Applying for disability benefits

Everything you need to know to get started

By: Malcolm Wilhem

Learning to live with a disability can be a challenge for many. Whether you are adjusting to a new disability or you have had one for some time, the challenges that a disability brings can impact your life in a variety of ways. It is important for your well-being both physically and mentally to have a reliable source of income and worrying about finances can be stressful. When your health condition leaves you unable to work, the Ontario Disability Support Program or ODSP may be able to help.

Eligibility Requirements to Apply for Disability Benefits

If you have a long-term disability that renders you unable to work then you may be financially eligible for  long-term assistance.

Applying for disability benefits through ODSP can seem daunting task and it is admittedly a process that can take some time. But as long as you follow the application requirements and present all documentation requested the system can work smoothly as intended.

The first thing you want to do is to ensure you are eligible to receive disability benefits in Ontario. Eligibility for ODSP consists of the following factors:

  • You must be 18 years or older at the time you apply
  • You must be a resident of Ontario.
  • Your financial assets can not exceed $40,000 if you are single or $50,000 as a couple.
  • You must establish you are in need of financial assistance
  • You must meet the definition of a disabled person

While that list may seem extensive, it boils down to showing a financial need and establishing your disability. If you are already receiving other social assistance, such as Ontario Works you do not need to establish financial need, and likewise certain prescribed classes of individuals that have already established their disability do not need to prove it again.

What Is Considered A Disability?

Many people worry that their disability will not be recognized and that is an understandable concern. The definition of a disabled person according to the Ontario Disability Support Program guidelines is fairly straightforward.

  • You currently have a mental or physical health condition that will last a year or longer.
  • This health condition limits the ability for you to work, take care of yourself on a daily basis, or perform normal activities while you are at home or around your community.

If you meet these requirements and are in need of income support because of your disability then you are well on your way to getting your ODSP application off the ground.

Where Do You Apply?

The ODSP application can be completed either online or in-person, making the process accessible to all regardless of their disability. The online application for the Ontario Disability Support Program can be found here.

Simply fill out the short form with your personal details and your application will be submitted. After your application is submitted and reviewed, you should expect a call from an ODSP Case Worker who will assist you throughout your time with the program.

Once your application is reviewed you will be asked to meet with your Case Worker at a local ODSP office to confirm your financial eligibility. This part of the application process can take up to 15 business days, and after your financial information is confirmed you will be given a package known as a Disability Determination Package.

The Disability Determination Package is a series of forms given to your family physician or other approved medical professional who will outline your health condition and the impacts it has on your life. This is the most crucial part of the application, and the more information you and your doctor can provide, the smoother this process will go!

Finally, once this package is received and reviewed by specially trained ODSP medical staff you will receive a final decision on your application. This process can take some time so if you do not hear back right away there is no need to be alarmed.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) What can you expect once you are approved for ODSP?

If you are approved to receive disability benefits, ODSP can assist you by providing financial support for your living needs, medical expenses and other special costs you may incur.

2) How long can you stay on ODSP?

Your initial application is valid for two years after which there will be a review of your case and you will be reassessed to see if anything has changed.

3) How long does this entire application process take?

From start to finish the ODSP application process can take months. This may be a long time to wait if you are in extreme need of assistance, and while there is no way to expedite the application, if you are in need of immediate assistance you can apply for Ontario Works which is far quicker and will not impact your ODSP application.

4) What if your application is denied?

In the event of a denial you still have some ways to try to appeal that decision. Once you have your decision notice you can submit a written request to your local ODSP office asking for an internal review of the decision. If this does not change their decision, you can then appeal your case to the Social Assistance Tribunal. You can find more information on appeals here.

ODSP is a fantastic resource for people whose lives are affected significantly by their disability. While the application process may seem daunting, that should not discourage you from going forward with it if you’re in need of assistance. The loss of employment due to disability is a difficult situation to be in, but by taking advantage of this program you can alleviate some of that burden. So don’t delay, start your ODSP application process today and feel secure in your future.


For further information about the Ontario Disability Support Program you can check out the following resources:

Government of Ontario’s ODSP Homepage

General ODSP Information

Legal Information Regarding ODSP

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding ODSP