In Canada, financial resources are distributed through both federal and provincial benefit programs. Eligibility for these different programs is generally based on individual need (i.e. medical eligibility), and either contribution history or income level/assets. There are also specific benefit programs in place for seniors.
Please note: when applying for any financial benefit program, you must report all sources of income, including any additional benefit programs you are receiving. For instance, if you receive AISH and are applying for CPP-D, it is important to report your AISH payments as income. Service Canada will apply dollar-for-dollar deductions on these benefits. It is also important for you to apply for all applicable programs you’re eligible for; this is required for benefit applications processed by both Service Canada and Alberta Supports.
You can access a basic list of available supports by entering your current information in the questionnaire linked here.
It is important to note the above link is a non-comprehensive list, containing links only to the home web page of different programs. Navigating the application process can be challenging for those living with cirrhosis, given the complex ways that socioeconomic barriers are experienced by those affected.
Ask your healthcare provider or community support network for a referral to a social worker who can assist you during the application process through ongoing support. If you have questions about who to contact or where to go, check if your region offers support through 2-1-1 Telephone Information and Referral Service.
Based on Employment History
For benefit programs with a contribution requirement, it is imperative applicants obtain their CRA Notice of Assessment (income taxes, annual income based on Line 150) for the most recent tax year (see: miscellaneous section, for information on community resources for filing income taxes).
EI is a temporary federal financial benefit program administered by Service Canada. Generally, the basic rate for calculating EI benefits is 55% of the applicant’s average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount. As of January 1, 2019, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $53,100. Therefore, applicants are eligible to receive a maximum amount of $562 per week.
EI – Sickness Benefits can be paid for a maximum period of 15 weeks, depending on how long the applicant is unable to work.
Applicants can generally expect to have their application processed within two business weeks. It is important to begin the application process as soon as possible, no later than four weeks after the last day worked.
EI is available for those who have contributed the requisite number of hours within the specific qualifying period for their region (see link below). In most cases, people who have been working full-time over the past 52 weeks are likely to have met the contribution requirements. For those working in informal settings, or who are self- employed, it is important to consider EI contribution history, as eligibility depends on it.
The most common subtype accessed by people experiencing chronic illness is EI – Sickness Benefits. If you are working but require time off to care for a loved one, you may be able to access EI – Caregiver Benefits. If you are expecting, or have recently given birth, you can also access EI – Maternal/Parental Benefits.
EI – Sickness Benefits are payable only to those who are unable to work because of sickness, injury, or quarantine but who would otherwise be available for work if not for their incapacity due to medical reasons. [Adapted from Employment and Social Development Canada]. It is important to have a medical practitioner complete an EI – Medical Certificate for submission to Service Canada once you have completed your portion of the application online (link below).
Important Links for EI:
CPP-D is a federal benefit administered by Service Canada. CPP-D provides financial benefits to people under age 65, who have made sufficient contributions to the CPP, and who are disabled and cannot work at any job on a regular basis. Benefits may also be available to dependent children (see link below). [Adapted from Employment and Social Development Canada]. Once a CPP-D recipient turns 65, they are automatically transferred to regular CPP benefits.
To qualify for CPP-D, the applicant’s disability must be both severe and prolonged, and not expected to improve—preventing them from being able to work at any job on a regular basis. [Adapted from Employment and Social Development Canada].
Applications for CPP-D must be completed in writing or through a fillable PDF, and submitted by mail (no option to submit online). The appropriate mailing address for Service Canada can be found on the application. At the time of writing, Service Canada estimates that CPP-D applications take approximately four months to process upon receipt. To inquire about an outstanding application, contact Service Canada.
Applications from people with a terminal illness receive priority handling. Service Canada estimates a decision within 5 business days of receiving a complete Terminal Illness Application, including a Terminal Illness Medical Attestation.
For the purposes of CPP, Service Canada considers terminal medical condition as: a disease state that cannot be cured or adequately treated and is reasonably expected to result in death within 6 months. [Adapted from Employment and Social Development Canada].
