qualify for the Disability Tax Credit. But what about the fact that I’m not able to support myself financially anymore because of a health-related disability? Shouldn’t this situation be covered? What about others in very marginalized work situations because of other intermittent and unpredictable disabilities, such as epilepsy or MS? For people with intermittent and unpredictably manifesting disabilities, having no predictability in terms of being sick or well is a significant barrier to employment — especially when so much employment these days is at-will, and good attendance is vitally important to keeping a job!

It seems bizarre that a program meant to help support people with disabilities excludes people with intermittent disabilities, when the intermittent (and unpredictable) nature of certain disabilities is what prevents us from having steady employment in the first place.

  • For what it’s worth, 14 hours a week is 8.33% of a person’s time — that’s 14 hours out of every 128 hours in a week. I go through Remicade-related treatment and withdrawal for, let’s say, 4.5 days out of every 42, which is 10.7% of my time. But this disruption obviously doesn’t count.
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