The Arthritis Newsletter

Fall 2011

Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD) Benefits for Arthritis Explained


One of the most stressful decisions a person with arthritis is faced with is whether or not to continue working. For an individual who is used to working, unemployment can be devastating. The financial losses alone are difficult to face, not to mention the sharp blow often inflicted on one’s career identity by dropping out of the work force. People become habituated to the routine of going to the workplace, and for many, employment provides important social contacts and social support. Fortunately, there is financial help for those with disabilities who have to make the difficult decision to leave work – Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits. Canada Pension Plan provides disability benefits based on the contributions you have made during your working life. We interviewed a gentleman with arthritis, Phoenix, who applied and received these benefits.  He was happy to share his experience with our readers …


What are Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD) Benefits?


Phoenix:  Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD) Benefits provide financial assistance to people who are unable to work because of a severe and prolonged disability.


Who can apply?


Phoenix:  I qualified to apply because:


  • I was under 65 years of age;
  • I paid into the CPP for at least four of the last six years, when I was working; and,
  • I had a “severe and prolonged” disability that prevented me from working at any job on a regular basis.

Why did you apply?  Did you have reservations about applying for CPPD?


Phoenix:  I did not initially apply for CPPD; I applied for work related disability benefits through my work.  I knew that it is not always easy to get disability benefits. I had undergone multiple knee and hip surgeries at a well-recognized rehab facility, GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, so I was able to ask the doctors, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists there to do a full assessment of me from head to toe.  I was fortunate to have had these health care providers available to assess my limitations.  For those who may not have a health care team in place, I would suggest speaking to your doctor about getting referrals to physiotherapists and occupational therapists.


CPPD came into the picture once the private insurer was in place.  The insurer requested that I apply for CPPD in order to subsidize the disability benefits I was receiving from them.  Consequently, the private insurer cut back my monthly payment the exact amount of my CPPD benefits.


Did you have reservations about applying?


Phoenix:  Yes, I did have reservations about going on disability benefits.  Although the disease made the decision for me, it was a hard one to accept.  It created a psychological shift, in that I felt the disease was winning or getting the better of me.  I guess that actually was the case, but having to work full time was very hard physically and mentally; and it really was the right decision for me. A friend of mine, who was forced to apply because of disabilities caused from rheumatoid arthritis, had a similar reaction.  She told me that she felt as if the door had closed on the future; that there was no return.


How does someone apply?


Phoenix: I applied a number of years ago so application procedures may have changed; however, all the information is available on their website (see link below).


What difficulties did you have in obtaining CPPD?


Phoenix:  I did not have any difficulties, but I’ve heard of people who have been denied benefits and have had to appeal. Again, I strongly urge anyone applying to carefully read the criteria, make sure all sections are completed, and ensure a detailed report is submitted.  If you miss anything, your claim will be delayed.  Applying for CPPD is very time consuming and complicated but it can be well worth it in the end.


Also, be realistic about what is happening to you.  Are you able to put your socks on without help or an aid?  Do you have reduced range of movement?  This is not the time to minimize or skip over any of your significant limitations.


What problems did you face?


Phoenix:  I did not have any problems, but I was nervous about the outcome. I knew I could no longer work but I was worried that the seriousness of my disability would be under-valued or discounted.


Do you have any suggestions for those who are considering applying?


Phoenix:  Yes … These are a few things that I feel may make it easier for qualification.


Go to the CPPD website (link listed below) and read everything – thoroughly.


When you’ve completed your application, have someone you trust review it before you submit your application.  This person may identify any errors or any missing information.


If your doctor is not familiar with the application process, direct her/him to the Physician’s Guide to Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits(see link below).


If your arthritis has affected your cognitive abilities, keep a diary.  A friend of mine kept a diary of her day-to-day activities.  The diary not only helped her recall information for the application, it also proved useful when communicating with her doctor.


X-rays or MRI’s showing physical damage can be strong evidence in providing support for your case.  I have had this disease for over 35 years and the doctors describe it as end-stage RA, meaning a lot of joint damage.


Keep all medical records.  Medical letters and reports that support your case are helpful.  Support letters from physiotherapists, psychologists, and occupational therapists can be helpful.  Although support letters from friends and families aren’t necessary, they bring personal observations of your disability to light.


If you are successful in your application what does it mean in terms of your future?


Phoenix:  The CCPD benefits will continue till I turn the age of 65, or until I am able to go back to work on a regular basis.


Are you able to work part-time while collecting CPPD benefits?


Phoenix:  I am working one day a week but I can earn up to $4,800 (2011) before I need to contact Service Canada.


If you regained your health and returned to work on a regular basis, would your benefits stop?


Phoenix:  I understand that they would stop only after a three-month work trial.  This allows recipients of CPPD to determine whether they are, in fact, ready to continue working on a regular basis.


In consultation with CPPD you can also develop a return-to-work plan through their vocational rehabilitation services.


Are your Canada Pension Plan disability benefits taxable?


Phoenix:  Yes, they are taxable.  In fact, I budget monthly for the amount of tax I will owe at the end of the year. My income tax accountant estimated the amount of tax I would pay per year.  I divide that amount by 12 (months) and that’s what I save each month.  This way there are no surprises when tax time arrives.


One has to budget on a fixed income because of increases in the price of goods; if you are not careful, your CPPD benefits may not be enough to cover the necessities.


Thank you Phoenix.



  1. Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits
  2. Information for Health Care Professionals: CPPD
  3. A Physician’s Guide to Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Benefits
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