Disability Support Pension

Financial help if you have a permanent physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that stops you from working.

Eligibility basics

  • at least 16 and under age pension age
  • have a permanent medical condition that prevents you from working 15 hours or more per week within the next 2 years
  • under the income and assets test limits
Eligible Disability Support Pensioners will automatically get a one-off Energy Assistance Payment from 26 June 2017.

Eligibility & payment rates

Eligibility

You may get Disability Support Pension if you:

  • are between 16 years and age pension age
  • meet residency requirements
  • meet income and assets tests
  • have a permanent and diagnosed disability or medical condition, or
  • get a Department of Veterans’ Affairs special rate disability pension due to total and permanent incapacity

You may need to show you:

  • have done a Program of Support, and
  • can’t work or retrain to work for at least 15 hours a week in the next 2 years

Residence rules

To get Disability Support Pension, you must be:

How long you need to have been a resident

To get Disability Support Pension you need to have been an Australian resident for at least 10 years in total. For at least 5 of these years, there must be no break in your residence.

What may be different

The 10 year time frame doesn’t apply if you:

  • are a refugee or former refugee
  • became unable to work or permanently blind while you were:
    • an Australian resident, or
    • a dependent child of an Australian resident and you then got your Australian resident status while a dependent child

If you don’t meet these rules but you’ve lived or worked in a country that has a social security agreement with Australia, the agreement may help you to claim.

Income and assets tests

The amount of Disability Support Pension (DSP) paid to you depends on your assessable income and assets.

Income test

You can earn some income and still get DSP. The amount depends on how much income you earn.

Read more about the income test for pensions.

Assets test

You can have some assets and still get DSP. The amount depends on how much your assets are worth.

Your assets include any property or possession you partly or fully own including assets held outside Australia and debts owed to you.

Hardship provisions

We can assess your financial situation differently if you don’t meet the income and assets test and you’re in severe financial hardship.

Read more about asset hardship provisions.

If you’re permanently blind

You may not be subject to the income or assets test if you’re permanently blind, unless:

  • you’re claiming Rent Assistance, or
  • your partner claims an income support payment

Compensation

If you or your partner get a payment for compensation or damages, it may affect the amount we pay you.

Read more about compensation.

How we assess your disability or condition

To get Disability Support Pension (DSP), you need to provide medical evidence from your treating health professionals. We need this to understand how your disability or condition currently affects you and to correctly assess your claim.

When you give us your medical evidence with your claim we’ll initially check if you’re manifestly medically eligible. We check if you:

  • are permanently blind
  • have a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than 2 years
  • have an intellectual disability with an IQ of less than 70, or
  • need nursing home level care

Use the Claim for DSP Medical Evidence Checklist to help you determine the medical evidence you need to submit with your claim.

Fully diagnosed, treated and stabilised

If you’re not manifestly medically eligible, we need to assess if your disability or condition is fully diagnosed, treated and stabilised. We’ll do this by reviewing your medical evidence and usually by talking with you or your treating health professionals.

Fully diagnosed

To decide if your disability or condition is fully diagnosed we assess if:

  • a qualified medical professional examined you
  • you have medical evidence about your disability or condition
Fully treated

To decide if your disability or condition is fully treated we assess if:

  • you’ve received treatment or rehabilitation for the disability or condition
  • treatment will continue or you have a plan for the next 2 years
Fully stabilised

To decide if your disability or condition is fully stabilised we assess if:

  • treatment will help you work 15 hours or more a week in the next 2 years, or
  • there are medical or other reasons why you can’t receive treatment

Impairment rating

If we assess your disability or condition as fully diagnosed, treated and stabilised, we’ll also assess how it affects your ability to function each day. You may need to attend a Job Capacity Assessment to help us assess this using Impairment Tables.

There are 15 Impairment Tables and they’re used to give an impairment rating that helps us assess if you’re eligible for DSP.

You can read more about Impairment Tables on the Department of Social Services website.

Work capacity

In the Job Capacity Assessment we’ll also assess how your disability or condition affects your ability to work.

You may be medically eligible

You may be medically eligible for DSP if your disability or condition stops you from working 15 hours a week or more in the next 2 years and we give an impairment rating of:

  • 20 points or more on a single Table, or
  • 20 points or more combined across more than 1 Table - if this is your rating, you also need to have completed a Program of Support

After you attend the Job Capacity Assessment, you may also need to attend a Disability Medical Assessment.

You’re not medically eligible

You’re not medically eligible if we assess that your disability or condition:

  • isn’t fully diagnosed, treated or stabilised, or
  • has an impairment rating of less than 20 points, or
  • doesn’t stop you from working 15 hours a week or more a week in the next 2 years

Example 1 – not fully treated

Brian reduced his hours of work due to a bad hip and has claimed DSP. Brian’s medical evidence shows he’s waiting to have his hip replaced. The operation is in 3 months and his doctor says Brian will need another 3 months to recover. His doctor also recently diagnosed Brian with depression. The clinical psychologist who is now treating Brian confirmed the diagnosis and that his condition isn’t stabilised.

We review Brian’s medical evidence and find his hip condition is not fully treated because treatment is ongoing and his operation is likely to improve his condition. As Brian’s conditions are expected to improve within the next 2 years they’re not considered fully treated and stabilised.

Brian isn’t eligible for DSP.

Example 2 – impairment rating of less than 20 points

Natalie is physically fit but has reduced her hours of work due to a mental health condition. She’s received treatment for her condition for many years from her GP and from a clinical psychologist. They both report Natalie’s condition is stable. Natalie’s condition affects her day to day activities. She finds most activities difficult such as relationships, concentration, completing tasks, planning, decision making and full time work.

