FAQs for health professionals
Clarifying common questions for health professionals when creating medical evidence for the DSP.
On this page
- How do I know if my patient is eligible?
- How do I assess multiple conditions?
- Do I need to use the impairment tables to write an assessment?
- What does fully diagnosed mean?
- What does fully treated and stabilised mean?
- What is a program of support for the DSP?
- What happens if the application goes to appeals?
We have also created a guide for what to include in your medical evidence letter or report.
How do I know if my patient is eligible?
The Disability Support Pension is an income support payment provided through Centrelink for individuals who are unable to work due to a permanent illness, injury, or disability.
To be eligible for Disability Support Pension (DSP) a person must:
- be 16 years or older; AND
- satisfy certain Australian Residence criteria; AND
- have a permanent, physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that:
- is fully diagnosed, treated and stabilised; and
- gets 20 points on the Impairment tables; AND
- be unable to work 15 hours or more per week (and unable to be retrained for such work)in the next 2 years.
Some people may also need to have completed a Program of Support (POS). This applies if the person has 20 points accrued across several tables (as opposed to 20 points under a single table).
Some people may be assessed as manifestly eligible for the DSP without the need for a full assessment. They will require medical evidence to confirm they fall within a a manifest category. This applies to people who:
- are permanently blind;
- have a terminal illness (less than two years life expectancy and significantly reduced capacity to work);
- have an intellectual disability with an IQ of less than 70;
- need nursing home level care;
- have category 4 HIV/AIDS; or
- are in receipt of a DVA TPI pension.
How do I assess multiple conditions?
Impairment ratings are given for impairments rather than conditions. A single condition can cause multiple impairments, and a several conditions can cause a single combined impairment.
When assigning an impairment rating it is import to consider all tables that apply to the person. You may have to give multiple ratings that are then added together.
Read more about assessing with the impairment tables here.
Do I need to use the impairment tables to write an assessment?
The DSP impairment tables legislation is a lengthy document, but using the right tables to assess a patients conditions will give the application the best chance of success.
Centrelink decision makers are usually not medically trained. Using the same tools they use reduces the need for your evidence to be interpreted and the chance it is misunderstood or misapplied.
If you are not comfortable or don’t have time to use the Impairment Tables you may instead include information about what your patient can and cannot do, what their impairment stops them from doing in their day to day life.
What does fully diagnosed mean?
Fully diagnosed means an appropriately qualified health professional has investigated the medical conditions, and knows what they are.
Some medical conditions must be diagnosed by specific specialists.
- Mental health conditions must be diagnosed by a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist.
- Intellectual conditions must be diagnosed by a psychologist.
- Hearing and ear conditions must be diagnosed by an audiologist or an ear, nose and throat (‘ENT’) specialist.
- Vision and eye conditions must be diagnosed by an ophthalmologist.
What does fully treated and stabilised mean?
‘Fully treated’ and ‘fully stabilised’ are terms used in the DSP legislation. They have specific meanings and may be used differently than they are in a health context.
Fully treated and stabilised means:
- The condition is unlikely to significantly improve within the next 2 years; and
- That there is no further treatment that is available (at least in the next 2 years) that would allow the patient to return to work
Conditions which will only deteriorate and will not improve will likely be considered fully stabilised despite not being stable.
What is a Program of Support for the DSP?
A Program of Support is a program to help with issues a person has that make it hard to work. This includes medical conditions and disabilities. A Program of Support should be tailored to the person’s specific needs, and may involve:
- Looking for work.
- Gaining work experience.
- Training or study.
- Helping with medical conditions.
Programs of Support can be run by Disability Employment Services, JobActive providers, or ParentsNext. If a person is receiving a payment from Centrelink and is required to engage with one of these organisations, they are likely participating in a Program of Support. They may have ‘Mutual Obligations’ or an ‘Activity Test’ for their payment. Engaging with these normally means they are doing a Program of Support.
If your patient doesn’t get 20 points on one table they may have to do a Program of Support before they qualify for the DSP.
They will meet this requirement if any of the following apply to them:
- They have been doing a Program of Support for at least 18 months before you apply for the DSP.
- They have finished a Program of Support that is less than 18 months long.
- They cannot finish a Program of Support because of medical conditions.
- They have tried to do a Program of Support, but it will not help you return to work because of your medical conditions.
Programs of Support and the DSP can be complex. If you do not know whether your patient will have met this requirement you may wish to speak to someone about their situation. You can get help here.
Victoria Legal Aid also has useful information about Programs of Support and how to generate a letter for a Program of Support.
How can I support my patient through the DSP application process?
The most important way you as a health professional can assist with the DSP is providing clear evidence that your patient is eligible for the pension. As a treating practitioner you are and expert in your patient’s health situation.
If your patient requires legal or other assistance with this process, you may link them into a service that specialises in social security or disability advocacy.
What happens if the application is rejected?
A rejected application can be frustrating and disheartening for all involved. Like many Centrelink decisions, a rejected DSP application can be appealed.
You can help your patient with their appeal by providing follow up medical evidence addressing any issues Centrelink have identified.
Read more about what happens when an application gets rejected and the appeals process here.
Further support and resources
Read our guide for what health professionals should include in medical evidence letters or reports.
Call our Worker Help Line
If you are a support worker assisting a client with a DSP issue, you can contact SSRV using the Worker Help Line. The Worker Help Line is available on 0429 450 346.
The Worker Help Line operates Monday to Thursday, between 9:00am and 5:00pm.
The Worker Help Line will provide you with information and advice about your client’s situation. If your client is eligible for other services, the Worker Help Line will let you know.
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