Person with Disabilities (PWD)
PWD is the provincial disability program in British Columbia.
Persons with Disabilities (PWD) is a category of income assistance provided by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. It is a disability program aimed towards low income individuals who have prolonged medical conditions (mental and/or physical) that require assistance with their daily living activities from another person, animal or assistive device.
Applying can be complex and the system has a lot of rules. Please see our related videos and answers to commonly asked questions regarding income assistance and persons with disabilities. Also take a look at our resources section that provides a rate chart that outlines eligibility amounts and asset limits.
Persons with Disabilities (PWD) status provides monetary assistance provided by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction for people who need help completing daily living activities. Whether you qualify or not is based on your income, assets, residency, family status (single/children etc.), and other factors. Also any money you receive from other sources may affect whether you qualify and how much you will receive.
For more information about eligibility requirements and benefits, click here.
To be eligible for Persons with Disabilities (PWD), you must meet all of the following criteria:
- Show that you meet financial eligibility to receive assistance
- Be 18 years old (you can start the application process when you are 17 ½)
- Have a doctor or nurse practitioner confirm you have a severe physical and/or mental impairment that is expected to continue for more than two years
- Be significantly restricted in your ability to perform daily-living activities
- Require assistance with daily living activities from one or more of the following:
- Another person
- An assistive device
- An assistance animal
The amount you receive for PWD is based on your family status, and can also be affected if you’re receiving any money from any other source. The PWD benefit is made up of 2 parts: a shelter amount and a support amount. In addition people on PWD may receive either: an extra $52 per month as a transportation supplement OR a bus pass.
For example: If you are a single person between the ages of 19-64, the benefit rate would be $1183.42 ($375 shelter portion + $808.42 support portion).
The table below shows the maximum benefit you might be eligible for based on your family unit.
|Single Person: Aged 18-64||$375||$808.42||$1183.42|
|Couple: One with PWD||$570||$1027.56||$1597.56|
|Couple: One with PWD with 1 Child||$660||$1121.56||$1781.56|
|Couple: Both with PWD||$570||$1503.06||$2073.06|
|Couple: Both with PWD with 1 Child||$660||$1597.06||$2257.06|
|Single Parent: with 1 Child||$570||$949.08||$1519.08|
Note: To be eligible for disability assistance, a family unit’s net income must not equal or exceed the amount of disability assistance that would be payable to a family unit of that size and composition.
Generally, PWD recipients are allowed to earn money while having the designation.
For example: a single person can earn up to $12,000 a year without it affecting their disability benefit.
The AEE is the Ministry calculation of the PWD recipient earnings on an annual basis. This means that if you are working, some of the income you are receiving will not affect your disability assistance.
AEE applies on earnings you receive from January 1 to December 31. It is also important to note that the AEE does not carry over to the next year. That is, whether you use all your AEE or not within one year, on January 1st of the next year, you will receive a new exemption amount.
For example: a single person with PWD status is allowed to earn up to $12,000 per year.
The table below shows the earning exemptions for PWD dependent on your family size.
|Classification||Annual Earnings Exemption|
|Single Person: Aged 18-64||$12,000|
|Couple: One with PWD||$14,400|
|Couple: One with PWD with 1 Child||$14,400|
|Couple: Both with PWD||$24,000|
|Couple: Both with PWD with 1 Child||$24,000|
|Single Parent: with 1 Child||$12,000|
Note: If you started your disability assistance part way through the year, your AEE amount will be calculated based on the number of months remaining in the calendar year. Also, it will be re-calculated if your family status changed.
The Ministry understands that people with disability’s earnings may fluctuate over the year due to their disabilities, which is why there is an AEE instead of a monthly limit. When you reach 75% of your AEE, you should receive a letter from the Ministry informing you of what will happen if you earn more than what your AEE allows. At this point, you may want to be careful about how much more money you earn within the remainder of the year.
Note: You should keep track of your working income to see how much you have left of your AEE so that you can plan accordingly. Anything you earn over the AEE limit will be deducted dollar for dollar from your assistance cheque. If the amount earned is greater than the amount able to be deducted, then your PWD file will be transferred to a Medical Service Only (MSO) file.
