Some people with MS are able to continue working part- or full-time. Others, however, decide to leave their jobs for medical reasons. Learn more about what to consider before leaving work, and sources of financial support that may be open to you.
Private sources of financial support
There are two main private sources of financial support: benefit plans offered by your employer, or your own private disability insurance (a popular option with people who are self-employed). Check with your employer (and your spouse's employer if you are married) to see if you are covered. Most employers' plans require a certain minimum amount of time as an employee (often 90 days of employment with at least 20 hours per week of work), and may only provide coverage for a certain number of years or up to a certain age.
Before leaving work or reducing your hours:
- Find out more about the short- and long-term disability support programs offered by your employer, including who is eligible, what is covered, how to make a claim, and how long the coverage lasts. Many programs have a minimum amount of time on the job (in terms of total days employed or total number of hours worked) required to be eligible for these benefits. Some offer greater benefits for employees that have been with the company for a long time. If you're planning to use these benefits, be sure that you meet the requirements set by your employer.
- If you belong to a union, request a copy of the collective agreement. This agreement outlines any additional benefits you may be entitled to (including financial assistance and assistive devices).
- If you are planning to make a claim for disability or health benefits, discuss your condition with your neurologist to determine how likely your claim is to succeed (because MS varies it is not possible to predict whether a claim will be accepted).
If you are not covered by an employers' plan, check to see if you or your spouse have private disability coverage. If you do not have any private financial support, don't worry – there are also public (government) sources available.
Public sources of financial support
Financial support programs are available at both the provincial and federal levels in Canada. The following are some of the programs you may be eligible for. For more information, contact your doctor or the MS Society of Canada.
- Employment insurance (EI): This program provides up to 15 weeks of benefits for people who have had to stop work for medical reasons. Medical evidence of disability is required and there may be a waiting period before you are eligible for benefits.
- Canada Pension Plan (CPP) – Disability Benefits and Quebec Pension Plan (QPP): These programs are open to most people in Canada aged 18-65 years, including self-employed individuals, and provide a regular monthly benefit pension. This pension may be higher for people with children under 18 (or children 18-25 attending college or university). At age 65, the benefits continue in the form of a retirement pension. Medical evidence of disability is required.
- Survivor's pension: If your spouse is deceased and you are at least 35 years old (if you have a disability) or have dependent children, you may be eligible for a survivor's pension.
- Provincially-funded social assistance or welfare programs: The details of these programs vary by province, but most provide a disability pension for people who cannot work (medical evidence is required) and who do not have sufficient funds to support themselves. They may also provide support for other services such as transportation and assistive devices.
- Service clubs (such as the MS Society of Canada) may provide additional support and services to people with MS.
It's important to realize that claims to public programs may be rejected the first time around. However, some claims are later accepted during the appeal process. Be sure to have your neurologist complete the medical portion of the forms, and keep a copy of all forms for your records in case you need to make an appeal. Appeals must be made within the required timeframe or you may lose your chance for benefits.