Community Update: Changes to Online Application for Disability and Income Assistance

March 2017

At the end of February, the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (MSDSI) introduced major changes to the way that British Columbians apply for disability and income assistance. Here are the main changes as explained by the MSDSI:

• People who apply for income and disability assistance are now required to register for the Ministry’s MySelfServe online service and acquire a BCeID to start an application. Applicants need to start the process at myselfserve.gov.bc.ca;

• The new application gives the option to upload documents electronically rather than delivering them to a MSDSI office. People who prefer to deliver documents directly to a Ministry office can still do this;

• The new application is optimized for use on mobile phones;

• People who are unable to apply for assistance themselves can request that a Ministry worker assist them to fill out the application over the telephone. To request help call 1-866-866-0800. The worker you talk to should make a request for someone to call back within 3 days to go through the application on the phone;

• The new application questions will have less redundant information than the old application. For example, people without children will no longer be asked to provide information about the amount of child benefits they receive;

• Some confusing questions from the old application have been clarified;

Disability Alliance BC (DABC) is monitoring the impact of these changes. The former online application had some significant issues, and we are pleased that there have been changes made to help address this. At the same time, we have some concerns that the new system will create confusion and be challenging for individuals and community organizations familiar with the old system.

Some of the concerns that have been identified by DABC and the community about the new process include:

• Some people may find the multi-step process of registering for MySelfServe and BCeID confusing;

• It does not adequately notify people of the option to submit supporting documentation directly to a MSDSI office rather than electronically. This could create time delays and barriers to access for those unfamiliar with the application process or who are not comfortable using computers;

• The Ministry often does not provide adequate support to people who require in-person help to apply for disability or income assistance. As a result individuals may be insufficiently supported and find it necessary to contact a community agency for help.

If you have any questions about how the new system works, please feel free to contact our Advocacy Access Program at 604-872-1278 or 1-800-663-1278 to talk to an advocate. We would also like to hear about any challenges you are hearing from your clients with the new system; please contact Advocacy Access Program Director Sam Turcott. This helps us in our consultations with the Ministry on operational issues.

Thank you

Community Update: Province Exempts EI Maternity and Parental Benefits for PWD and Income Assistance Recipients

 

Dear Community Partner,

The Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (MSDSI) has made some changes which, starting on October 1st, will impact some PWD and income assistance recipients. Employment Insurance (EI) maternity and parental benefits and EI benefits for parents caring for critically ill children will now be exempt. This means that these benefits will not be deducted from their assistance cheques.

The Province has posted a news release about this change on its website: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016SDSI0060-001817. DABC sees this as a positive change, which will benefit families across BC.

If you have any questions about the information in this community update, please contact our Advocacy Access department at 604-872-1278 (toll-free: 1-800-663-1278), or email feedback@disabilityalliancebc.org.

Community Update: New Reporting Process Allows Easier Return to Disability Assistance After Exceeding AEE Limit

Dear Community Partner,

On September 1st the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (MSDSI) will introduce a new procedure which will make it easier for people receiving disability assistance who exceed their Annual Earnings Exemption (AEE) limit to return to assistance. Recipients who wish to do so can continue to submit a monthly report slip to MSDSI even after they reach their AEE limit and cease to be eligible for assistance. Once the AEE limit is renewed the following January or if a person’s earned income falls below their disability assistance rate during the year then disability assistance can be automatically re-instated.

Monthly reports are due by the 5th day of the following month that income is received (e.g. income received in May should be reported by June 5th). Monthly reports can be completed online using My Self Serve or submitted to a Ministry office using the Monthly Report form (HR0081).  People who choose not to report income on a monthly basis after they exceed the AEE limit keep their disability designation and will not need to reapply for the designation using the 28 page PWD designation application.  However, they will need to submit a re-application for assistance which assesses financial eligibility if they wish to return to disability assistance.

Annual Earnings Exemption Refresher

The AEE allows people on disability assistance to receive earned income (usually this means income received in exchange for work or the provision of a service) without a reduction to their disability assistance. A person’s AEE limit is the amount of earned income they can receive during the year without a reduction of disability assistance. Any earned income received after a person exceeds their AEE limit is deducted dollar for dollar from their disability assistance. The maximum AEE limit for a single person is $9600 per year (pro-rated for the number of months a person is receiving disability assistance in the year).

The AEE limit is renewed every January which, due to the MSDSI reporting system, allows people who are otherwise eligible for disability assistance to begin receiving assistance again in February for the March benefit month. The AEE does not apply to other sources of income (e.g. Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits, Employment Insurance, Old Age Security), which are generally deducted dollar for dollar from disability assistance unless there is a specific exemption.

If you have any questions about this information, please contact Advocacy Access Program Director Sam Turcott at 604-872-1278 or 1-800-663-1278.