If you reach the AEE and/or your monthly earnings continue to be over the assistance rate, your assistance file will be transferred to a Medical Service Only (MSO) file. This means you will lose your financial assistance but your PWD designation will remain. You may also be able to continue your medical and transportation benefits.
For example: if you reach your AEE by the month of October, your disability payments will stop. However, be sure to continue to submit your Monthly Report form each month! This way, you may be able to receive disability assistance without having to reapply when you are eligible for your new earnings exemption limit in the new calendar year. Otherwise, you will need to reactivate your PWD file with the Ministry.
If you are receiving PWD benefits, you have to report all money or income received and any changes of circumstances by the 5th of the month. To report your income, changes in income or circumstances, you should use the Monthly Report Form.
Unlike those receiving Income Assistance who must complete the report every month, for those receiving PWD benefits, you only need to complete the report if your income or circumstances have changed. You have to include any pay stubs with the report form. Your documents can be either uploaded to the My Self Serve or dropped off at your local Ministry office.
Earned income is income that is classified as any of the following:
- Any money received for working
- Pension plan contributions that are refunded due to insufficient contributions
- Money received from providing room and board at your residence
- Money received from renting rooms at your residence
Unearned income is any income that is not earned income. Some types of unearned income include:
- Employment Insurance (EI)
- Any type or class of Canada Pension Plan benefits (i.e. CPP, CPP-D, CPP-E)
- Old Age Security and related benefits (i.e OAS, GIS, allowance)
- War disability pensions, military pensions, and war veterans’ allowances
- Tax refund
- Workers’ compensation benefits and disability payments or pensions
- A trust or inheritance
- Maintenance under a court order, separation agreement, or other agreement
- Education or training allowances, grants, loans, bursaries, or scholarships
- A lottery or a game of chance
- And more…
For more details about income types and exemptions, click here.
PWD recipients can either have a bus pass or a $52 transportation supplement added to their monthly assistance. A person can switch back and forth between the monthly bus pass or the transportation by notifying the Ministry by the 5th day of each month for a change to take effect on the first day of the following month.
For more information on the BC Bus pass, please click here.
A PWD recipient may be eligible for a monthly supplement of $95 for the care of a guide dog, service dog team and/or a retired guide or service dog.
Note: The guide dog and service dog supplement is not intended to help care for the animal.
For more details on eligibility, click here.
Inheritances are exempt for people on PWD. However, you must declare the inheritance to the Ministry on your Monthly Report. It is considered exempt as income and exempt up to your asset level.
For example: a single person has an asset level of $100,000.
Money received on the first month is considered as “income”. If the amount received is over the income assistance rate, a cheque will not be sent the following month. However, money remaining after the change of the calendar month is considered as “asset”. If the amount you receive is over the amount of your asset level, the Ministry expects every $2,000 to last 30 days.
Note: Money received as gifts are exempt for PWD recipients.
It is also important to know that you may be able to set up a trust fund to preserve the money, which can be used towards disability related costs for promoting independence later on.
ICBC money for vehicle replacement is exempt and if the settlement is within the annual earning exemptions, it will not affect your PWD cheque. However if the ICBC money exceeds your annual earning exemption, it might affect your PWD cheque.
It is also important to know that you may be able to set up a trust fund to preserve the money that exceeds your earning exemption, which can be used towards disability related costs for promoting independence later on.
The Monthly Nutritional Supplement is a benefit available only to people receiving PWD benefits (not available to those with Medical Services Only (MSO), Person with Persistent Multiple Barriers (PPMB) or regular income assistance status). This benefit is an additional $165 per month to help with the costs of vitamins, minerals, and additional nutritional supplementation.
To be eligible, you must have a chronic and progressive deteriorating condition directly causing at least two of the following symptoms:
- Significant deterioration of a vital organ
- Immune suppression (moderate to severe)
- Significant muscle mass loss
- Significant neurological deterioration
- Significant weight loss
- Underweight status
On the application, your medical professional will need to verify that the requested items will alleviate the wasting symptoms and will prevent an imminent danger to life and note your health will deteriorate significantly without the nutritional supplement.
