Tag Archives: disability tax credit

The DTC…We have come a long way. We will win the war!

we will win dtc warThe past few weeks have been incredibly busy and I have never been more proud! I have been battling the Federal government over the Disability Tax Credit since the early 2000s.  There have been victories and most recently there have been setbacks but we have come a long way!!

Let me give you a bit of history.

Back in 2002 or so, a lady named Shelley Tyler took the Canada Revenue Agency to court and won.  She believed that her son was eligible for the Disability Tax Credit because they took an inordinate amount of time to feed him and keep him alive.  Her son had type 1 diabetes.

Mrs. Tyler was kind and shared her experience with others.  I used some of her work in preparing my own application.  Others did as well.

More and more families were applying for the Disability Tax Credit.  They were still being turned down, but even more where refusing to take no for an answer.  They were taking their cases to Tax Court–and winning!

Families like the Chafes were winning the argument that insulin therapy was administered 24 hours a day when using an insulin pump.  This led to a year of qualification for all pumpers.

(The irony of recent comments that the increased use of insulin pump therapy is why applications have been denied is not lost on me. )

Changes were happening.  The diabetes community was roaring.  We were a grassroots group.  The Canadian Diabetes Association was only in the infancy of creating a dedicated Advocacy Office and JDRF was focused on funding research. That was okay because the diabetes community was powerful in its own right.

Together we rallied. We worked on court cases.  Friends and family members contacted their MPs and demanded fairness. The diabetes community was represented at the Federal review of DTC fairness.

The result was legislative change.  Children with diabetes were now given the tax credit based on a certified diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.  Adults were also allowed the credit but their means test was a bit more strict.

Recently there seems to have been a change in how disability tax credit applications are handled for people with diabetes.  We have discussed it before.  One thing hasn’t changed however and that is the power of the diabetes community.

Thanks in part to the power of social media,  the community voice is louder than ever and I couldn’t be more proud!

Diabetes Canada is sending well-spoken, knowledgeable individuals to meet with CRA and voice our concerns.  JDRF has been delving into the issue for months as well.  Together they are creating a powerful voice.  Behind the scenes, there are many more grassroots groups working together.  Everyone is pushing the same  message.  “Diabetes is a 24/7 job.  People living with insulin dependent diabetes take more than 14 hours per week to perform life-sustaining therapy.”

The message is getting out there.  This issue was all over the media.  My Twitter feed has been blown up with articles and Tweets.  I am proud! The diabetes community is coming together.

Some members have voiced their frustration. This should have been finished years ago.  People living with diabetes have enough to deal with.  Fighting their government for a credit that they obviously qualify should not be another stressor. They are right of course.  I totally understand their get their pain.

I have been in this battle since the beginning.  It’s been a long one but please don’t lose hope! This is not a war that is lost.  It is a battle that will see victory.

The diabetes community is a powerful voice.  Canadians with diabetes are coming together in record numbers.  We are using that voice to let CRA and the Minister of Finance know that we are not prepared to back down.

Now is the time to keep the momentum going.  Write your letters to your MPs. Answer the call when one of the diabetes organizations calls looking for your story.  Our voice is strong.  We have come a long way and together we will finally win the war.

How to Fight for the Disability Tax Credit with Type 1 Diabetes

How to fight for the DTC with T1DDiabetes Canada recently released a statement claiming that the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) is now declining 80% of applications for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) submitted by people living with type 1 diabetes.  I cannot confirm or deny these figures. I can state that I am seeing a significant increase in the number of people contacting. They are reaching out because they  or  their clients have been declined for the DTC.

What is going on with the DTC?

No one seems to know.  CRA claims that there has been no change in policy.  Public concern seems to suggest otherwise.

For years, people with diabetes have often received a follow-up letter when they have made their application asking for more details from their doctor.  In the past, that letter was filled out in a similar manner to the initial application and the claim was approved.  This seems to be happening with less frequency now.

People living with diabetes are often receiving a letter stating that “an adult who independently manages insulin therapy on a regular basis generally does not meet the 14 hours per week requirement unless there are exceptional circumstances.”.  In some cases this is followed by a request for more information but in other cases it is part of the denial for their claim.

