By Johanna Macdonald, ARCH Staff Lawyer and Onsite Lawyer at St. Michael’s Academic Family Health Team
Concerns voiced by our communities about Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
medical reviews have been answered. The Minister of Community and Social Services recently announced that the process will be revamped.
Medical review dates are assigned to 36% of ODSP recipients who have disabilities that
are expected to improve. These ODSP recipients must undergo a medical review every 2-
5 years. Reviews currently subject people to a re-application type process. For people
who are homeless and/or have a disability that affects communication, government notices
and processes may go unanswered because the notices are not sufficiently accessible.
Individuals may then be unfairly and unexpectedly cut-off of essential benefits required for
basic sustenance. Individuals responding to a review regularly face heightened anxiety
and medical re-testing that can exacerbate harmful health conditions, especially if disabilities are related to past trauma.
Last year, the government announced that it would ‘ramp-up’ medical reviews from 600 per
month to 1,900 per month. Social assistance advocates and disability communities
answered loudly, echoing calls for reforms that have been made since before 2010.
Together, groups such as the Steering Committee on Social Assistance convinced the
government to hold off on increasing the number of medical reviews until the government streamlined the process and made it fair for recipients. The government has now announced they have accepted the majority of suggestions by the advocacy groups.
Mary Marrone, Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at the Income Security Advocacy
Centre, highlights how the government has finally accepted that medical reviews should,
“not be treated like a re-application, and that the focus should be on whether or not the
person’s disability has improved since the date they were granted benefits.” The newly
announced processes will also include the government’s obligation to review each case
before it sends out a notice in order to ensure a medical review request is necessary. The
government also has clearer obligations and steps it must take to make contact with recipients who are not replying to notices.
Neighbourhood Legal Services, a partner clinic in our St. Michael’s Hospital Legal Services
Health Justice Project, is heavily involved in the requests for reform and ongoing
consultation with the government. Melodie Mayson, Co-Director of Neighbourhood Legal Services welcomes the government’s announcement: “the changes, if properly
implemented, will make an important difference to ODSP recipients and those who should
access the program.” Healthcare providers at St. Michael’s Hospital Academic Family
Health Team have also been a part of reform efforts, and will continue to advocate for fair procedures that protect patient privacy.
The government still expects to increase reviews to 1,900 per month – possibly as soon as
Fall 2016 – but will not do so until the new, fairer process is fully in place. The government
will continue to consult with advocacy groups until that time in order to put in place the improved procedures.
For a link to a Toronto Start article on the reforms, go to Ontario Simplifies Medical Reviews for People on Disability Support or copy and paste https://goo.gl/gHeF9K
For a link to the government bulletin outlining the changes, go to English – Medical Review ODSP or copy and paste http://goo.gl/ZUr8n7 .
Or go to French – Medical Review ODSP or copy and paste http://goo.gl/HKqVK1 .
For more information, please contact Johanna Macdonald, ARCH Staff Lawyer and Onsite Lawyer at St. Michael’s Academic Family Health Team – firstname.lastname@example.org .