Guide to Accessing Financial Benefits as an Autistic Adult
As a person on the spectrum, I found it really challenging to access services and financial supports. The information on government websites is so complicated and can be overwhelming for neurodivergent folks. This article should help make the information easier to understand and I’ll provide some tips along the way. Let’s get started!
What is a Representation Agreement?
A representation agreement is a document that allows people with disabilities to list a few people they trust as their representatives. You give permission to your representatives to speak or act on your behalf. These representatives help them with making important financial or legal decisions.
Who can be my representative?
Your representative must be:
- 19 years of age or older
- Willing to act as your representative.
- Someone you trust that shares your values and beliefs
- More than one representative or an alternative representative
What decisions can my representative make for me?
- Day-to-day personal care
My representatives are my dad and a close family friend. They have access to my bank account to help me with my finances. They also assist me with submitting my monthly earnings declaration to the government, which is required for me to receive my disability assistance cheque. They mainly help me make financial decisions, but they are also able to speak to government workers on my behalf when I am too overwhelmed. There are many decisions that I’m capable of making myself such as determining how I spend my money, budgeting for my weekly expenses such as groceries, and doing some of my banking but my representation agreement allows me to have people I trust there to support me when I need them.
Persons With Disabilities (PWD) Benefit:
What is Persons With Disabilities Benefit?
In British Columbia, Persons with Disabilities may apply through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction to become a monthly recipient of up to $1,358.42 of income assistance to pay for rent, bills, food, and other necessities.
How do I qualify for the PWD Benefit?
To receive the PWD benefit, you must:
- Be 18 years old or older
- Have a severe physical or developmental disability that continues for more than two years
- Be significantly restricted in your ability to perform daily-living activities.
- Require assistance with daily living activities from another person, an assistive device, or an assistance animal
- Fill out a PWD designation application.
How do I apply for the PWD benefit?
The first step is applying for the Persons with Disabilities designation. After you submit your application, the Ministry will review it and let you know if you meet the eligibility criteria for the PWD designation.
For more information on accessing PWD, Visit here.
Disability Tax Credit (DTC):
What is Disability Tax Credit?
The Disability Tax Credit is a non-refundable tax credit that helps persons with disabilities, or their supporting persons reduce the amount of income tax they may have to pay each year.
Many people with disabilities require extra supports, which costs more money to provide. The DTC makes sure that people who need these extra supports get some relief for diverse ability-related costs, since these are unavoidable additional expenses that other taxpayers don’t have to deal with.
Who is eligible for DTC?
Your eligibility for the tax credit is based on the effects of your disability on your life. To qualify for the Disability Tax Credit, you must:
- Be “markedly restricted.” This could mean challenges with vison, speaking, walking, feeding, and dressing yourself, or needing life support.
- Have medical professional’s certification of your impairment. A medical practitioner, such as a family doctor or psychiatrist, has to certify that you have a severe or prolonged impairment.
How does DTC affect other benefits?
Once you’re able to get the Disability Tax Credit, this can open the door to other federal, provincial, or territorial programs such as Registered Disability Savings Plan. Your ability to receive the tax credit is not affected by receiving other national and provincial benefits like PWD.
Tips about DTC
- DTC approval is not about label or diagnosis, it’s about how your disability impacts your daily functioning.
- The DTC can be retroactive for up to 10 years, it is worth trying to backdate.
- Consult a professional or support agency like Disability Alliance BC (DABC).
- When you apply for DTC, include a detailed list of all daily challenges. It is important to think about home, school, work, and community environments and list all barriers and challenges. Include all information such as medical reports, letters from medical professionals and assessments.
Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP):
What is Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)?
The RDSP is a savings plan that is intended to help parents and others save for the long-term financial security of a person who is eligible for the Disability Tax Credit. As an adult, you can still access an RDSP for yourself.
Who qualifies for RDSP?
Persons who approved for DTC and/or PWD may open an RDSP. Only one RDSP account can be set up per individual, and only that person is entitled to receive any payments.
As a person with a disability who has an RDSP, it’s comforting to know that I have this money being saved up to give myself financial security for the future. If you get your diagnosis as an adult, and your parents or caregivers are no longer able to help you get an RDSP, you can still access an RDSP for yourself. You can connect with organizations such as Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network and Disability Alliance BC, who can help you in going through the application process.
Find out how to apply for RDSP as an adult here.
I hope you find this article helpful in accessing financial benefits that will support and work best for you. For more information and assistance accessing the Disability Tax Credit and the Registered Disability Savings Plan, please go to www.disabiltyalliancebc.org
Government of Canada Benefits Finder
Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit Toolkit
Outreach Support Centre 1-877-631-2657 – Service Canada (No waiting in queue and you can speak to someone immediately. Our phone lines are open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. local number above to speak with an agent. Service Canada’s benefits and services, please call if you do not have internet access, or require help accessing services.)
Autism Q and A: What are Representation Agreement and PWD?
If you’re a newly diagnosed autistic adult in British Columbia, you maybe wondering about accessing financial benefits and services that are available in the province. Information on government websites can be inaccessible and overwhelming for neurodivergent adults. In this video, Jake Anthony, an autistic adult and AutismBC’s Program Ambassador, provides tips and information regarding Representation Agreement and Persons with Disabilities (PWD).
AutismBC Talks: Understanding Disability Benefits, PWD with DABC
AutismBC is pleased to collaborate with Disability Alliance BC for a talk on the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) benefit. In this session, a member of Disability Alliance BC’s Advocacy Access Program will provide information to the community about qualifying for and accessing disability benefits. 45 min presentation with an integrated question period after each section PWD and the application when can you start and who can help? What the PWD application is looking for, the benefits associated with it? How will my earnings impact the amount I can receive?
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