Important Links for CPP-D:
Based on Income Level/Assets
For benefit programs with an income level or asset threshold, it is important to inform understand the relevant eligibility requirements. Financial benefits in this category typically consider liquid assets (including that of your spouse/partner), employment income (if any), and other non-exempt assets.
The provincial financial aid program for Alberta is known as Income Support. Albertans under the age of 65 that demonstrate high financial may be eligible for this program. Income support provides varying degree of support based on need, ability, and asset level.
In most cases, it is best to go in person to the nearest Alberta Supports centre, where you can be assessed by an intake worker for the full range of benefits available through Alberta Supports.
The sub-categories of Income Support are: Barriers to Full-Time Employment (BFE), Expected to Work (ETW), and One-Time Issue (Emergency Benefits). Income Support is a relatively accessible and low-barrier program. For people with an inconsistent work history, multiple social barriers, or who have not filed income taxes for the most recent tax year, Income Support is often the most appropriate financial benefit program.
If you are unsure of what type of Income Support may be eligible for, contact your social worker, or contact Alberta Supports directly.
Initial applications for Income Support are available online, or in person at an Alberta Supports centre. If you choose to complete the initial application online, you may be required to go in person to Alberta Supports to provide the appropriate supporting documentation, based on your specific circumstances (i.e. bank statements, rent invoice, utility bills, eviction notice).
If you are approved for Income Support, you will also receive extended healthcare benefits, which are administered through Alberta Blue Cross (see: Alberta Adult Health Benefit).
AISH is a provincial benefit administered by Alberta Supports. AISH provides financial benefits to people with permanent disabilities under age 65 that meet the financial and medical eligibility criteria. Benefits may also be available to dependent children (see link below). Once an AISH recipient turns 65, they are eligible for Alberta Seniors Benefit, in addition to applicable federal benefits available to seniors.
Typically, you can expect to wait six months to a year for your AISH application to be processed and funds to be released. In the interim, you may be eligible to apply for Income Support while you wait.
Application forms for AISH are available online, or in person at your nearest Alberta Supports centre. You are responsible for filling out Part A, and your physician is to fill out Part B. You must submit your portion to in person, or by mail. Your physician can submit Part B directly to the main AISH office, or you can submit Parts A and B together. In order for AISH to connect with your physician (or another third party) directly regarding your application, it is important for you to fill out and submit a consent form to AISH.
Please note: Part A (applicant portion) of your AISH application must be processed either before, or at the same time as Part B (medical portion).
If you are approved for AISH, you will also receive extended healthcare benefits, which are administered through Alberta Blue Cross
AISH Application Online Submission (must have Part A and Part B completed in PDF format)
There are both provincial (Alberta Seniors Benefit) and federal (CPP, OAS Pension, GIS, Allowance) benefits available to seniors in Alberta. One program with a contribution requirement is CPP. A benefit that includes a residency requirement is OAS. GIS, the Allowance, and Alberta Seniors Benefit are all means-tested benefits.
Seniors Benefit is a provincial benefit administered by Alberta Supports. To be eligible for the Alberta Seniors Benefit you must be 65 years of age or older (benefits may start the month of your 65th birthday); have lived in Alberta for at least 3 months immediately before applying; be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident; receive the Old Age Security pension from the Government of Canada; and meet the financial eligibility criteria. [Adapted from Ministry of Community and Social Services Alberta].
All Alberta residents should receive a package in the mail several months prior to turning 65. This package includes information on all major programs and services available for seniors. Information on regular CPP is included in this package. If you have not yet received your package and are ≥ 65 years of age, call AHCIP: (780) 427-1432 as soon as possible.
Please note: If you and/or your spouse/partner have chosen to defer or delay receipt of Old Age Security (OAS), you are not eligible for seniors financial assistance programs. Use the Seniors Benefit Estimator to help determine your eligibility for Seniors Financial Assistance programs.