Does this mean that I should not apply?

No.  People living with diabetes usually spend over 14 hours per week to intensively manage their diabetes.  Granted this does not include all people living with diabetes but does include a large majority.

You should continue to send in your detailed applications. Make sure that you are adding tasks that are approved and that your total is over 14 hours.

What happens after I apply for the DTC?

Once you and your doctor have completed your forms and returned your application, there will be some time before you hear back from CRA.

Odds are high that your doctor will be contacted and asked for more information.  Again, make sure that the follow up letter is detailed. Take care to  clearly show that you spend over 14 hours per week on your diabetes care.

What if I am rejected?

If you are turned down for the Disability Tax Credit, you have a few options.

First you can ask that your file be reassessed by another officer.  Sometimes fresh eyes will give a fresh perspective and the ruling can be changed.

Second, you can formally appeal their decision within the first 90 days of your rejection letter.  This is a detailed process but does not necessarily require a lawyer.  If you choose to go this route (and I would encourage everyone to do so), be sure to keep careful and detailed records. You must also contact CRA for a copy of your file under the Access to Information Act to better understand what you are fighting against.

Write your Member of Parliament

Finally, at any stage of the process, I would encourage you to ask for the assistance of your MP.  Whether you are thinking of applying, have applied or have been rejected, it is important for Members of Parliament to be aware of this situation.  Diabetes Canada has written a great template for people to send to their MP.  Download the letter. Be sure to personalize it to your situation and forward it on.  Remember that letters sent to a Member of Parliament in Ottawa do not require postage.

The more MPs that contact the Finance Department and ask them what is going on, the stronger the case for change and fairness.

Together we were able to get access to this credit for some people living with diabetes over 10 years ago.  Working together again, we will create change for even more individuals!

The Disability Tax Credit for Adults…What you need to know

Disability Tax Credit tipsThe Disability Tax Credit is a non-refundable tax credit available to Canadians who meet a very strict criteria set out by the Canadian Revenue Agency.  One of the criteria is that you must take over 14 hours per week to perform life-sustaining therapy.  This is the section that many people living with diabetes qualify under.  Before you apply there are a few things that you need to know.

Having diabetes doesn’t mean that you qualify.

Not everyone with diabetes will qualify for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC).  The criteria states that children with Type 1 diabetes qualify . Adults (anyone over 18 years of age) however, must show that they spend over 14 hours per week on their care.

Why do children get the DTC so easily?

The reason that children qualify  for the Disability Tax Credit is because CRA feels that the time that they spend on their care AND the time that their parents spend on their care, together is equal to more than 14 hours per week.  Adults do not require the help of others for the most part. Therefore must prove that they, themselves spend over 14 hours per week on therapy to keeping themselves alive.

Do I really spend 14 hours per week keeping myself alive?

That is a question that only you can answer.  I will say that if you are intensively managing your diabetes, then more than likely, you do take an inordinate amount of time out of your day to manage your diabetes care.

A person who is not reliant on an external source of insulin to live does not have to be concerned about blood glucose readings, anticipated activity levels, impending illness,  or fat contents of meals when planning their day to day activities.  The average person does not have to draw up a syringe, put in an infusion set or calibrate a continuous glucose monitoring sensor.  A person without diabetes does not have to keep track of their insulin requirements, blood glucose levels or activity levels in a journal.

These tasks, while commonplace for a person with diabetes, are all tasks that are recognized by CRA and count towards the 14 hour total required to be certified for the Disability Tax Credit as requiring life sustaining therapy.

I hear that adults no longer qualify so why should I try?

Some adults are experiencing a harder time getting the tax credit.  There can be many reasons for your application being denied.  You may be including tasks that are not recognized by CRA as being an allowable part of therapy.  Things like grocery shopping, doctors appointments and trips to the pharmacy are not allowed to be included in your total.

Another reason that adults are being turned down is because they are not providing details on their own specific care.  Often people are turning to internet groups that have sample forms filled out. They then simply copy and paste the details that they have found. You should be  using that information as a guide and filling out the application in your own words with your own specific care details.  CRA is noticing a pattern of applications and is now beginning to question their authenticity.

