Overview of CPP Disability Benefits: Are You Eligible?

Overview of CPP Disability Benefits: Are You Eligible?

One of the scariest situations is becoming disabled and unable to work. You might want to provide for your family, but your disability can stop you from being able to perform your job. No one likes the idea of being unable to do what he or she used to do in the past.

The good news, though, is that if you have a disability that might keep you from working, you might be eligible for CPP disability benefits.

Who’s Eligible for CPP Disability Benefits?

Not just anyone can draw on CPP disability. First of all, you need to be under the age of 65 when you became disabled and not yet receiving a CPP retirement pension. It’s important to understand that CPP disability benefits are only available to those who aren’t retired and who can’t draw on their retirement benefits. If you are eligible, you will need to turn to your retirement benefits for your income replacement.

After you meet the basic age and pension requirements, you also have to have made enough contributions to the Canadian Pension Plan. So, if you want to draw on the disability benefits later, you need to be working right now, paying into the system. CPP disability benefits are meant as a safety net for those who have already been contributing to the system, and who have been engaged in regular work.

In order to meet the test that requires you to pay into the CPP, you need to have made sufficient contributions in four of the last six years. You can also get approval if you have made CPP contributions for at least 25 years (as long as three of the last six years have seen contributions). Your case is reviewed individually, so other items might be considered, including your ability to work over time. You need to show that you have made what CPP contributions you can if you want to qualify for the benefits.

If you are unsure about whether or not you are making the right amount of CPP contributions, you can contact Service Canada. You can find out what level you should be at in terms of regular contributions, and get on track if you haven’t been contributing what you should. That way, if you are disabled, you will be eligible for CPP disability benefits when you are injured in a way that keeps you from earning money.

On top of that, you need to be able to show that your disability keeps you from working any job regularly. You need to be able to prove that your disability is likely to last a long time, or that it will likely result in your death. Before you can draw on your CPP disability benefits, it’s important that you make sure that you truly are disabled, and unable to work in a reliable manner. If it’s just a temporary issue, you won’t be allowed to begin drawing on your benefits.

Applying for CPP Disability

You can download an application for your CPP disability benefits online, or you can request a hardcopy kit. Either way, you need to send in your request for benefits in writing. Even if you get the application package online, you will need to print it out and sign the appropriate forms, and then send in the application. Each application comes with a checklist, so you can make sure you have all the documentation (including a medical report filled out by your doctor) needed to qualify. At some point, you might be able to apply for benefits electronically, without the need for sending in hard copies, but right now that’s not the case.

Also, you should understand that it can take several months for your application to be processed. As a result, it makes sense to apply as quickly as you can after you realize that you will be unable to work for some time. If possible rely on your emergency fund, or on some other source of funding to help you get by until your CPP disability benefits begin to arrive. If you have a terminal condition, it is usually possible to speed the process up so that your family begins receiving benefits before you pass. Because these benefits are individual, and are carefully reviewed, you need to be able to plead your specific case.

CPP disability benefits provide a safety net for families. It’s one of the government programs that can provide support to families who might be in danger of losing a breadwinner. If you have been working, and then you are no longer able to work to support your family, the CPP disability program offers a way for you to obtain the funds you need. Get educated about the process, and make sure that you take advantage of the benefits available to you.


  1. Bet Crooks

    The maximum monthly CPP disability payment for 2013 is $1,212.90. Many people way over-estimate what CPP actually pays for retirement or disability.

    • Ned

      Hi Bet i just did cal 1800# and i was told that ill be receiving 770$ a month!

  2. Clyde Freeman

    According to this article “Disability insurance provides protection by replacing a portion of your income, usually between 50% and 70%, if you become disabled as the result of an injury or illness.”

    • maureen belton

      My friend contributed 24 years to cpp and then became disabled and didn’t qualify. Could it be possible for her to qualify because she didn’t work while raising her children?

  3. Matt

    If you had zero or low earnings because you were the primary caregiver raising your children, the child-rearing provision could help you qualify for CPP disability benefits.

  4. Allan Bayda

    You must also realize that your doctor must be supportive and be prepared to state that you cannot do “any” work. Doctors often just state that you cannot do your old job. That is not enough. Under the CPP legislation, if you can do any kind of work that is gainful you will not qualify. Remember this when you apply. If there is any indication on your file you can still do a sit down job, you will have a hard time qualifying. But disability really is in the eye of the beholder and we have seen claimants with “iffy” claims get approved, and claimants with “good” claims have to fight through all the appeal levels.

  5. Mark Roseman

    Note also that many people do get rejected on their first application, but you can appeal. They’re pretty picky about what qualifies as disabled, which is easier with some illnesses than others. With your doctor’s help, and the right language, it’s possible to make things work, but it can take two or three attempts.

    For example, illnesses that can wax or wane (e.g. some mental illnesses, some GI conditions) can be hard to get through, because on first blush they may fail the test about what percentage of the time you’re disabled. But if you and your doctor can make the case that the symptoms occur frequently enough and are unpredictable enough that it makes being able to comply with a work schedule impossible nearly all the time, that can often help you qualify.