Low-income seniors below the income threshold may also be eligible for an additional Special Needs Assistance for Seniors (SNA) funds. Funding for SNA is based on a line-item schedule, subject to eligibility. You must be eligible to receive and have submitted an application for (if not currently in receipt of) Alberta Seniors Benefit in order to qualify for SNA funds. Seniors living in a designated supportive living or long- term care facility may additionally qualify for a Supplementary Accommodation Benefit.
To apply for Alberta Seniors Benefit, complete an application along with supporting documentation including a copy of your date of birth validation (birth certificate, passport, Canadian entry document, Canadian permanent residency card) and submit to Alberta Supports for processing. If you require assistance, go to your nearest Alberta Supports centre.
The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is a federal benefit administered through Service Canada. CPP retirement benefits provide contributors and their families with partial replacement of earnings in the case of retirement. Almost all individuals who work in Canada contribute to the CPP.
You can apply for and receive a full CPP retirement pension at age 65 or receive it as early as age 60 with a reduction, or as late as age 70 with an increase. You can also take an increased pension if your benefit starts after reaching age 65. [Adapted from Employment and Social Development Canada].
Please note: Your CPP retirement pension does not start automatically. You must apply for it. Before you apply, you must: be at least a month past your 59th birthday; have worked in Canada and made at least one valid contribution to the CPP; and want your CPP retirement pension payments to begin within 12 months. [Adapted from Employment and Social Development Canada].
To apply for CPP, login/create a My Service Canada account to complete an application, or fill out a printable application, and mail it to the nearest Service Canada location. If you require assistance in managing your application, you can authorize a trusted person to give and receive information from Service Canada on your behalf by signing in to your My Service Canada account or by completing the Consent to Communicate Information to an Authorized Person form.
Both you and the person you are authorizing must sign the printed form and mail it to the Service Canada Centre closest to you. Mailing addresses are provided on the form. [Adapted from Employment and Social Development Canada].
Old Age Security (OAS) is a federal benefit administered through Service Canada. OAS is funded out of the general tax revenues of the Government of Canada. This means that you do not pay into it directly. Your employment history is not a factor in determining eligibility: you can receive the Old Age Security (OAS) pension even if you have never worked or are still working. [Adapted from Employment and Social Development Canada].
The OAS pension is a monthly payment available to seniors aged 65 and older, who meet the Canadian legal status and residence requirements. You may need to apply to receive it. [Adapted from Employment and Social Development Canada].
In addition to the main OAS pension, there are three types of additional OAS benefits. You must be receiving OAS in order to be eligible for the additional OAS benefits listed here, subject to eligibility criteria:
- Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS): If you live in Canada and you have a low income, this monthly non-taxable benefit can be added to your OAS pension.
- Allowance: If you are 60 to 64 years of age and your spouse or common-law partner is receiving the OAS pension and is eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), you might be eligible to receive this benefit.
- Allowance for the Survivor: If you are 60 to 64 years of age and you are widowed, you might be eligible to receive this benefit.
Service Canada has implemented a process to automatically enrol eligible seniors to receive the OAS pension and GIS benefits. If you can be automatically enrolled, Service Canada will send you a notification letter the month after you turn 64. If you are 65 and have not yet received your letter, you must apply in writing for the OAS pension. Complete and mail the Application for the OAS and the GIS to the address listed in returning the form. [Adapted from Employment and Social Development Canada].
Canadian Liver Foundation
American Liver Foundation
Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit
The Canada Caregiver Benefit
Government of Canada – Assisted Living Program
Government of Canada – Disability Tax Credit
Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH)
Human Services Alberta – Income Support
The information on this page was adapted (with permission) from the references below, by the Cirrhosis Care Alberta project team (physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, registered dietitians, physiotherapists, pharmacists, and patient advisors).
This information is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare team. They know your medical situation best. Always follow your healthcare team’s advice.