The CPP disability application process is notoriously difficult. Almost 60% of initial applications are denied. Those are scary odds when you are struggling with a serious medical condition and depending on getting approved for CPP disability benefits to financially support yourself and your family.
You can improve your chances of success by submitting a strong, well-supported application to Service Canada. Review this step-by-step guide to applying for CPP disability benefits before you start preparing your application package—and don’t hesitate to get in touch today if you want professional help with your CPP disability claim.
Step 1: Make sure you meet the basic eligibility criteria
You are eligible to apply for Canada Pension Plan–Disability (CPP-D) benefits if you can answer yes to each of these questions:
Are you under age 65?
Have you made enough contributions to CPP while you were employed?
Do you have a mental or physical disability that regularly stops you from doing any type of substantially gainful work?
Do you have a disability that is long-term and of indefinite duration, or is likely to result in death?
Your application will be denied if the answer to any of those questions is no. Step 2: Consider the timing of your application
The date your application is filed can affect when your benefits start. For that reason, you should file your CPP disability claim application as soon as you develop a severe and prolonged or terminal medical condition that prevents you from regularly working.
That being said, there are other considerations that impact when you should apply. For example:
If you haven’t worked enough to meet the minimum qualifying period, you will have to keep working for a period of time before you apply. If you’ve contributed to CPP for more than 25 years, you must have contributed to CPP in at least three of the six years before you became disabled. If you’ve contributed to CPP for less than 25 years, you must have contributed in at least four of the six years before you became disabled.
Have you exhausted all reasonable options for continuing to work? You must be able to prove that you did everything you could to remain in the workforce, such as moving to lighter duties, working reduced hours/days, or switching jobs altogether. Your claim will almost certainly be denied if you are reasonably able to work although with discomfort, or if you haven’t tried to switch jobs/job duties so you can stay employed.
Do you have your doctor’s support? It’s all but fatal to your claim if your doctor hasn’t recommended that you stop work. Before you apply, you will need to convince your doctor that you are not reasonably able to work because of your disability—or you will need to find another doctor who does support you.
If you have a new doctor or specialist who does not know you and your medical history very well, they may not be able to provide enough detail to support your CPP disability claim application. You may need to attend a few appointments before you ask the doctor or specialist to complete the required medical form (discussed below).
Step 3: Find and complete the application form You can pick the forms up at a Service Canada office or download them here:
You must use the form that applies to your situation. Be sure you are using the most recent version of the correct form. We recommend reading over the entire form and all its instructions and checklists once or twice before you begin filling anything out. It’s also a great idea to fill out a rough draft of the form before you prepare the final version that you will submit to Service Canada. Any mistakes or missing information will cause delay in processing your application and may result in denial of your claim. The more thorough information you provide, the better. You want Service Canada’s medical adjudicators to be able to easily understand the nature of your disability, the symptoms you experience, how your disability limits or restricts your daily life and ability to work. The forms have limited space for answers, but you can attach extra pages if needed. Just be sure to include your name and SIN on each extra page.
Step 4: Have your doctor or specialist complete the medical form
The medical form is a crucial part of your application. You should ask the doctor or specialist who knows the most about you and your disability to complete the medical form that applies to your situation:
It’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor or specialist to discuss the medical form and ensure that their medical opinion supports your CPP-D application before asking them to complete the form.
The medical form must contain detailed information about your medical condition, history, prognosis, and treatment. It is not enough for a medical professional to simply state that you are suffering from a severe and prolonged disability. The medical report has to discuss your symptoms and limitations, and explain how your physical or mental medical condition is impacting your ability to work.
Once the medical form is completed, it can either be submitted directly to Service Canada by your doctor, or your doctor can give it back to you to submit with your application package.
Step 5: Put your application package together
A complete CPP disability claim application will include your application form, the medical form, and any other documentation you have obtained to support your application.
A strong application will include supporting evidence such as clinical records, medical reports, letters of support from other treating professionals (e.g., specialist, physiotherapist, psychologist), and/or letters of support from your friends and family members. Supporting evidence can make or break your CPP disability claim, especially if you suffer from an “invisible disability” like fibromyalgia, chronic pain, lupus, Lyme disease, or mental illness.
You may also want to submit a cover letter that does two things: (1) explains the documents you are submitting in your application package, and (2) describes your work history, your attempts to stay employed, how your disability has progressed, and how it has impacted—and continues to impact—your daily life and ability to work.
Step 6: Determine how you want to apply and submit your application package
You can apply for CPP disability benefits in one of two ways: online through My Service Canada Account or on paper, whichever is easier for you. If you apply online, you create and log into your My Service Canada Account, then complete and submit the application form there. You must also print, complete, and sign one paper form (the Consent for Service Canada to Obtain Personal Information (ISP2502B) and mail it to the designated Service Canada office or bring it to a Service Canada office. Medical records and other supporting documents can be scanned and uploaded, or you can send those documents to Service Canada by mail, with a covering letter that includes your name, social insurance number, and your CPP disability claim number if one has been assigned.
If you are applying by paper, you must mail your application package or drop it off at the designated Service Canada application processing centre.
A few more tips and things to know
Service Canada offices won’t accept couriered forms or supporting documents, but you can send materials to them via Canada Post Express Post, which gives you a tracking number.
Double check that you have signed all areas that require your signature.
Keep photocopies of everything you submit.
It can take up to 120 days (4 months) for a decision to be made from the date Service Canada receives your complete application and all required documents.
Get assistance with your CPP disability claim
It’s not easy to manage a CPP disability application while dealing with the challenges of a serious illness or disabling medical condition. The good news is that you don’t have to navigate the process on your own. Ludwar Law Firm has 27 years of experience representing clients with CPP disability claims in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Our clients appreciate that we take the time to explain what is required to make each type of disability claim and what to expect during the claims process. Our legal expertise has helped win even difficult claims involving depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
If you have already brought a CPP disability claim application and been denied, we can help you appeal Alberta and Saskatchewan. You have 90 days from the denial to file an appeal. We welcome you to contact us today to schedule your free consultation. We’ll help you get the disability benefits you deserve.