  6. Kimberly

    I applied for my cpp disability in november 2014, however I needed to gather information on other physicans I saw within the last 6 yrs. So I got all ghe medical records and sent them all in. Then I get a note stating cpp disability sent a former employee a letter that had to be filled out. And cpp also sent revenue canada a request for my contributions. I also asked service canada or my contributions of the yrs I worked. However Im not sure if I have enough contributions, but I dont actually understand how they break it down. Im disabled with mentally disabilities,and physical disabilities. Why im writting is because if they first look at our contributions, and they know you havent contributed enough. What is ghe hold up. Its either you qualify or are denied its 5 months. I hope to receive some good news. Thankyou ; your truly kimberly Comeau. Nova scotis Canada

  7. tony

    l applied for and recieved CPP Disability.
    After jumping through all the hoops,l did everything right it seems.
    Now l would like to apply for the Tax Credits that is available,
    however l must once again have my Doctor fill out what ever forms that are required.
    Can the information that was submitted for my disability be used for appling for Tax Benefits?

  8. Allan Bayda

    Unfortunately, the requirements for CPP disability and the Disability Tax Credit are quite different. The forms for one cannot be used for the other and you are faced with having to pay your doctor again. You should read over the forms before giving them to your doctor so that you can review the forms with your doctor when he or she is filling them out because in some ways the requirements for the Disability Tax Credit are more onerous than the CPP Disability.

  9. Mathew

    My specialist (psychiatrist) refuses to fill out his portion of my CPP Disability forms and there’s nothing I can do about it. (second time applying, was several yrs before that applied). But I don’t think it’s right he won’t do it for me, all he said is I won’t get more money but that’s not even my concern to get it, I want more stability than ODSP. Any ideas on what I can do???

  10. Allan Bayda

    Mathew, your two options are: 1. get your family doctor to fill in the forms, or 2. threaten to report your psychiatrist to the governing body if he doesn’t fill it out. The problem isn’t filling it out. The problem is really what he writes on the form. You really should try to find a CPP disability advocate in your area of the country to try to help you. We have been successful on occasion when the doctor was against the claimant receiving disability benefits, but it is much more difficult. Try to google: cpp disability lawyer|advocate|representative Ontario. That may help you find an advocate to help you.

  11. amy

    My mother is 66 years old, and she can barely walk, sometimes falls, and can’t pack much not even when my daughter was couple months old, she is diagnosed with something with her liver, she is on medication for life and if she misses one we can lose her as quick as we lost my sister to liver failure, question can she apply for the disability?

    • amy

      And my father is 68 years old with arthritis can he apply as well? Also they been the caregiver for my 14 year old son since he was 6 years old, they don’t recieve extra for him?

  12. Allan Bayda

    You cannot apply after age 65. If you are under age 65 you must apply within 15 months of receiving your CPP retirement benefits and be found disabled prior to the effective date of your retirement pension. See the CPP government website at:
    So in both cases, because the applicants would be over age 65, they could not apply for the CPP disability pension.

  13. Anna

    I was diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer in August of 2011. I went through chemotherapy /radiation and 3 surgeries. My last surgery January 2013. Prior to 2011 I had not worked since 2006 because I was very weak and tired all the time. It took until 2011 for the doctors to figure out I had cancer. By then very advanced. Because of the chemotherapy I now have a disability called chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy. I am unable to work. Prior to 2006 I worked. But to qualify it says I had to have worked 3 of the last 6 years? I wasn’t working when diagnosed in 2011 because I was already sick just not diagnosed. Can you help ? Can I still qualify? I live in Edmonton Alberta Canada ? Thankyou

  14. Allan Bayda

    Hi Anna, The test is whether at the time you became disabled you worked the requisite number of years, not at the date of application. So assuming you worked every year, and declared your income on your tax returns, you would have to show that at the time you became disabled you had the requisite contributions.
    If you became disabled after January 1, 1998, then you must have made contributions to the Plan in four of the last six years prior to becoming disabled. If you contributed to the CPP system for 25 years or more, you have an additional option. If you have made valid contributions for twenty-five years or more, you need valid
    contributions in only three (3) of the last six (6) years to meet the contributory requirement. These new rules apply only to disability benefit applications made on or after March 3, 2008
    In order to help you qualify for benefits or increase benefits that are payable, there is a Child Rearing Dropout Provision. This provision allows for certain periods to be excluded when the pension and qualifying period are calculated.

    The main point to remember is that the test is not at the time of application, but at the time you can prove the disability started. So in your case if the medical evidence shows you became disabled in 2006, you could still apply. And based on the above, you may even a more recent date to show the disability commenced and still qualify for benefits.

  15. sue barton


    My monthly CPP Disability payment is barely enough to live on, my question is, if I were to collect my work pension when I turn 59 yrs, old (at the end of this year), would CPP make adjustments and lower my monthly disability payment??