What does that mean?

It means that you need to make your application your own.  Spend one week detailing what you do each day.  It will take you a lot of time to stop and write everything down.  Time each task.  Note how often you perform it.

Take this week’s worth of information and then compare it to your online resources.  Eliminate the tasks that CRA won’t approve.  Add in the tasks that you did but forgot to add in your personal list.  Now total your time spent.  Most likely, you will find that you spend more than 14 hours per week on your care.  This data can also be shared with your doctor at your appointment. It will help he/she understand who much time you do put into your care.  This will further be of use if he/she if they receive a follow up letter from CRA asking for more details on your care.

Adults with insulin dependent diabetes who test regularly (6+ times per week), who inject insulin multiple times per day through injections or an insulin pump, and make their own adjustments to their insulin regimen should apply for the Disability Tax Credit.  If you are turned down, you have the right to ask for your application to be approved by another CRA staff member. Sometimes the second review still does not turn out in your favour but don’t despair. At that point,  you have the right to see all correspondence used in your file and begin a formal appeal process.

If you are unsure of how to fill in your application or you just want someone to review your totals, I can assist you. Email me or check out the Disability Tax Credit page for more details on receiving assistance.

 

Diabetes Made me Do it

Its the first day of another Diabetes Blog Week! I am so excited to be a part of this wonderful adventure once again.  As a blogger, it allows me to have topics chosen for me and write about topics that I may not have otherwise thought about.  As a reader, it gives me the chance to see many new blogs that I may not have come across before.  In other words, its a win-win week that I hope you enjoy as much as I do!

Today’s prompt asks me to share  what I have done because of diabetes that has made me the most proud or what good thing has diabetes brought into my life?

Obviously I am proud of the way my son is learning to handle his own diabetes care.  How much of that is up to me and how much is just his personality? We will never know but he takes each day in stride and never seems to complain about his lot in life. I can’t ask for much more than that!

For me personally, diabetes has brought an incredible network of friends.  Those friends have encouraged and inspired me to be involved and help to create changes to the world of diabetes in Canada.

It amazes me to look back at how long I have “known” some of these people.  There are the core group of parents that I met on the Children With Diabetes Parents Email list almost 15 years ago.  They have been with me through the good and bad.  They have been there with a hug or a shove in my personal life as well as in our life with diabetes.  The connections made there have been some of the dearest of any I have ever made.  They are truly the very, very best thing to come out of a life with diabetes.

With their encouragement and prodding, I began to look to see what I could do to better improve the lives of people with diabetes.  It led me into two areas–both dealing with fairness.  First there was the issue of fairness in our tax system.

Not long after my son’s diagnosis, I learned of a thing called the Disability Tax Credit.  In reading the description, I knew that my son qualified. In time,  I came to learn that the Canadian Revenue Agency did not always see things the same way that I did.  Some people with diabetes were qualifying, some weren’t.  Some people with diabetes were fighting for this right in court, some weren’t.  I sought to equalize the playing field and make the powers that be understand what was really involved in living with diabetes.

During this process, I met more amazing people.  There were families struggling to get by. There were adults who just wanted to be treated equitably and see some financial relief from the burden of diabetes care costs.  I interacted with many people, some I still hear from and others I see in posts on various social media platforms.  Each one was vital for their support and their belief in what we could do.

Together we did make a difference.  Today, all children under the age of 18 are given the DTC upon receipt of the T2201 from their doctor indicating a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes.  Adults are also eligible for this credit but still must first prove that they are intensively managing their diabetes care and that it takes over 14 hours per week.

When I read posts online about people getting this credit or when  I read others advising their friends to check out my website for tips and information, my heart swells. I know that I have made a difference.

The other thing that I have done because of diabetes that makes me proud is my work with parents and educators in regards to sending children with diabetes to school.  This issue has been something that I have worked on since my son was 3 years old.  He will soon be 18.  The situation is not perfect, but I am happy to say that there have been profound and real changes in how diabetes care is viewed in many Canadian schools.

When I began this journey, the only province to have any sort of legislation or provincial policy in place was New Brunswick.  To date, provinces such as Quebec, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and BC all at least mention the care and treatment of children with diabetes in schools in their provincial education policies.

