disability support pension

Disability Support Pension: What is it and how to get it?

If you have a permanent physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that stops you from working, the disability support pension is a useful scheme that can help! Find out more in this article.

by Julia Banks

If you have a permanent physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that stops you from working, the disability support pension is a useful scheme that can help! Find out more in this article. 

What is a disability support pension?

A disability support pension is a government-funded pension that provides financial support to those who are unable to work at least 15 hours a week due to illness or disability. People who receive the pension may receive it as interim income for acute illness or disability, and others may receive it long-term. But what’s the difference between the NDIS and the disability support pension? Both seek to financially support the person experiencing illness or disability. However, the NDIS provides funding for people with disabilities to access specific support for daily tasks and needs, as well as disability-specific equipment. However, the disability support pension acts as income for the person receiving it, and is not tied to being used on specific services or supports. You may be wondering how much the disability support pension is, or what the criteria to receive it is. The criteria and application process can seem daunting and quite specific, but we’ve compiled an explanation of all the nitty-gritty information for you to understand before beginning your claim.

Who can get disability support pension? 

While there are many options for funding for people with disabilities to access support and assistance, the disability support pension can help alleviate the burden of the cost of living, perhaps while you are looking for work, experiencing ill health that prevents you from working temporarily, or your disability prevents you from gaining employment for the long-term.

To become eligible for the payments, you must meet both medical and non-medical criteria. Non-medical criteria includes things that do not relate to your disability, like:

  • Your age: You have to be 16 or over to qualify for the pension, but you can get in early and apply for the pension when you are 15 and 9 months old.
  • Your residency status: You must have been an Australian resident for the past 10 years in a row, or 10 years in total with 5 of those years without a break in the residence. There are exceptions to this rule, such as if you are a refugee or became unable to work while you were an Australian resident.
  • Your current income and assets. You will be assessed on whether you earn an income, and the monetary value of your assets, and this will inform whether you can get the disability support pension, and also the amount of payment you are entitled to.

Medical criteria must also be asserted to be eligible for the disability support pension. These come under two branches, manifest medical rules, and general medical rules

The manifest medical rules involve a series of conditions or disabilities. If you qualify for having one of the listed conditions, you pass the medical criteria. Conversely, the general medical rules consist of a list of quantifying qualities of your conditions. You must pass all of these criteria to have satisfied the general medical rules, which include criteria such as the length of the condition, impairment rating, and impact on your ability to work certain hours. In simpler terms, you must either have one listed condition or disability outlined in the medical criteria to be eligible for the pension. If not, your condition must fit into all of the rules listed under the general medical rules. Keep in mind that the aforementioned criteria to do with age and income must be satisfied too.

How much can you get from the disability support pension? 

The disability support pension is paid per fortnight, but amounts vary depending on your personal situation, and may vary between payments if you are maintaining employment concurrently to receiving the pension. The disability support pension rates are determined by your age, income, relationships and assets. Tests include:

  • If you’re under 21, you’ll be assessed to determine if you are financially independent from your guardians or financially dependent on your guardians, and this will impact your payment. This dependency is measured on whether you have been in a recognised relationship or partnership before the age of 21, can prove you have financially supported yourself under 21, or have an absence or parental care – all of which classify you as independent. Otherwise, you are classified as dependent. 
  • Your income and assets, as well as your partner’s income and assets. The documentation required to prove your income and assets will be outlined in the application process.

If you’re under 21, depending on your dependency and age between 16-21, payments per fortnight range between $435.10 and $644.40.

If you’re over 21, depending on income and assets tests, your maximum fortnightly payment, including the pension and energy supplements (to assist with bills and costs of living), is $967.50 per fortnight. If you’re a couple who are both eligible for the pension, your combined maximum pension rate, including all supplements, is $1,458.60 per fortnight. Remember that these maximum rates may be impacted by income and asset testing.

For example, as a single, your pension payment will reduce by 50 cents for every dollar you earn over $180 in a fortnight. If you’re a couple, it will reduce by 40 cents for every dollar you earn over $360 as a couple. This means that cut-off points for payments come into effect if you earn over a certain threshold. For instance, if you are a single who earns $300 a fortnight in part time work, your pension will decrease by $60 for that fortnight.

There are asset limits that work the same way as income limits – when you reach a certain threshold, your disability support pension will begin to decrease. These are different depending on if you are a homeowner or non homeowner.

How to apply for disability support pension 

If you’re unsure if you can meet the above criteria, you can use an online questionnaire to determine if you may be eligible. This does not count as an application, and also may not be 100% reliable in discerning whether you qualify. While it can be a helpful indicator of what criteria you may or may not fill, do not use the tool’s outcomes as gospel. There is no harm in applying for the claim if you’re still a little unsure!