  16. Jim


    I am in a similar situation as Sue Barton and would like to know opinion as well. Thanks

  17. Sally

    Due to lack of income I gave up my home two years ago. I travel south each winter for health reasons to Mexico, which is cheaper than living in Canada plus way better for my health over the winter months. How many months per year do I need to live in Canada in order to meet the eligibility requirements? Thanks

  18. Lisa fike

    My sister who is 54 years old and has worked since the age of 16 is thinking about applying for cpp disability benefits. She has fibromyalgia quite severe now, she was diagnosed in her mid twenties. She has struggled to work for the last five years as the fibromyalgia is getting worse. Lyrics does not help her nor does the standard medications prescribed for this. Mentally she is struggling as well, she is in constant pain with no hope on the horizon. She was also just diagnosed with emphysema. My sister does not look forward to having give up the career she has built over the last thirty years but she can no longer perform her job or any other. Do you think she has a chance of getting disability.

  19. Joanne

    I don’t have a family doctor..and have been unable to work for 3 years now due to worsening chronic pain from a car accident. I am unable to sit or stand for any longer then 10 mins. Thorough testings show no nerve damage or disc damage in my back. Yet, the sciatic pain is severe enough to make me cry. I have applied to CPP but was denied. Any suggestions? do they provide their own doctor for evaluating people who apply and are turned down?

    • Sali

      I was diagnosed with Lupus 22 years ago ,until last September when I started having extreme headaches and body pains, I had 2MRI done and they found a tumor in my left temple, I haven’t worked since April 2016,I applied for CPP and got denied I am in the process of appealing it, any advice will be greatly appreciated, do I have a chance?

    • Jack Lavallee

      The same thing happened to me Joanne, the doctor kept saying it’s just a little arthritis in my lower back, it turns out a tomour was growing in my rectum, for 4 years I was in pain, it turned out to be stage 4 rectal cancer, I’m not trying to scare you but it sounds like your situation is the same as mine, please get a colonoscopy, you never know, something is causing that pain

  20. Allan Bayda

    Yes, you have a good chance. But I would advise you to get every scrap of medical paper that exists on you since you made the first comments to your family doctor. So every file note that any doctor made concerning your condition (or anything else) since you started having the tumor related problems, and the extreme headaches and body pains. And any test results, and any specialist medical charts, and any test the specialist had done. Every scrap of paper even if you think it is not relevant. Look at it as corroboration of your problems. Insurance and CPP have the view that if it isn’t in your medical chart it never happened. Also if you are at the reconsideration stage, ask for the review to be held off until you obtain all this material. Also you can get a letter from your doctor and/ or specialist that you cannot work at any job. (need to show you cannot do any job, not just that you can’t do your old job) And that they do not know if and when you may be able to work in the future. (need to show the disability will last an indeterminate period of time) Also it would help if the doctor can give a reason for your headaches and body pain and say that they have exhausted medical treatment. (that is hard to show when you only went off work in April 2016, some 8 months ago.) If you are not successful, you may want to consider if you actually want to go to a Social Security Tribunal – General Division, hearing. If you go to that and lose, you may not be able to reapply. It all depends. — So yes you have a chance, but it gets complicated. You really should get some advice from someone who deals in the area of CPP appeals.

  21. Sali

    Thank you,the wheels are in motion.

  22. Cindy

    What are the 6 past years for qualifying? If you applied say on October 2017, would the 6 years be 2012,2013,2014, 2015, 2016, 2017? or would it be 2011,2012,2013,2014,2015,2016?

  23. Lisa

    I have been on CPP disability for years. Does investment income interfere with my cpp payments.

  24. Lilian

    Hi I am unclear about the 6 years rules. If you are unable to work from July 2017 and apply in 2018, 6 years prior is staring from 2011 right?

    And also if you only contributed 3.5 years from 2011 to 2017, is there an exception to the rule? Say if you’ve worked for 9 years, so 2008 to 2017. Can you possible still qualify?

    Kindly advise. Thank you.

  25. linda

    Can you reside in a different country and receive CPP disabiity?

  26. crystal pope

    Good morning! I am a 37 year old woman who suffers from osteoarthritis of the lower back. I receive the disability tax credit and my doctor filled out the papers for CPPDB yesterday. my question is that I have been disabled since 2015. The doctor I had at that time was going to retire so I got a new one. I was off on a LTD with my employer for 2 years. I attempted to return to work doing a lighter job but was unable to do so. last September my employer and I agreed I stay on the LTD claim. For some reason I do not meet their LTD requirements. This is very frustrating as I was the bread winner of the family. I have been of work sine and have had no income. Are there any other benefits that my family and I might benefit from?

  27. Anne

    I am on Canada pension Disability due to a second bout of cancer and cancer treatment. I also get LTD ( shared with CPP). I am unable to work and my doctor will not approve for me to go back to work but maybe someday I will be able to if I can get some time in without a recurrence. If at some point I could return, how would it affect my CPP when I do retire, Someone told me going back to work would reduce my CPP amount more than if I stayed on CPP disability until I turn 65 and go on regular CPP. Is there any truth in this? Thank you

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