We still have a long way to go but I no longer receive numerous telephone calls each fall from parents struggling to get help.  I hope that that is a sign that there is more and more support out there for families and students.

Diabetes is a crappy disease. It ruins holidays. It never goes away. Its unpredictable at times and never takes a rest.  It has however brought me a network of friends that have kept me sane throughout the years.  It has allowed me to help in areas that I never would have known about otherwise. For those things, I am truly happy to be able to say that “Diabetes made me do it!”d made me

 

 

Can I get the DTC if I am an adult insulin pumper?

For a number of months there has been concern about a video posted on the CRA website stating that using an insulin pump did not allow a person to be eligible for the Disability Tax Credit.  Many people have written letters to their MP as well as CRA.  The CDA has made the issue of easier qualifications for adults with Type 1 diabetes a priority for the upcoming federal election but what does this really mean to people living with diabetes?  Do they no longer qualify for the DTC if they are using an insulin pump?

A member of the Insulin Pumps.ca staff received the following response from CRA….

In receiving a qualifying therapy, the person must dedicate time to the process. This means taking time away from his or her normal everyday activities to receive the therapy. For portable devices, such as an insulin pump or implanted devices like a pacemaker, the time the device takes to deliver the therapy does not count toward the 14‑hour requirement. Activities like following dietary restriction, exercising, traveling to receive therapy, attending medical appointments, shopping for medication, or recuperating after therapy also do not count toward the 14-hour requirement.

Early on in the fight for fairness regarding the Disability Tax Credit and people living with type 1 diabetes, a court case was won in which it was successfully argued that a person using an insulin pump was actually injecting insulin 24/7 and thus easily spent more than 14 hours per week on life sustaining therapy.  It is not surprising that CRA quickly made an amendment to their policy stating that they would not consider the time a machine/device requires to deliver therapy as part of the 14 hour total.

This does not mean that people who use insulin pumps no longer qualify for the DTC. It means that the time the pump spends delivering insulin does not count towards time spent on therapy. The amount of time dedicated to diabetes related tasks such as bg testing, ketone monitoring, logging, making dosing adjustments, as well as site changes and pump maintenance is still used in the 14 hour calculation of therapy.  The video posted online and the CRA website, unfortunately do not clarify this.  That can be problematic.

Doctors who rely on the CRA website to guide them on what is considered therapy when dealing with Type 1 diabetes may be led to think that insulin pumpers in general do not qualify for the DTC.  Even those living with Type 1 diabetes may wrongly think that they no longer meet the qualifications.

Being an adult with Type 1 diabetes does not automatically qualify someone for the the DTC–being a child under 18 with Type 1 diabetes does.  Using an insulin pump does not automatically qualify you for the DTC–neither does using multiple daily injection therapy. The key to qualification is to intensively manage your diabetes care. This means that you spend over 14 hours per week on such things as testing your bg levels, monitoring for ketones, changing infusion sites, injecting insulin, logging daily diabetes related activities, and other diabetes related tasks that a person without diabetes does not have to do to maintain life.  Tasks such as carb counting does not count towards therapy nor does the amount time spent recovering from a low blood glucose level but many other tasks do and can quickly add up to spending over 14 hours per week on life sustaining therapy. fairness report

Three Things that Raise My Dander

Diabetes Blog Week

Its Diabetes Blog week once again and I am so excited to be able to participate once again!  Today’s topic comes for Kim of Texting my Pancreas and asks us to discuss diabetes issues that get us really fired up!

Since I began my website many years ago, the issues that I have been passionate about have grown but have always retained one common thread–improving the lives of people living with diabetes.  There have been some successes and there is still a long way to go but watching the diabetes community come together and create change has been the best part of the journey.

The first issue that got my dander up was the inequity I saw years ago in the way people with diabetes were treated when it came to the Disability Tax Credit.  As I worked on this issue, I saw that those who were approved for the credit were people who were able to stand up to the government and were willing to fight for this issue. If you were uncertain or did not know how to take on this battle, you would be denied the credit while your neighbor was approved.  There seemed to be no other logic behind how this credit was applied to people living with diabetes.

