Changes were made to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW) on August 1, 2017. These changes will have a huge impact for the recipients, of these benefits, who have personal injury cases.
Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
Previously, ODSP would only exempt personal injury settlement awards up to $100,000.00. Any amount above that had to be approved by ODSP. Now, any award for pain and suffering is fully exempt as it’s no longer considered to be income or assets. Amounts for pre-judgment interest are also exempt unless it is interest on income. Awards for medical and rehabilitation benefits under SABS and awards under the Family Law Act are also exempt.
For the first time these awards will not affect a persons ODSP eligibility. This means someone who receives a large settlement can still remain on ODSP.
Furthermore, if ODSP did not process a settlement award, prior to August 1, 2017, the individual can take advantage of the new rule changes. Unfortunately, ODSP will not revisit past awards. But, if previously, an individual received a settlement award over $100,000.00 and decided to come off ODSP instead of seeking approval, they can now reapply, their settlement monies will be exempt and they can go back on ODSP if they still qualify.
Another important change is to how the money can be spent. Previously a person would need to use the medical and rehab funds received for disability related items and services. Now they are free to use their award for any purpose. As long as the rules regarding spending on non-exempt assets is adhered to.
The new ODSP changes do not apply to any settlement for Income Replacement Benefits, Non-Earner Benefits, and Past or Future Loss of Income. These benefits will still be used to calculate income and/or assets for ODSP purposes. It also does not apply to awards for loss of income. The individual will need to claim that amount as income.
Ontario Works (OW)
The changes for OW are not as significant, but still are welcome. Individuals on OW will see an increase in their exemption limit to $50,000.00, instead of the previous $25,000.00.
These changes will allow individuals greater freedom to control where their monies are spent and their own future. It will also give individuals peace of mind knowing they will not be removed from benefits because they had the misfortune to become injured.
Previously, insurers were able to use an individual’s status on ODSP and OW against them. They knew getting exceptions above the cap was difficult and threatened their eligibility to remain on benefits, so they used this information to offer lower settlements. This glass ceiling has effectively been shattered now.
At Howie, Sacks and Henry LLP we represent injured victims who often end up on ODSP and Ontario Works. For more information on this topic please contact personal injury lawyers Sandra Train at 416-361-7573 firstname.lastname@example.org or Michael Henry at 416-361-0889 email@example.com.