To apply for the Monthly Nutritional Supplement, you must contact the Ministry to request the form and have it completed by your doctor. The form must then be returned to the Ministry to assess eligibility.
If you meet specific criteria, crisis supplements may be provided. However, most will require pre-approval from the Ministry. Different types of crisis supplements have different guidelines. The Ministry can issue up to the maximum amount of crisis supplement in accordance to what is set in legislation if you are an income assistance or hardship recipient and you meet the eligibility criteria.
Regardless of the type of crisis supplement, the eligibility requirements are the same:
- It is an unexpected expense or the item is needed unexpectedly,
- The absence of this would result in danger to physical health or risk of child apprehension, and
- There is no other available resource to meet the need.
The 3 main types of crisis supplements that the Ministry can issue are for food, shelter and clothing:
- Shelter Crisis Supplement: An example could be if you receive an eviction notice that states you owe $400. The Ministry may be able to give you $375 (which is the amount for a single person’s shelter entitlement). In addition, you would have to show how you would come up with the additional $25.
- Clothing Crisis Supplement: An example could be if you were doing laundry at a laundromat and your clothes were stolen. The Ministry may give up to $100 per person per year (maximum $400 for the family unit, regardless of how many family members)
- Food Crisis Supplement: An example could be if there is a power outage and all the food in a fridge is spoiled and needs to be replaced. The Ministry may give up to $40 for the month.
|Types of Crisis Supplement||Maximum Amount|
|Food||Up to $40/person per month|
|Clothing||Up to $100/person per year (Maximum $400/year per family unit)|
|Shelter||Restricted to the actual cost, up to the maximum shelter allowance|
Diet supplements are there to assist you to meet the costs associated with unusually expensive diets as a result of a medical condition or need. The Ministry approval of a diet supplement
is for the period the condition is expected to last up to a maximum of 12 months for acute (short-term) conditions and 24 months for chronic (ongoing, recurring, long-term) conditions. For a person having separate conditions, only the higher diet allowance amount is usually paid.
|Restricted Sodium Diet||$10 per month|
|Kidney Dialysis||$30 per month|
|Diabetes||$35 per month|
|Gluten-Free Diet or Dysphagia||$40 per month|
|*High Protein Diet||$40 per month|
|Cystic Fibrosis||$50 per month|
For more information, click here.
People who are deemed eligible for PWD may be able to get some General and Health Supplements. Some of these supplements are:
For a complete list of supplements available to PWD recipients, click here.
Your child can not receive PWD if he or she is underage. Once your child is of age (17.5 years old), they can apply for the PWD benefit at which time you should contact ministry to take them off of your assistance file.
If you child is underage and “has a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions”, your child may be eligible for the Child Disability Benefit (CDB).
Assets are considered assets if they can be converted to cash. That is, if the item has monetary value, then it is considered an asset. Assets can include cash, savings, stocks, bonds, RRSPs and more. When applying or on income assistance, you are allowed to have certain “assets” that do not affect your assistance, as long as these assets are within your allowable asset limits. If the value of these assets exceed your allowable limits, then income assistance applicants are required to use their assets for personal independence.
The Ministry places a maximum value amount of assets you can have when applying or while on PWD. A single person with the PWD status, is allowed to have up to $100,000 in assets. If the dollar amount exceeds $100,000, the person may not be eligible for benefits.
The table below shows the asset level one is allowed to have depending on their family unit.
|Single Person: Aged 18-64||$100,000|
|Couple: One with PWD||$100,000|
|Couple: One with PWD with 1 Child||$100,000|
|Couple: Both with PWD||$200,000|
|Couple: Both with PWD with 1 Child||$200,000|
|Single parent: with 1 Child||$100,000|
Some assets are considered exempt for determining eligibility for Income Assistance. Below you will find some of the most commonly asked about exempt assets.
- Clothing and necessary household equipment
- A vehicle valued up to $10,000
- A family unit’s place of residence (*you must live in the home for it to be exempt).
