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EI sickness frustrations

EI sickness frustrations

Posted by jennifer_m on Dec 11, 2018 11:32 am

Am I the only one who is extremely frustrated by the lack of government resources for people who have cancer and who are too sick to work but aren't sick enough to qualify for government disability benefits? 

Over the past few months, we have learned that there is a huge gap between when EI sickness runs out (after 15 weeks) and when someone can apply for benefits under the Ontario Disability Support Program (only if their illness/disability is expected to last more than one year). Essentially, if you have a non-terminal diagnosis but your treatment will last more than 15 weeks, it seems like you're completely out of luck financially if you don't have disability benefits through your job.  

This is the situation that my partner is currently in. He was on contract at work when he got diagnosed, and did not have long or short term disability benefits. He's been unable to work since August, when he had surgery to remove his tumour, and he just finished his six weeks of radiation. He applied for EI sickness benefits when he left work. While he was recovering from surgery, his former employer actually fired him because he was sick, so now he does not even have a job to return to. Fast forward to the present, and his EI sickness benefits are about to run out because the 15 weeks are finishing, which means that unless he can convince his doctors that he's now ready to start looking for work again (a necessary requirement to qualify for regular EI benefits), he will have no source of income until he's well enough to actually start looking for work again. 

More and more people are working in precarious jobs that are contract-based, freelance, or just don't provide long and short term disability benefits. Lots of Canadians don't have enough savings to cover more than a few months' expenses if they're unable to work. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is already devastating in so many ways - it seems so unfair that on top of all the stress related to the medical side of it, there's also a huge financial stress for those people who don't have disability benefits at work, but whose treatment will last more than the 15 weeks that EI provides. Why isn't this more of a public issue? 

Re: EI sickness frustrations

Posted by ACH2015 on Dec 11, 2018 12:26 pm

Hi jennifer_m‍ 

I looked around the benefits section for other assistance after EI sick benefits expire. I found the link to the Ontario Disability Support Program Income Support - below.

I'm interested to know what level of support your partner has from his specialists, and what time frame has been suggested for recovery from the surgery and radiation to allow for a return to work. Many times the doctor's signature on a form makes the difference in obtaining benefits. I looked at the application and perhaps your partner does meet the criteria for financial assistance.

I agree with you 100%. The gap in government assistance is substantial and scary if you don't meet the criteria. The Catch 22 is when you are on contract work with no benefits from the employer, and the cost of purchasing your own insurance can be prohibitive. Our social safety net sure has a lot of holes in it these days with more employers opting out of providing benefits, and insufficient government resources to make up for the increasing needs.


I hope this helps. I'm also wondering, have you or your partner asked any of these government agencies where to turn to to seek benefits after not meeting many program criteria?

I wish you success.

Keep well

ACH2015 - Andy.

Re: EI sickness frustrations

Posted by jennifer_m on Dec 11, 2018 1:19 pm

Thanks, Andy. I actually used to work as a legal aid lawyer so I'm very familiar with the ODSP eligibility requirements, and have spoken to my partner's doctor about what he'd be willing to put on the form. ODSP is very strict on the 1+ year requirement and because my partner's treatment has been  ~6 months, he advised that he could not fill in the application in such a way that he would get accepted - ie. he can't opine that my partner's illness will last 1+ year because if treatment goes well, then within about 9 months, he should be feeling well enough to work again. 

We've written to politicians but have gotten the usual "that sucks, too bad for you" responses. There's really nothing, out there, short of setting up a GoFundMe (which we did, thank goodness, so he's got a little bit of a financial cushion). I feel like people in this situation do not form a large enough demographic for politicians to care, unless we're able to organize and make enough noise that they can't help but ignore us. 

Re: EI sickness frustrations

Posted by ACH2015 on Dec 11, 2018 3:13 pm


Good for you contacting politicians in order to bring your and others situations to light. Given your profession, I'm sure you are aware of the bureaucratic nightmare it can be to navigate the "system".

I understand the frustrations and lack of commitment you have found in making those contacts. I spent a year talking to politicians and members of MOH and CCO regarding P.E.T. scan access / funding approval and the flaws in the appeals process.  I was able to make some positive changes.

I was fortunate to have spoken and met with my local MPP several times about the P.E.T. scan issues I had. He was supportive of my efforts and assisted by proving himself and his EA at meetings I had with the many players involved. The concerns and my specific case was also discussed and is on record as part of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts after the meeting to consider Cancer Treatment Services (Section 3.02, 2017 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario).

