An Introduction: Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits

The following articles will provide a framework from which advocates can successfully build the skills and knowledge required to assist clients who want to obtain CPP disability benefits.

Although the articles are intended to cover specific information within each topic area, we encourage feedback from advocates working in this area of law, and would greatly appreciate any ideas, hints, resources, or other help in writing the articles. The more feedback we receive, the more information we can share through these articles. If you would like to become involved, contact Sheila Puga at the Vancouver Community Law Clinic by phone: (604) 601-6360, or by fax: (604) 681-6315.

The Canada Pension Plan legislation is long and complicated. However, an advocate only needs to be familiar with a few sections of the legislation to work with clients who are applying for disability benefits. The two most important sections are 44(1)(b) and 42(2). Section 44(1)(b) outlines who a disability pension is payable to someone who:

  • is less than 65 years old;
  • is not receiving a retirement pension;
  • is disabled; and
  • has made sufficient contributions to the Plan within the contributory period, or
  • would have qualified for a disability pension had that person applied sooner.

Section 42(2) defines "disability" under the legislation. In order to be considered for disability benefits under the Canada Pension Plan, the person applying must have a "severe" and "prolonged" disability.

A disability is considered severe only if that disability makes the applicant incapable of performing any substantially gainful occupation on a regular basis.

A disability is considered to be prolonged if it is likely to continue for a long time and be of indefinite duration, or is likely to result in death.

Most disability benefit applications are denied because the minister finds that the disability is not severe. However, applications may also be denied because the disability is not prolonged, or because the applicant has not made sufficient contributions to the plan. We will go into more detail in each of these areas in subsequent articles.