With a lot of help from other people living with diabetes and a fabulous mentor, I was able to see this issue change dramatically. Fairness was obtained and change happened to the legislation surrounding this issue. I was very proud of all the works that was done here but there were still more issues to tackle.

As I learned about diabetes and became more involved in the world of advocacy, I came to realize how difficult it was to get an insulin pump if you didn’t have the very best insurance coverage.  Once again I was outraged.  Why should it matter what sort of job you have or where you work to get the best possible care for your diabetes?

Since I first began dealing with this issue, things have changed.  Most provinces in Canada now offer provincial health care coverage for insulin pumps and supplies for all children under the age of 18.  That was great but what about older children who are just starting out in the workforce? Some provinces decided to give these young adults until age 25 to get better insurance…some provinces didn’t.  Today, I continue to work with others to see that all people living with diabetes have access to the best devices available to manage their diabetes care regardless of age. This means that I would like all governments to cover insulin pumps, supplies and Continuous Glucose Monitors for people with diabetes regardless of age.  This will happen in time. I am confident.

No matter what your age or where you live, you deserve access to the very best in medical care.  It is important for governments (and insurance companies) to understand the broad sweeping benefits that come from best care practices. If a person with diabetes is able to maintain their bg control to a close to normal range and they are able to anticipate highs and lows with the aid of CGM technology they are better able to perform at work (which means less down time and more money paid to the government in terms of personal tax), they are less likely to be in the hospital (costing the government money), and more likely to have a better overall life satisfaction which in turn further leads to increased productivity and once again an increase in taxes paid to governments. The cost outlay is far outweighed by the benefits to the system as a whole.

At the moment, I live in a province that covers insulin pumps for people with Type 1 diabetes until they reach the age of 25. It does not cover CGM technology.  I have less than 9 years to advocate for increased funding to cover all people with diabetes regardless of age.  In 9 years my own son will be in the position of having to make very serious and real choices about his diabetes care. We will see this change–for him and for all of the other adults struggling to maintain their health despite the heavy financial costs.

Because my son is still in school and has had diabetes since before he went to school, the third issue that I am passionate about is that of children with diabetes in schools. This issue has seen major changes since I first began talking about it over 10 years ago.  In BC, we have seen the power of grassroots parent organizations who have pressured the government into changing its policy on children with diabetes in schools.  I have seen many more individual boards and provinces begin to seriously look at the issue of protecting the rights of children with diabetes in schools.

Once again, this is an issue that many parents and children are not able to stand up and voice their concerns about themselves. I felt that it was therefore my job to help them.  I would (and do) speak to parents on how best to tackle their schools and their issues. I work with boards to help them understand what needs to be done to create change that is fair and just to all parties involved. This is a very complex issue here in Canada. Our children are not protected by a disabilities act. They are protected by the voices of their parents and other concerned adults…but these voices are powerful and making a difference.

Advocacy has always been something that I am very passionate about. I have felt a strong need to stand up for those who may not be able to stand up for themselves.  I have worked for the past 14 years to ensure that people living with diabetes are all treated fairly with equal access to education, medical devices and supplies.  This is a long road.  It has seen many battles won and I am proud to be able to continue fighting the war along side many incredible people.

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A DTC Motivational Memory

Being Monday, I thought I would name the day “Memorable Monday” and I would take you back to a great memory that kept me motivated when fighting for changes to the Disability Tax Credit so many years ago…

The full story of how the changes to the  Disability Tax Credit came to be can be found on my website.  Suffice it to say, it was a huge struggle that was motivated and moved forward by many incredible and supportive individuals.  Together we managed to create a change that continues to benefit Canadians with diabetes today. 

There was one woman however whose story pushed me forward whenever I was frustrated.  It was a few words from her and what the credit meant to her family that made me more determined than ever to see this credit become equitable to everyone.

In the early 2000s, insulin pump therapy in Canada was beginning to hit its stride.  Insulin pumps were becoming smaller, smarter and available to more people.  They were not yet covered by provincial health plans and only a select few private plans were paying for them. This made this family’s story that much more moving.

