So, you’re applying for CPP disability benefits and you come across some strange wording about “sufficient earnings and contributions.” You might also see this contribution requirement referred to as the minimum qualifying period, or MQP. What exactly is the minimum qualifying period?
As part of our Ultimate Guide to CPP Disability Benefits, this article explores in-depth one of the more confusing criteria to qualify for CPP disability benefits: having sufficient earnings and contributions to the Canada Pension Plan. I also detail some situations where you might be able to have your MQP calculated differently if you don’t qualify initially.
Minimum Qualifying Period
The minimum qualifying period (MQP) is the minimum number of years you must have contributed to the CPP to be eligible to receive disability benefits.
Currently, the rule is this:
You must have made sufficient contributions in four out of the last six years,
or three out of the last six if you have over 25 years total contributions.
Below is a picture of exactly what the rules are, taken from a letter from Service Canada. The section outlined in orange is what we refer to as the MQP.
The minimum qualifying period for disability benefits is calculated by Service Canada. They take many different factors into consideration to see when you last had sufficient contributions in 4 years out of a 6 year time period.
In a simple case, this is easily determined.
If you apply in 2020 and have made sufficient contributions leading up to and including 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 then stopped contributing, your minimum qualifying period will be December 2020. This means you are eligible to apply for the disability benefits up until December 31, 2020. You will want to base your application around this time frame, submitting medical evidence from the years leading up to and including December 2020.
Sufficient Contributions for MQP
Understanding what “sufficient contributions” means can be tricky.
You make contributions to the CPP based on pensionable earnings. There is a minimum and a maximum amount of pensionable earnings. If you make below the minimum amount in a year, then you will not have contributed to CPP that year. Once you exceed the minimum pensionable earnings, you are considered to have made contributions.
It’s important to note that the minimum yearly contribution for CPP disability is higher than the contribution for a regular CPP pension. As of 2019, the minimum valid contribution to be eligible for CPP disability benefits is $5700 per year.
Your disability benefit is calculated using your contributions, which just means that the more you earn, the more you contribute — and the higher your CPP disability pension payments.
To read about this in more detail, please see Service Canada’s page: Canada Pension Plan disability benefit toolkit.
For more information on how your CPP disability benefit is calculated, see our article: CPP Disability Payment Amounts: How to know how much you get [+video]
Exceptions and Provisions for CPP Disability MQP
There are a few other factors to be considered that can potentially change your minimum qualifying period if you don’t have the required amount of contributions.
25 years of contributions
The first of these is simple and is stated plainly in the rules. It comes into effect if you have made over 25 years of sufficient contributions. In this case, you only need 3 years out of 6 to come up with your minimum qualifying period.
If you have contributed to CPP for 25+ years with sufficient contributions including 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, your minimum qualifying period will be December 2021. Service Canada would take the last 3 years — 2016 through 2018 — and extend your MQP to 3 years beyond that. You would have until December 31, 2021 to apply.
Child rearing provision
If you don’t have sufficient contributions as a result of being out of the workforce due to being the child’s primary caregiver, then your minimum qualifying period could be raised using the child rearing provision. The child rearing provision does not give you contributions for missing years; rather, it closes the gap where you have little or no contributions as a result of being the main childcare provider. When calculating the amount of your benefit, these years don’t count. You are able to claim this provision for up to seven years.
If you were contributing from 1999 through to 2003, and went off work to take care of your child from 2003-2010, your minimum qualifying period could now be December 2012 or 2013, as opposed to December 2005 without the provision. The years 2003-2010 are essentially erased.
Late Application Provision
If you haven’t been making contributions to the CPP because you haven’t been able to work as a result of your disability, your claim can be assessed under the late application provision. This basically means that the adjudicator will refer back to the last time you had contributions in 4 out of 6 years. If you can prove that you were eligible for the CPP disability benefit when you were not working, and would have been approved if you had applied then and continued to be approved until the present, you can qualify for the benefit after your MQP.
If you stopped contributing in 2005, in most cases your minimum qualifying period would be December 2007. Under the late application provision, you would no longer qualify for CPP disability benefits if you were applying in 2020 because your minimum qualifying period was 13 years ago!
You can get your benefit approved if you can prove:
- that you were qualified in 2007 for the CPP disability benefit
- that you would have been approved if you would have applied then
- that you would continue to be qualified until 2020 and for the indefinite future.
In these cases, it is extremely important to have medical information from the time frame of your MQP — leading up to the year 2007, in this example.
If you were living and/or working outside of Canada, you may not have been contributing to the CPP — but perhaps you were contributing to another program. Depending on the country you were residing in, you may be able to transfer your credits into qualifying contributions in Canada for those years.
Canada has international social security agreements with over 50 countries, including America, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and many more. Contact your local Service Canada office to see if the country that you worked in qualifies for this provision.
If you were married or common law but are now legally separated or divorced, you could be eligible for credit splitting to make up insufficient contributions. Service Canada will take the pensionable credits from both parties, add them up for the years that there was cohabitation, and then divide them equally between both parties. Credit splitting can help bump up your minimum qualifying period to make you eligible for the CPP disability benefit.
Finally, Service Canada also has the incapacity provision in place in the event that your disability prevented you from applying during your qualifying period. To qualify for this provision, you must be physically and mentally incapacitated and completely unable to apply yourself, as well as unable to request that someone else applies on your behalf. There is a time restriction on this provision; you must then apply within a year of regaining your capacity.
If you still have questions, or need clarification about your minimum qualifying period or eligibility for CPP disability benefits, call us toll free at 888-732-0470 or schedule a free consultation to speak with a member of our support team.