Natalie attends a Job Capacity Assessment where the assessor gives her a 10 point impairment rating under Impairment Table 5. Natalie’s impairment rating is less than the 20 points needed to be medically eligible.

Natalie isn’t eligible for DSP.

Medical evidence

You need to submit medical evidence if you claim Disability Support Pension (DSP), or have a medical eligibility review.

Read more about medical evidence and assessment

Job Capacity Assessments

You may need to attend a Job Capacity Assessment for a Disability Support Pension (DSP) claim or medical review.

Read more about assessments

Disability Medical Assessment

You may need to attend a Disability Medical Assessment for a Disability Support Pension (DSP) claim or medical review.

Read more about Disability Medical Assessment

Program of Support

You may need to take part in a Program of Support for at least 18 months in the 3 years before you claim Disability Support Pension (DSP).

Read more about the Program of Support for Disability Support Pension

Payment rates

The payment rates for Disability Support Pension are updated on 20 March and 20 September each year for those 21 years of age and over or under 21 years of age with children.

The rates are updated on 1 January of each year for those under 21 years of age without children.

The rate of Disability Support Pension paid may be affected by your or your partner’s income and assets.

Maximum payment rates of Disability Support Pension if you are 21 years of age or over, or under 21 years of age with children

Pension rates per fortnight Single Couple each Couple combined Couple each,
separated due to ill health
Maximum basic rate $808.30 $609.30 $1,218.60 $808.30
Maximum Pension Supplement $65.90 $49.70 $99.40 $65.90
Energy Supplement $14.10 $10.60 $21.20 $14.10
TOTAL $888.30 $669.60 $1,339.20 $888.30
If you are under 21 years of age with no children Maximum rate per fortnight
single, under 18 years of age, at home $364.20
single, under 18 years of age, independent $562.20
single, 18-20 years of age, at home $412.80
single, 18-20 years of age, independent $562.20
a member of a couple, up to and including 20 years of age $562.20

Claiming

Check if you’re eligible before you start your claim.

Then:

  1. contact the department to discuss claiming Disability Support Pension
  2. read the conditions for claiming
  3. complete your claim form and supporting documentation
  4. obtain medical evidence
  5. submit your claim and all supporting evidence
  6. we’ll then assess your claim and let you know the outcome

Next

Managing your payment

Someone to deal with us on your behalf

If you want someone else to deal with us, you can authorise them to enquire, act or get payments for you.

Read more about someone to deal with us on your behalf

Change of circumstances

You need to tell us if your circumstances change when you are receiving Disability Support Pension.

Read more about reporting your change of circumstances

Medical reviews

If you get Disability Support Pension (DSP), we may review your medical eligibility to make sure you’re still getting the right support.

Read more about medical reviews for DSP

Participation requirements

You may need to participate in activities to help you find and keep work if you’re getting Disability Support Pension (DSP).

Read more about participation requirements

Hours you can work

You can work less than 30 hours a week and still get Disability Support Pension (DSP). The amount you get depends on how much income you earn.

Read more about the income test for pensions.

If you work 30 hours or more a week

We’ll stop your DSP if you work 30 hours or more a week.

We may be able to start your DSP again if you start working less than 30 hours a week within 2 years of your DSP stopping.

You must let us know if you:

  • start work
  • your work hours change, or
  • your income changes

We’ll tell you if your DSP will change.

Pensioner Concession Card

If your DSP stops, you may have continued access to your Pensioner Concession Card for up to 12 months if:

  • you’re working 30 hours or more a week and told us about this change within 14 days, or
  • due to your employment income, you get a zero rate of DSP

You may have continued access to your Pensioner Concession Card for up to 12 weeks if your partner’s employment income reduces your DSP to a zero rate.

Income reporting

How much you or your partner earn affects your payment. We need to know what you and your partner earn so we pay you the right amount.

Read more about income reporting

Advance payment

You may get part of your income support early. This is an advance. You pay it back out of your normal payments from us.

Read more about advance payment

Weekly payment option

Some people can get income support payments each week instead of each fortnight.

Read more about weekly payments

If you travel outside Australia

Travelling outside Australia may affect your Disability Support Pension payment. Some rules may stop your payment if you leave Australia.

Read more about the Disability Support Pension if you travel outside Australia

Transitional rate of pension

The transitional rate started in 2009 for pensioners who would get a lower rate if we used the new income test.

Read more about the transitional rate of pension

Income Stream Reviews

Each financial year we review certain types of income streams. We do this in August and February.

Read more about Pension Income Stream Reviews

When you reach age pension age

If you’re getting Disability Support Pension and reach age pension age, you can transfer to Age Pension.

Read more about Disability Support Pension when you reach age pension age

Cashless Debit Card

The Australian Government is delivering payments in some areas using a Cashless Debit Card.

Read more about Cashless Debit Card

My bank account is overdrawn

You can get help to manage your money if your bank account is overdrawn.

Read more about what to do if your account is overdrawn

Resources

News for people with disability

Receive a monthly email about news for people with disability by subscribing. Read more about people with disability

Disability champion videos

Watch videos featuring our Disability Champions who share their stories and achievements with us.

Watch the Disability Champions videos

Improve your skills for education and employment

The Skills for Education and Employment program may help you improve your speaking, reading, writing or maths.

Read about Skills for Education and Employment.

Payment and Service Finder

Find, estimate and compare payments and services you may be eligible for. You can also work out what a change in circumstance might mean for the payments and services you currently receive from us.

Start using Payment and Service Finder

Manage your money

 

We’ve got advice and tools to help you with budgeting, borrowing and credit, and managing debt.

Read about how to manage your money.

Regular deductions using Centrepay

You can use our free and voluntary service to pay bills as regular deductions from your Centrelink payments.

Read more about regular deductions using Centrepay

Page last updated: 11 September 2017