I was contacted by a  woman who wanted to help change the way the Disability Tax Credit was applied to people living with diabetes.  That in itself was not unusual.  As word of the initiative grew, I was contacted by more and more people who wanted to get involved.  This lady had two children living with the disease.  Life had to be a struggle but she did not complain.  She was writing to help  me not to ask me for assistance.  She was a hardworking parent.  Her children were doing well.  She was able to afford an insulin pump…but only for one child.  Her finances did not at that time allow her to pay for a pump and supplies for two children. One would be able to pump but one would have to continue on injections.  If we were able to make changes to this tax credit, then the money saved on her tax return at the end of each year would make two insulin pumps financially possible.

My heart broke.  That was not her intention but it did. I could not begin to imagine the struggle of having more than one child with diabetes but worse, having to choose who gets a pump and who doesn’t? That was so terribly sad.  I had to see change happen.  I knew that sadly this woman’s plight was most likely not unique.  The increased tax savings would help many other families and individuals living with diabetes.

As we wrote letters, contacted Members of Parliament, and spoke with the occasional member of the media, this family stayed in my head. I remained in contact with her.  She did her part to send letters and garner outside support for our cause. We finally won the changes that we desired.  She told me that she could now purchase two pumps with the money that she was now owed! I knew that the tears and frustrations getting to that point had been worth it.

I have sadly lost touch with the family. I honestly would not be able to even tell you where they lived but their story is still with me. It motivated me when fighting for the tax credit, I shared it when advocating for pump coverage. Some would say that I helped them but I know that this wonderful woman’s spirit  helped me to help many others.

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How to be an Advocate

Advocacy.  What is it? How do you describe it or explain to someone how to become an “advocate”?

A number of months ago I was asked to talk about the topic of advocacy. It was the hardest discussion I have ever done. Its not something that I think about. I can’t say, go through these steps and you will be an advocate. An advocate is just something that we are when we are humans who take a stand. I was an advocate for what I believed in as a young pre-teen and I have continued to be an advocate as an adult and parent.

Google says that an advocate is a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. As a parent, when we stand up for our children in school we are their advocate.  When we go to the doctor and ask for a particular treatment option, we become a health advocate.  We may not be Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, or Gandhi but we are advocates nonetheless. We do make a difference.

We make a difference to ourselves and our perception of who we are.  We see ourselves as stronger and more in control of our own destiny.  We make a difference to our loved ones by providing them with a positive role model. Do we change the world? We just might.

Very rarely do advocates strike out on a journey expecting to change the world.  Often, they have begun to travel the road they are on for selfish reasons–they want to change something in their own lives.  They want to make things easier or better for them.  I began to seek out change to the Disability Tax Credit because I saw flaws in the current system.  I knew that I had the strength to stand up for my son’s rights but as I continued on my journey, I realized that many others would not have the resources that I did.  It was important for me to do everything that I could to make the road easier for those who came after me.  After a lot of hard work and support, we have the changes and the much more fair treatment that we see in those applying for and receiving the tax credit today.

fairness report

Parents are taking school boards and provincial departments of education to task and seeing changes in how diabetes is managed in Canadian schools. In California, advocates stood firm and were able to fight to keep nurses in their schools for their children with diabetes.

Most recently, patients here in Canada took it upon themselves to push Health Canada to see the Animas Vibe insulin pump approved for sale.  Phone calls, emails, and letters from everyday consumers put pressure on this regulatory body to give Canadians living with diabetes another choice when it comes to insulin pumps with Continuous Glucose Monitoring capabilities.

Regular people did these things.  People like you and me.  People who simply were not happy with the way things were and publicly asked for change.  Average citizens wanted to see a change in their world…and it rippled into the lives of many others. Its that simple and that complex.

It takes a step forward. It takes action. It takes confidence and a bit of blind faith but we all can be advocates–first for ourselves, for our loved ones…and then for others.

This posts marks the beginning of a new feature I will be doing at Diabetes Advocacy. On a regular basis I will be dedicating posts specifically to what is going on in the advocacy world–a recap as well as creating awareness of specific campaigns that are ongoing.  If you are involved in an advocacy effort, please email me and let me know.