People with episodic disabilities must be able to enter and re-enter the paid work force easily, when they feel well enough to do so. They also must be able to stop working when they are unwell without putting their income security at risk.
Most existing policies do not accommodate the realities of a person living with an episodic disability. Rigid definitions and requirements act as disincentives to returning to work. People are “trapped” in continued dependence on benefit programs. Some key issues include:
- Lack of partial disability benefits: In practice, most policies define people as either “fully disabled” or “able to work”. If someone returns to work part-time during periods of good health, they lose their disability income support, even though they are only working part-time.
- Loss of extended health benefits (vision, dental, prescription drugs, physiotherapy, etc.): People fear loss of extended health benefits if they return to work, stop receiving benefits and then become ill again. If they return to work with a new employer, they also may not be eligible for benefits because they have a pre-existing condition.
- Limits on income: Although CPP-D allows people to earn some income while on disability, the fear of losing CPP-D benefits discourages many people from working during periods of good health if it means they will be over the allowable limit for income.
- Claim procedures: Complicated claim procedures are often required every time someone is absent from the workforce for an extended period of time.
People with illness and disabilities often experience stigma and discrimination due to the fear of illnesses, disabilities and difference inherent in our society. It is critical that our systems promote inclusion and respect.