Why Connecting Patients with DTC/RDSP Matters: A Physician's Perspective

By Dr. Gary Bloch

A 48 year old with multiple sclerosis, a 24 year old with leukemia, an 18 year old with Down’s Syndrome, a 35 year old with recurrent bouts of severe depression.  These are all patients of mine, each one with a unique story, each one working hard to improve their health and standard of living despite their disability.  And each one has a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP). 

I am a family physician, not a financial advisor.  My training prepared me to deal with MI, RA, MDD and CRF – not EI, CPP, DTC, or RDSP.  But years of working with people who experience disability, and most of whom live in poverty and without secure housing, have convinced me that I must address their social situations directly to improve their health.  Conversations about “treating poverty” through accessing income supports have expanded to the inclusion of a Social Determinants of Health Committee and income security specialists in my family health team. 

At the foundation of my work on addressing poverty, however, lies a basic intervention: connect my patients with the income support systems that will improve their income security, and that will prevent them from falling into deeper poverty.  The disability income security system in Canada is large and complex, but there are certain key benefits that require a physician’s input to access.  These include provincial social assistance disability support programs, Canada Pension Plan-Disability, and the Disability Tax Credit (DTC). 

We see applications for these programs on a regular basis.  What we often don’t recognize, however, are the programs people with confirmed disability qualify for that can have a major impact on income and life security.  One of the most important, and under-accessed, of these programs is the RDSP.  Like an RRSP, but for people with disabilities, this program allows individuals living with disabilities to save money for the future and to access heavy government subsidies.  Any individual who qualifies for the DTC can open a RDSP. 

While some outreach has been done by government and disability advocacy organizations, many people living with disabilities have no idea RDSPs exist.  This is where front line health providers can play a huge role in guiding their patients to this program.  First, complete an application for the DTC.  Once qualified, advise patients to open a RDSP.  Very low income patients can access large grants to build their savings.  People able to contribute their own funds can access up to a 300% match in government funds. 

We often find ourselves caught up in the day-to-day struggles of our patients who live with disabilities.  But we can also enable our patients to look to and plan for their futures.  Approaching middle and older age with a disability and no financial security will decrease health and wellbeing.  Disability income support programs, and especially forward-looking, subsidized savings programs like the RDSP, offer stress relief, security, and ultimately increased hope for a comfortable future. 


Gary Bloch is a family physician with St. Michael’s Hospital and Inner City Health Associates, and an Associate Professor with the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine. 

Gary created the Poverty Tool with the Centre of Effective Practice, which is designed to guide primary health care providers in income interventions: www.cep.health/poverty 

Use the DTC tool for your client’s applications: www.disabilityalliancebc.org/dtc-app 

For financial planning tools, including Financial Benefits Navigator: www.prospercanada.org/Resources/Online-Tools.aspx 

For the RDSP calculator: www.rdsp.com/calculator .

The Disability Tax Credit Application and Name/Gender Changes

When working with our advocates on Disability Tax Credit applications, clients sometimes ask if the application process will be impacted if they have recently changed their name and gender markers, or they intend to do so during the application process. 

Adrienne Smith is a transgender human rights activist and social justice lawyer. They represent transgender people, sex workers, employees, people who use drugs, and those experiencing over policing in the context of healthcare. They have written a brief information piece addressing these kinds of questions:

“As with any legal matter, a legal name change will not have any impact at all, provided the applicant can prove a continuity of entitlement. Usually this is done by showing a copy of the Change of Name Certificate issued by the Vital Statistics Agency when a name change application is processed. This is a 6”x 8” piece of paper with a red border. It should come in the mail. This document shows that a person is the same person they were before they changed their name.

For some applicants who did name changes under the old system which required a court hearing, documents issued by the court will achieve the same result as the Change of Name Certificate in establishing that the new name describes the same person.

For people with an active application at the time they change their name, there should be no impact on their application.

The punchline: Changing your name and gender should not affect your RDSP or any other legal, tax, or immigration application, provided you have your certificate to show that you are still you.

If you’re looking for advice on the name and gender change application process, it’s available here:

Disability Tax Credit - Other Benefits

You may know that being approved for the Disability Tax Credit (#DTC) can enable you to open a Registered Disability Savings Plan (#RDSP). But did you know about the other benefits and credits it can help you access? Check, download, and share this handy infographic!