Disability Pension

Department of Social Services Response

The Disability Support Pension (DSP) is a payment for people who have been declared unfit to work by a doctor, and who are unable to support themselves through paid work because of the impairment caused by their disability or health condition.

Decisions about who is eligible for the DSP are made by a doctor, using the latest medical data.

The Department of Human Services assesses claims for the DSP and medical reviews in accordance with criteria set down in legislation.

To be eligible for DSP a person must be aged between 16 years of age and Age Pension age, and either be permanently blind, or:

o be assessed as having a permanent physical, intellectual, or psychiatric impairment attracting 20 points or more under the Impairment Tables; and

o be unable to work, or to be retrained for work, for 15 hours or more per week at or above the relevant minimum wage within the next two years because of the impairment; and

o be assessed as having a severe impairment or as having actively participated in a Program of Support.

DSP recipients are also subject to income and assets testing. Further details of eligibility requirements are available on the DHS website.

A series of reforms since July 2010 have changed key aspects of DSP, including strengthening the claim assessment process and implementing revised Impairment Tables for the assessment of DSP eligibility in 2012.

These reforms aim to keep people with mild to moderate impairment, who have some capacity to support themselves through paid work, connected with the labour force and participating in appropriate supports to help them prepare for work and find suitable employment.

Assessment and Impairment ratings

Many people with disability are able to work, either full time or part time. The DSP is a payment for people who are unable to support themselves through paid work because of the impairment caused by their disability or health condition, so the assessment focuses on how a person's condition impacts on their ability to work. This is done using the Impairment Tables, 15 individual tables which are used to assign impairment ratings according to the severity of the impact of the impairment on a person's functional ability, as it relates to work. The Impairment Tables do not contain a list of psychological, physiological or anatomical conditions.

The Impairment Tables are available publically at: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Series/F2011L02716

Review and Appeals

DSP recipients may be subject to a review process. As part of the review process people on DSP are required to provide details about their medical condition and work ability. They may also be asked to provide a report from their treating doctor, which includes information about their medical condition such as diagnosis, clinical features and symptoms, treatment and stability. Additional information from treating specialists and other health professionals may also be provided.

Reviews are an important aspect of maintaining the integrity of the social security system.

Internal and external arrangements are in place to ensure that people have the opportunity to seek a comprehensive review of a decision, which includes the re-examination of all available evidence.

If Centrelink makes a decision that a person disagrees with, they have the right under social security law to ask for a review of the decision by an authorised review officer. If after this the person still has concerns about the correctness of the decision, they can lodge an appeal with Level 1 (formerly the Social Security Appeals Tribunal), and then Level 2 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal provides an independent examination of Centrelink decisions. Each of these steps in the appeal process is free of charge.

Following the Administrative Appeals Tribunal process, appeals can also be made to the Federal Court. This happens very rarely and there are strict rules about when an appeal can be made.