Understanding the Disability Support Pension
A summary of DSP eligibility
To get the DSP you will need to show Centrelink that you meet certain eligibility criteria. These are:
- You meet the requirements for age, residency, and the income and assets tests.
- You have a medical condition or conditions.
- Your medical conditions are fully diagnosed, fully treated, and fully stabilised.
- Your medical conditions are rated as 20 points or more on the Impairment Tables.
- You cannot work 15 or more hours a week.
- In some cases you may need to have participated in a Program of Support.
These will be explained in more detail on this page and throughout this website.
What is the DSP and who is it for?
It is an income support payment provided through Centrelink for individuals who are unable to work due to a permanent illness, injury, or disability.
What do I need to do to get the DSP?
You need to submit an application through Centrelink.
You can read about submitting an application here.
You need to show you that you qualify. You must include medical evidence that shows you can’t work. This is very important. You can read more about medical evidence here.
I have a medical condition, will I get the DSP?
You need to have a diagnosed medical condition that prevents you from working.
You may have several conditions. Your conditions need to be fully treated and stabilised.
You need to show how the symptoms from your medical conditions prevent you from working.
Centrelink will use what is called the Impairment Tables to assess your level of impairment. You need to have 20 points on the Impairment Tables for the conditions that prevent you from working.
If you don’t get 20 points on one table (in other words, you are not considered to have a severe impairment) you may have to do a Program of Support. You can read more about Programs of Support below.
Some medical conditions are so severe that Centrelink will not need to do a full assessment to decide you qualify for the DSP. This is called a Manifest Grant. You can read more about Manifest Grants below.
What is a ‘Manifest Grant’?
A Manifest Grant means Centrelink have decided you are eligible for the DSP without doing a full assessment.
You may be eligible for a Manifest Grant if any of the following apply to you:
- You are permanently blind.
- You need nursing home level care.
- You have a terminal illness and your life expectancy is less than two years.
- You have an intellectual disability and your IQ is less than 70.
- You have category 4 HIV/AIDS.
- You get a Department of Veterans’ Affairs special rate disability pension (totally and permanently incapacitated).
If you satisfy the test for any of the above, you qualify for a DSP without having to prove all the normal requirements. Centrelink should process the application within 1-2 months, although this can vary.
Except for the DVA TPI pension, you will need to get medical report(s) that satisfy the relevant test for the Manifest Grant, at least from your treating specialist.
For the TPI pension, you will need to get a certified copy of the decision letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
If you are in a nursing home, you should get a certified copy of a letter which confirms this. To help you get the right evidence, use our bot available here.
It is important to support your application with medical evidence from your doctors or those health practitioners who have been treating you.
You can read more about medical evidence here.
What is a ‘Program of Support’?
A Program of Support is a program to help with issues you have that make it hard to work. This includes your medical conditions. A Program of Support should be tailored to your specific needs, and may involve:
- Looking for work.
- Gaining work experience.
- Training or study.
- Helping with your medical conditions.
Programs of Support can be run by Disability Employment Services, JobActive providers, or ParentsNext. If you are receiving a payment from Centrelink and are required to engage with one of these organisations, you are likely doing a Program of Support. You may have ‘Mutual Obligations’ or an ‘Activity Test’ for your payment. Engaging with these normally means you are doing a Program of Support.
Do I need to complete a Program of Support?
If you don’t get 20 points on one table you may have to do a Program of Support before you qualify for the DSP.
You will meet this requirement if any of the following apply to you:
- You have been doing a Program of Support for at least 18 months before you apply for the DSP.
- You have finished a Program of Support that is less than 18 months long.
- You cannot finish a Program of Support because of your medical conditions.
- You 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 you have met this requirement you may wish to speak to someone about your situation. You can get help here.
Victoria Legal Aid also has useful information about Programs of Support and how you can get a letter to show you have completed your Program of Support.
What can I expect after I submit my application?
Centrelink will assess your application and decide if you are eligible.
Centrelink may require you to undergo an assessment. This could be a Job Capacity Assessment or a Disability Medical Assessment, or both.
Centrelink may ask you for more information.
Centrelink may speak to your doctors about your conditions.
Job Capacity Assessments
A Job Capacity Assessment helps Centrelink understand how much work you are able to do. A Job Capacity Assessment may also judge whether you are medically eligible for the DSP.
If you need support to help you get back to work, a Job Capacity Assessment will also look at this.
A Job Capacity Assessment is normally done by an Allied Health worker, for example, a psychologist or occupational therapist. It does not matter if the assessor’s background is not related to your medical conditions. (For example, a psychologist can still do a Job Capacity Assessment even if you don’t have any mental health conditions).
You should bring your medical evidence with you to your Job Capacity Assessment.
You can read more about Job Capacity Assessments here.
Disability Medical Assessment
A Disability Medical Assessment helps Centrelink understand if you qualify for the DSP.
A Disability Medical Assessment is done by a doctor.
You should bring your medical evidence with you to your Disability Medical Assessment.
You can read more about Disability Medical Assessments here.
What happens if my application is rejected?
If Centrelink rejects your application, you will not be paid the DSP. You may be eligible for other payments from Centrelink.
You may ask Centrelink to review their decision. You can do this by asking for an Authorised Review Officer to review your rejection.
There are time limits for requesting a review. It is important to request a review within 13 weeks of Centrelink’s decision.
If you disagree with the Authorised Review Officer’s decision, you may ask the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review it.
There are time limits for appealing to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. It is important to request a review within 13 weeks of receiving the Authorised Review Officer’s decision.
Centrelink decisions are legal issues. You can seek legal advice about your situation.
You may apply for the DSP again at any time. You may need to apply for the DSP again if:
- Your medical conditions have changed or worsened.
- You have new medical evidence you want Centrelink to consider.
You may choose to apply for the DSP again and have Centrelink or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal review your rejection. You do not have to choose only one option.
You can read about what happens if your application is rejected in detail here.
Important phrases and terms
Fully diagnosed means your doctors have investigated your medical conditions, and know what they are.
Fully treated means everything that can reasonably be done to improve your medical conditions has been done.
Fully stabilised means your medical conditions will not likely improve over the next 2 years.
A medical condition is an illness, injury, or other medical condition diagnosed by your doctors or specialists. For example, renal failure is a medical condition.
Impairments are the problems your medical conditions cause you and make it hard to work. For example, fatigue and pain are impairments.
Manifest grants are where Centrelink decides you are eligible for the DSP without doing a full assessment.
A Program of Support is a program to help you return to work. You may need to do a Program of Support before you can get the DSP if you have more than one medical condition.
A Job Capacity Assessment is used to help Centrelink understand whether you are able to work.
A Disability Medical Assessment is used to help Centrelink understand whether your conditions meet the requirements for the DSP.
What should I do next?
Read about Getting the right medical evidence and prepare for your application.