I think that there are many people in your partners situation, and sadly there is no voice because the issue is not looked at other than as an individual case.

The challenge is to develop a list of those individual cases to show the concern in  a bigger context.

Other resources are The Fifth Estate and W-5. They may show an interest from the perspective of financial fall outs related to cancer most people have no idea about, and pick up the torch themselves. This may help to make the noise needed.

Keep well

ACH2015 - Andy.


Re: EI sickness frustrations

Posted by mycrazyjourney on Dec 27, 2018 4:15 pm

I am to familiar with all this, I only had 15 weeks sick benefits and nothing after that.... I am off work until September 2019, I am hoping that I don’t have to return sooner. My poor husband has to work extra hours just to cover everything. Very frustrated, would love to be eligible for financial support, been told my Caner is not bad enough. Really, how can the government rate cancer, all cancer’s are bad!! 

Re: EI sickness frustrations

Posted by MommaBear on Jan 2, 2019 11:08 pm

Yes, I agree there is a tremendous gap in support for cancer patients, which is why I had to return to work (mid-60s now) as even the prospect of CPP and OAS would not provide enough coverage.  Gads, people need a crystal ball to have saved enough to avoid the financial disaster this disease generates.  Thankfully, I am currently in remission and work is a great distraction from all the worry (albeit work entails it's own worries, but I can manage that).

Any chance you can work from home, then you'd be able to deduct pro rated business-at-home expenses?

Just a thought.
- MommaBear

Re: EI sickness frustrations

Posted by JoJo66 on Feb 18, 2019 9:00 pm

Hi there -  I too am in the 'EI sickness benefits abyss'.
I am recently diagnosed and have been off since December 2018 - with Chemo starting March 1st for 5months (Radiation to follow- and bilateral mastectomy to follow that) 
I am a single mom of 2 kids in postsecondary (1 in College and the other in University)  I'm completely on my own.
I am a permanent part-time employee and I have zero benefits. 
My 15 weeks is going to be running out sooner than later and I'm really feeling the financial 'stress' that is my reality.
I have been making inquiries as to 'where I turn to' for financial assistance.  I plan on kicking cancers butt and not off work for longer than I have to be, so I"m pretty frustrated that there isn't assistance out there for those of us who are in need. but apparently not 'needy enough.
I don't think that anyone diagnosed with cancer should be expected to 'jump through hoops' when requesting financial assistance and I think there should be some sort of exception with the EI sickness benefits for such cases. ( meaning off longer than 15 weeks but less than a year).
I'm thankful for this forum and will keep checking in for any financial miracles that may pop up in the near future. 
Thanks for listening  :) 


Re: EI sickness frustrations

Posted by JoJo66 on Feb 19, 2019 7:29 pm

Spoke with EI sick benefits today- I'm applying for a 6-week extension to my claim with a letter from my Dr explaining my treatment plan.   I was told to take the Dr's note/letter to my local Serice Canad office and have them 'scribe' verbatim what the note says and then call EI to speak with a rep to ensure they have it on file so they can extend my claim.
I realize its not a fix but its something and buys time to put other resources in place.
 She directed me to a website www,canadabenefits.gc.ca - phone 1-800-267-8097.
I hope this helps others. 


Re: EI sickness frustrations

Posted by ACH2015 on Feb 19, 2019 7:56 pm


Thank you for sharing your experience. This will help others navigating the wonderful world of benefits during illness.

I hope you get your extension without any hoop jumping. 😉

Keep well

ACH2015 - Andy.


Re: EI sickness frustrations

Posted by WestCoastSailor on Feb 20, 2019 11:48 am

My two cents comes not from EI frustration but from CPP disability.

I have an MBA. My doctor is brilliant. And together we couldn't figure out how to fill the forms in!

But literally 15 minutes with the Cancer Center social worker, a 15 minute drive to put the documents in the hands of Service Canada - with a request for immediate action, a 15 minute interview with a medical adjudicator and I was approved. The key was the social worker. She knew how the system worked and how to navigate the cancer world. I can't recommend it highly enough.

My story: http://journey.anguspratt.ca

Re: EI sickness frustrations

Posted by JoJo66 on Feb 20, 2019 5:29 pm

Thanks for the tip Angus!! Great information. I will be seeing a social worker just before my first treatment so I will definitely be making these inquiries with them. I still think it’s sad though that these services and tidbits seem to be well kept secrets for cancer patients and well anyone going through a major health crisis. Thanks again for the info. Joanne.