Sometimes people with mental health-related disabilities who apply to the Ontario Disability Support Program are turned down because the decision-makers think that the medical treatment they are getting isn’t serious enough. For example, ODSP decision-makers sometimes say that because a person hasn’t been hospitalized, isn’t on enough medications, or hasn’t had crisis intervention, they don’t qualify as a person with a disability.
Getting access to medical treatment can be very hard and people face many barriers, like lack of nearby specialists, long waiting lists, fear, stigma and negative experiences with medical treatment in the past. Also, modern mental health treatment is focused on supporting people before they get to the stage of being in crisis.
When making decisions about eligibility, ODSP should look at how the person’s health conditions affect them, not what kind of treatment they are receiving.
The Income Security Advocacy Centre and Grey-Bruce Community Legal Clinic worked together to represent a person who was turned down by both ODSP and the Social Benefits Tribunal because of the kind of medical treatment she was receiving. We argued that the Social Benefits Tribunal made a mistake when it focused on her level of treatment, and that the Tribunal was wrong to deny her appeal on the basis that she had not been involuntarily hospitalized by her family or the police. Crisis is not – and should not be – a requirement to qualify for ODSP benefits.
Another problem with the Tribunal’s decision was its finding that she is not a person with a disability because she was able to participate in her own appeal hearing. Although it can be very difficult for people to participate in the hearing process, many do so because they know it is important for the Tribunal to hear directly from them, and because they want to be part of the process that makes decisions about their future. The Tribunal should never hold participation against an appellant. Doing so undermines access to justice for persons with disabilities.
After starting an appeal at the Divisional Court, the clinics were able to negotiate a settlement of the case with ODSP.
To read the Notice of Appeal to the Divisional Court, click here: here.
– Posted May 2018, final update October 2017