- Tax refund
- Child tax credit
- Universal Child Care Benefit
- BC Early Childhood Tax Benefit
- Goods and services tax credit; harmonized sales tax credit; a sales tax credit the Income Tax Act (Canada)
- The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement
- The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Class Action Settlement
- Abuse at Woodlands School
- Money paid or payable from a fund from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry
- Funds held in a registered education savings plan (RESP) a dependent child
- Money received from the sale of, the family unit’s previous place of residence if the money is either:
- Applied to the amount owing on the family unit’s current place of residence
- Used to pay rent for the family unit’s current place of residence
- And more…
For a full list of exempt assets click here
Both are disability benefits, but they are very different in terms of who is eligible for each one, and what additional benefits are included. One of the main differences is that in order to be eligible to receive Canada Pension Plan Disability, you must have made Canada Pension Plan contributions during your working life. Also, with CPPD, the disability relates to your ability to work. With PWD, the disability is not work related but is assessed in terms of your ability to complete daily living tasks such as grooming, cooking etc.
See our comparison chart below for more information
|PWD (Persons with Disabilities)||CPPD (Canada Pension Plan Disability)|
|BC Provincial Government Program||Federal Government Program|
|Governed and delivered by The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction (MSDPR)||Governed and delivered by Service Canada|
|Maximum benefit = $1183.42 for a single person||Base amount is $485.20, plus an amount based on how much you contributed to the CPP|
|Benefits available (medical, dental, annual bus pass amount)||No benefits available|
|Not income taxable||Income taxable|
|Cannot be garnished||Can be garnished|
|Employment earnings allowed up to $12,000/year||Employment earnings allowed up to $5,500/year (2018)|
|Only allowed up to 30 days absence from province||Can live anywhere in Canada|
All CPP benefit types are considered unearned income and will be deducted from your PWD cheque with the two following exceptions:
- A surviving child’s benefit—also called CPP orphan’s benefit
- A disabled contributor’s child benefit
You are required to report the total CPP benefits received in the month. CPP income received in the current month must be reported to the Ministry by the 5th day of the following month to impact your income assistance for the month following that.
For more information on the CPP exemptions, please click here.
Medical Services Only (MSO) can be provided to former recipients of PWD to allow them to keep medical benefits and health supplements while transition from Ministry assistance to independence. MSO occurs either when a PWD recipient becomes ineligible for assistance due to income in excess or when he or she turns 65 years old.
Due to Income In-Excess
If you become ineligible for assistance due to income in excess, your file may turn into an MSO file for as long as you are eligible for Premium Assistance.
For example: a PWD recipient was recently approved for Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD) and his CPPD rate is more than PWD; his file will be transfer to MSO file.
If you become ineligible for assistance due to being over the age of 65, your file may turn into a MSO file for as long as you qualify for a federal benefit.
Someone with the PWD designation whose file has turned into MSO will still have basic medical benefits which include doctor visits, prescription coverage, and access to extended medical benefits such as dental and mobility devices.
For more information on MSO, please click here.
Pwd Application FAQs:
If you already receive income assistance (IA), visit or call the ministry at 1-866-866-0800 to ask for a PWD application. If you are not yet receiving IA, you must complete the online application. One of the first questions you will be asked is “Do you plan to apply for Persons with Disabilities (PWD) designation?” You must check “yes” to this question.
If you do not hear from the Ministry within 5 business days of submitting your application, contact the Ministry to follow up with your application. You can request a PWD Application Booklet from the Ministry at this point. If you do not qualify for IA but believe you are still eligible for PWD, speak with a Ministry worker to determine your eligibility.
Note: You may qualify to complete the Simplified PWD application instead of the regular 28 page long PWD application.
The PWD application is seperated into 3 sections can must be completed by the following:
Section 1 – Applicant Information – Filled by the applicant.
Section 2 – Medical Report – Filled by a medical or nurse practitioner.
Section 3 – Assessor Report – Can be filled by a medical or nurse practitioner or another prescribed professional.
Examples of a prescribed professional are:
- Medical practitioner
- Registered psychologist
- Registered nurse or nurse practitioner
- Occupational therapist
- Physical therapist
- Social worker
For those who fall into one of the categories below, they may fill a simplified PWD application instead:
- A recipient of Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD) Benefits
- A person enrolled in Plan P (Palliative care) under the drug plans regulation.
