After years of struggling with the Disability Tax Credit (DTC), Wendell Dempsey breathed a sigh of relief last week when all members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (FINA) unanimously supported an amendment to the Federal Budget that would ensure all Canadians living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) can access this credit.
For Wendell, the update to the DTC would mean he gets taxed less on his earned income, alleviating some of the stress about the high costs associated with his growing list health complications resulting from T1D.
“This change would mean no more fighting with the doctor to sign off on documents, and no more trying to rationalize how many hours a week it does take to try and control this disease,” he says.
Despite living with type 1 diabetes for more than 20 years, Wendell has only been approved for the DTC a handful of times. “Sometimes I am approved, and sometimes I am not. But my diabetes has always remained constant, and my expenses have only increased.”
Thousands more expressed their gratitude online for this positive step in the right direction, including Joanna Stimpson who took to social media to say “Finally!” thanking her husband Matt who lives with T1D, and bravely shared his story with the House of Commons Committee. Matt applied for the Disability Tax Credit at the same time as his 14-year-old daughter Tilly. Tilly was approved, and Matt was not, even though they both live with the same condition and the costs incurred and time spent on self-management are relatively the same.
Any Canadian with T1D can attest to the exorbitant costs that come with daily management of this disease. From insulin to devices to supplies, individuals and families can pay up to $15,000 per year out of pocket to survive. T1D is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in a person’s pancreas. People with T1D must administer an external form of insulin, either through injection, pump or pen multiple times a day in order to survive. There is no cure, but diabetes technologies and devices have come a long way to help people manage the disease better and live healthier, easier, and safer lives. But even with careful management, there remains the risk of diabetes related complications including coma, amputations, kidney failure and even death.
The purpose of the DTC is to provide for tax equity by allowing some relief for disability costs, since these are the unavoidable expenses that other taxpayers do not have. However, it can be difficult for people with T1D to qualify. Many medical professionals, like Dr. Bruce Perkins, an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, indicate that the current eligibility process is cumbersome. He has attested that the 14-hour requirement is arbitrary, outdated and presents too many unfair challenges for people trying to access the benefit.
Dr. Perkins has been a staunch opponent of the 14-hour requirement saying that “the simple fact of a type 1 diabetes diagnosis means that one is already on life-sustaining therapy, one carries additional weekly physical burdens, burdens with coping psychologically, and major financial burdens from the direct and indirect costs of type 1 diabetes. The requirement that a person with T1D must demonstrate an arbitrary number of hours spent on their disease does not resonate well with the medical community, places unfair burden on the health care provider, and introduces major bias in which individuals with T1D receive a tax credit.”
The proposed amendment to the Budget Bill can alleviate this barrier to access by automatically qualifying people who live with T1D and has the community saying, “Finally!”