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Fibromyalgia & The Disability Tax Credit

It may surprise you to know that the biggest barrier to a successful Disability Tax Credit application may be your own doctor.

A person with fibromyalgia might apply in the category walking due to pain in their legs or feet because they either cannot, or it takes longer than their peers to walk 100 metres.

If they have difficulty bending or twisting or require rest after bathing, they can apply in the category dressing.

If they have difficulty standing, have issues with manual dexterity or pain in the back, neck and shoulder and lack of strength in their arms and hands the category could be feeding and/or dressing.

Historically these are the “easiest” categories to apply under. So why then do so many individuals with fibromyalgia have difficulty qualifying for the credit?

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) made changes to the Disability Tax Credit Application form several years ago. One of the changes is in the Effects of Impairment section. This section now directs doctors to “describe” the patient’s impairment with respect to day to day living. The form now states: “It is mandatory that you describe the effects of your patient's impairment on his or her ability to do each of the basic activities of daily living that you indicated are or were markedly or significantly restricted.”

The problem is that a patient’s medical record is not a diary. It will contain information regarding medications, test results etc. but it rarely contains the type of information the CRA is actually looking for to determine eligibility.

The doctor rarely knows the problems someone might have in walking a city block, or the time it takes to get dressed, or the difficulty encountered when preparing a meal or how self-care is abandoned during bouts of depression.

Applications are routinely denied simply because the doctor has not “described” the limitations that the fibro patient deals with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, there are some who cannot convince their doctor to complete the application because the doctor does not think fibromyalgia is a “real” condition and might believe the symptoms are imagined. Even though this condition has been documented for more that 150 years it did not even have a name until 1976. So, for many in the medical profession it is considered “new” with little information about how to diagnose or treat it and absolutely no idea how to complete an application for the disability tax credit or for CPP-Disability benefits. If your doctor is not supportive in treating you, it is unlikely that you will receive the support you need to complete applications for disability. If this is your situation you may want to request a referral to a pain specialist or a rheumatologist. That individual can then be approached to complete the paperwork.

When the doctor provides some information but does not provide enough for the CRA to make a determination the CRA sends the doctor a “clarification response questionnaire”. The questions on the clarification questionnaire will depend on the category indicated on the initial application. So, for example, if the doctor indicated the impairment is in walking, the doctor receives the “walking questionnaire”. If the impairment is in mental functions the doctor will receive the “mental functions questionnaire” and so on. If the doctor indicated multiple categories on the application, they will receive one clarification questionnaire that asks questions on each of the categories.

Once again, the doctor will be asked to provide examples of how the impairment affects their patient’s day-to-day living. So, we are back to the same problem the doctor may have encountered on the initial application.

No doubt the doctor becomes frustrated with the process and is left wondering what “more information” is required.

Sometimes it is not the amount of information provided but the type that is the problem. If the examples provided are limited to the diagnosis and an inability to work the application can be denied.

Ironically, whether a person can work or not - is not considered by the CRA when determining eligibility for the Disability Tax Credit. It is a common misunderstanding that if an individual is able to work, they cannot apply. This is absolutely not true. The sole purpose of the tax credit is to reduce the amount of income tax payable. The individuals who benefit the most from the credit are those who are employed. For those who are not employed the credit can be transferred to a spouse or family member which may then generate the tax refund.

As Disability Tax Credit Advisors, all Hetherington & Hodson clients receive an Initial consult to determine how their impairments may meet the criteria for the disability tax credit. They are then provided with a customized effects of impairment document that describes the issues and difficulties they encounter that will be considered by the CRA. This information can then be shared with the doctor to assist in the completion of the application and the clarification response questionnaire.

Services are provided on a contingency basis, which means there are no upfront consulting or application fees. A fee is only applicable when an application for the DTC is approved and a tax refund is generated.

For further information and to arrange an appointment for a free consult to help you decide if you should apply (or re-apply) call Coral Hetherington at 204-299-9414 or Brad Hodson 204-995-9283. Email us-

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