Rights & Money

Don’t Forget Your OAS Benefits 

By Olev Edur

I’m a widow aged 66, and my Canada Pension Plan (CPP) benefits are less than $400 a month. Although I also have some savings, I have to scrimp and budget every single cent if I want them to last more than a few years. It’s hard to enjoy life when you can’t afford even to put butter on your bread or go out to a movie once in a blue moon. Meanwhile, I know of friends who are getting a lot more than I am; is there any way I could get a little more from CPP? 

I doubt that you could get additional money from CPP, but there’s also the Old Age Security (OAS) pension, and it sounds like you’re not getting this benefit. Given your age, you should be entitled to a considerable amount of added income from this source. 

OAS is available to every Canadian citizen or legal resident aged 65 or older who has lived here for at least 10 years, but if you’ve lived in Canada for most of your life, then you’d have been entitled to the maximum OAS benefit ($698.60 a month at press time and indexed quarterly to inflation), starting the month you turned 65. 

You must apply for OAS separately from CPP. Since you’re now 66, you could ask for 11 months of retroactive benefits, or you could forgo the retroactive benefits and ask for payments to begin now, in which case the normal age-65 payment would be increased by 0.6 per cent for each month since your 65th birthday. So, for example, if you turned 66 six months ago, you’d be entitled to 10.8 per cent more (18 months times 0.6 per cent), or $774.05 a month. 

Furthermore, given your low income, you may be entitled to even more from OAS in the form of the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). If, for example, your total income from CPP and investments were $600 a month, you could be entitled to an additional $635.45 a month from GIS, for a total of almost $1,410 a month (assuming that OAS entitlement of $774.05). 

You should immediately contact the nearest Service Canada office, tell them you want to start collecting OAS, have them explain your options, and then submit a completed application; your monthly payments should start to arrive shortly thereafter.