The Disability Support Pension (DSP) is a payment from Centrelink for people who have a medical condition that stops them from working.
Having a disability or medical condition is not enough to qualify for disability support pension, you must prove that the medical condition stops you from working.
Can I apply for disability support pension?
If you want to apply for disability support pension you need to show Centrelink three things:
1. You must be over 16
2. You must be an Australian resident
You must be a citizen or hold a permanent visa and reside in Australia to be eligible for DSP.
3. You must meet all of these disability support pension criteria:
- your medical conditions must be diagnosed, treated and stabilised
- your medical conditions score at least 20 points on the impairment tables
- you have completed a program of support
- you cannot work or retrain.
Your medical conditions must be diagnosed, treated and stabilised
To get the disability support pension, your medical conditions must be ‘diagnosed, reasonably treated and stabilised’.
This means that your condition must be diagnosed by a doctor. You must have had reasonable treatment for your condition and show that your condition is unlikely to change in the next two years, even with treatment.
There are special rules for some conditions:
- if you have a mental health condition, you must have a diagnosis from a psychiatrist or your doctor (with evidence from a registered psychologist if the diagnosis has not been made by a psychiatrist)
- if you suffer from hearing loss, you must have evidence from an audiologist, neurosurgeon, neurologist or an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist
- if you have a visual impairment, you must have evidence from an ophthalmologist
- if you have an intellectual disability, you must have an assessment of your IQ and adaptive behaviour.
If your condition has only just been diagnosed, or if you only just started treatment, Centrelink will probably say that your condition is not ‘reasonably treated’ or ‘stabilised’ even if you are very sick. It might be better to wait until you have had treatment before you make a claim for disability support pension.
Sam takes pain killers for his back injury but hasn’t had any other treatment. His doctor says that physiotherapy will probably help.
Physiotherapy is a ‘reasonable treatment’, so unless Sam completes the physiotherapy, Centrelink will probably say that his back injury is not ‘reasonably treated and stabilised’ and reject his claim for disability support pension.
Sam has also been feeling depressed since he had to stop working. He has been seeing a counsellor for about six months. However, he has not seen a psychologist or a doctor. Centrelink will probably say his depression has not been diagnosed by an appropriately qualified medical practitioner.
Your medical conditions score at least 20 points on the impairment tables
Centrelink uses to work out how much your conditions impact (or ‘impair’) your ability to function. Your conditions need to score at least 20 points and you and your doctor need to work out which Impairment Tables you need for your particular medical conditions.
Because Sam has a back injury he will need Impairment Table 4 – Spinal Function.
Sam will also need Impairment Table 5 – Mental Health Function for his depression and will need to give this to his doctor and his psychologist when asking for a medical report.
You should ask your doctor to write a letter about whether your condition is ‘diagnosed, reasonably treated and stabilised’, and how many points they think your condition should get by referring to the relevant impairment table.
Download and fill out a disability support pension template letter to give to your doctor:
If you have a mental health condition, download and fill out a disability support pension template letter to give to your psychologist:
You have completed a program of support
A is a program that helps a person prepare for, find or maintain work. Your program of support might include looking for jobs or doing some training. Make sure that your employment service provider enrols you in a program of support and that you attend. Read more about .
You must complete a program of support with an employment service provider before you can qualify for the disability support pension.
Usually, you need to actively participate in a program of support for 18 months in the three years before you qualify for the disability support pension. There are very limited exceptions to this rule.
If you get a medical exemption from doing a program of support then this time will not count towards the 18 months and you will have to wait longer before you can qualify for the disability support pension.
If you have completed at least 18 months of a program of support, you can ask your employment service provider to write a letter to Centrelink about your program of support. Your letter should confirm that:
- you have done a program of support for 18 months, or
- your employment service provider stopped your program of support because of your permanent medical conditions, or
- continuing with the program of support won’t help you to find or keep work because of your medical conditions.
Download and fill out a disability support pension template letter to give to your employment service provider.
The only exemption (or release) from the program of support requirement is if you have a single impairment which is so severe that it scores 20 points or more on a single . Centrelink uses impairment tables to work out how much your conditions impact (or ‘impair’) your ability to function.
Sam has an old back injury which got really bad last year and he had to stop working. He has been on JobSeeker Payment and enrolled in a program of support but got a medical exemption because he didn’t feel up to going into his Employment Services Provider for the training. This means that until the medical exemption finishes, and he participates in a program of support, none of that time will count towards the 18 months he needs to complete before applying for disability support pension.
You cannot work or retrain
‘Work’ has a special legal meaning – it means ‘any job that exists anywhere in Australia’.
This means that even if you can’t work in your old job you might be able to work in a different job. If you can work in a different job, it means that you won’t qualify for disability support pension.
You must show that your medical conditions stop you from:
- working 15 hours a week in any job
- training to do a different job from the one you did before you got sick or injured.
Sam can’t carry out physical work anymore because of his back. But he may be able to retrain and carry out office work.
You can ask your doctor to write about your continuing inability to work in their support letter.
- Download and fill out a disability support pension template letter to give to your doctor.
Disability support pension checklist
To help you lodge a disability support pension claim with Centrelink, download our disability support pension checklist.
What happens if Centrelink rejects my claim?
If Centrelink rejects your claim, ask them why.
There is no limit to the number of disability support pension applications you can make.
If you think that you have met the three criteria and that Centrelink’s rejection of your claim is wrong, you can ask Centrelink to have their decision reviewed by an authorised review officer.
- Find out how you can .
- Social Security Rights Victoria’s is a free resource for disability support pension applicants and their support workers. It can help you understand the DSP and guide you through the application process.
- The Disability Resources Centre’s is a guide for people with disabilities who think they may be eligible for a disability support pension.
- Economic Justice Australia’s website has some useful including a fact sheet on disability support pension.
Publications and resources
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Reviewed 19 April 2023