- A person who at any time has been found eligible for payments through Ministry of Children and Family Development’s At Home Program
- A person who has at any time been found eligible by Community Living BC to be receiving community living support
- A person whose family at any time has been found at Community Living BC to be eligible for community living support to assist that family in caring for the person.
If you are not already receiving IA, you must first apply via the online application. Through this process you will be able to identify that you belong to one of the above 5 groups and you will be eligible to receive the simplified PWD application form from the ministry.
If you’re denied the first time you apply for PWD, you may either re-apply or appeal the Ministry’s decision. If you choose the appeal the decision, it is important to remember is that you have 20 business days from the time that you are informed of your denial to submit your appeal package. You will need to contact the Ministry and let them know that you:
- Disagree with their decision and
- Are asking for a “Request for Reconsideration” package (appeal package)
A trust allows a person with PWD status to have money above the asset limit that can be used on disability related costs over the course his or her lifetime. All trusts must be reported to the Ministry if they involve a person who is an applicant or recipient of assistance. There are specific requirements for a trust to be recognized by the Ministry.
For more information on trusts, please click here.
You may set up a trust at any time, before being approved for disability benefits or after being approved. The trust will be exempt as an asset.
There are two types of trusts:
- Discretionary Trust: The person with PWD status is the beneficiary and that person’s trustee decides how the money is used. There is no limit on the amount of money that can be held in this type of trust.
- Non-discretionary Trust: The beneficiary will have some decision-making ability on the use of the money. There is a lifetime maximum capital amount of $200,000 that can be put into the trust.
For more information on trusts, please click here.
Trust may affect an income tax return. To find out more about how this will affect your tax return, you should speak to someone at the Canada Revenue Agency, a lawyer, or a financial consultant.
To contact the CRA about general inquiries call: 1-800-959-8281
A PWD recipient has 3 months from the date he/she receives a large amount of money to put it in a trust. The ministry will then assess the source of the money and decide how it will be treated. If after 3 months, the recipient doesn’t put the money received in a trust, it will be considered an asset and the asset exemption will be applied.
Money in a Registered Retirement Saving Plan (RRSP) may be treated like a trust depending on how the RRSP account was set up. The Ministry may review your RRSP documents to see if it will be considered an asset and if it will be exempt or not.
All trusts must be reported to the Ministry if you’re an applicant or recipient of PWD assistance. The report must include any documents setting out the terms of the trust and who controls the funds in trust. Usually the current value of the trust, as well as the value of all contributions made to the trust while on assistance, or during the two years prior to receiving assistance, will be required. The Ministry can assist you in determining what documents to submit for review.
The table belows the trust limit you are allowed based on your family unit
|PWD Status||Discretionary Trust Limit||Non-Discretionary Trust Limit|
|Single Person||No Limit||$200,000|
|Couple: One with PWD Status||No Limit||$200,000|
|Couple: Both with PWD Status||No Limit||$200,000|
Generally, the Ministry does not ask a PWD recipient or applicant to use money from a trust. Payments from trusts are exempt when they are used towards one of the following:
- Acquiring a place of residence,
- A contribution to a Registered Education Savings Plan (RRSP) or a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP), or
- Disability-related costs
For more information on trusts payments, please click here.
- Application – Application Sample (REFERENCE ONLY)
- Application – Prescribed Class
- Forms – Consent to Disclosure of Information
- Form – Consent for Service Authorization
Disability Fact Sheets
- Fact Sheet – Additional Available Supplements
- Fact Sheet – Annual Earning Exemption
- Fact Sheet – PWD Summary
- Fact Sheet – Reconsideration
- Fact Sheet – Moving Supplement
- Fact Sheet – Monthly Nutritional Supplement
- Fact Sheet – Living Arrangements
- Fact Sheet – Diet Supplements
- Fact Sheet – Crisis Supplements
- Fact Sheet – Benefits and Trusts
- Fact Sheet – Asset Limits
PWD Quick Reference Guide
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