You will need an Australian myGov account and for it to be linked to Centrelink. Your myGov account is a handy system that contains information about your identity, so that it can be easily linked to services like Centrelink, the Australian Tax Office, and Medicare. If you don’t already have an account, you can sign up for one. This makes the process for applying for the pension far easier, as a myGov account will already have your identity information and will speed up the application process. If you’re unable to apply by yourself online, you can nominate another person with a myGov account to submit the application on your behalf.

Once your account is linked with Centrelink, click into the Centrelink button on your MyGov home screen and go through “Payments and Claims” to “Make a Claim” and select “Disabled, Ill and Injured”. You’ll have to answer a series of questions relating to the pension criteria. You’ll also be asked to submit documents that verify your claim. This can feel daunting given the volume of documents required, but refer to the online list and make your way through it, uploading your documents as you go. Depending on your circumstance, supporting documents may include things like proof of employment and pay, your living situation, details of study and proof of de facto relationships. Medical documents that are required are varied and specific to whether you are applying under the manifest medical rules or the general medical rules. Required documents may include referrals from healthcare professionals or treating teams, reports from education institutions, or impairment rating evidence.

If using a computer is not doable for you, you can use a paper form to fill out and submit in-person to a Services Victoria site or via post. Remember to include copies of all the listed documents in your submission!

What if my claim gets rejected? 

Once you’ve applied for the pension, you will receive an email with a receipt of your claim, an ID number to reference it should you need to discuss it further, and the estimated time it will take to process. You can track the progress using your Centrelink account and will be informed of the outcome via your myGov inbox. If your claim is rejected, don’t be deterred – you have options for appeal. You are able to appeal your original claim if you feel the outcome wasn’t fair, and can do so via writing, phone, or visiting a Services Victoria Centre. If your claim continues to be unfilled, but your situation has changed, you can re-submit your application with renewed documentation. If navigating the claims process or appealing a rejected claim seems like a daunting or complex task, a support worker can be a helpful asset in navigating the process with you.

Other Financial Aid Options

If you don’t meet the criteria for the disability support pension, there are other payments that can help you sustain yourself if faced with financial hardship, such as those for young people, students, carers, and job-seekers. If you’re over 22 and unable to work or secure employment, the JobSeeker payment can assist. If you care for someone with an illness or disability, Carer Payments or Carer Allowances can assist in maintaining financial stability during the time of caring. If you’re under 24 and studying full time, Youth Allowance is a payment that can financially support you while you focus time on studying. If you’re a student with a disability, the additional Youth Disability Supplement can be obtained as well as Youth Allowance. If the young person you support doesn’t meet the age criteria for the disability support pension, the Child Disability Assistance Payment can assist your family in financially managing their care. Each payment has a specific set of criteria, as each is designed to assist a different set of circumstances people with a disability may find themselves in. 

If you need extra help with getting to and from places by using public or private transport, there are extra mobility allowances provided for such circumstances, to help you get to everywhere you need to be. This may help fund accessing a support worker to streamline the process of travel even more. Support workers can be an invaluable form of extra support to help you access your community!

Remember that receiving the disability support pension does not negate your entitlement to National Disability Insurance Scheme funding, which can be used as support for a myriad of things like transport, help around the home, personal care, and therapy.

Will the disability support pension increase in 2022?

The disability support pension for under 21s is reviewed every new year, whereas the pension for over 21s is reviewed biannually, in March and September. The disability support pension increase in 2021 was $31.60 per fortnight in total as the base rate for singles.

Other resources to assist with managing the disability support pension

There are options for advance payments if you’re struggling financially – like an advance payment on your fortnightly pension payment, or an advance if your bank account is overdrawn. You can also choose to receive your pension weekly instead of fortnightly, if that works better for your situation. This kind of flexibility in payment options can be invaluable if you enter unexpected financial hardship.

If you need assistance managing your money, gaining employment, paying tax on your pension or discovering which payments or services are right for you, Services Australia has a one-stop webpage for discovering who and what may be helpful to manage those kinds of tasks. 

A disability support worker can also be a helpful addition to ensuring you can complete those tasks and fulfill goals such as finding work, beginning new education, or attempting to navigate the claims process.

While the rules and regulations around processing a claim seem like a huge task to begin with, the easy-to-use online claims process and breadth of information around your eligibility will ensure your application is streamlined, so some of those financial barriers can be removed and you can feel secure in your finances again.

  1. Department of Social Services. (2021). Pensions Rate Increases. https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/03_2021/rates-list-20-march-2021_0.pdf
  2. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. (2021). Disability Pension Rates & Supplements 20 September 2021. CLIK. https://clik.dva.gov.au/compensation-and-support-reference-library/payment-rates/current-payment-rates/20-september-2021/disability-pension-rates-supplements-20-september-2021
  3. National Disability Insurance Scheme. (2021). For participants | NDIS. Www.ndis.gov.au. https://www.ndis.gov.au/participants
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  6. Services Australia. (2019c). Mobility Allowance – Services Australia. Www.servicesaustralia.gov.au. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/mobility-allowance
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  8. Services Australia. (2020b). Disability Support Pension – Manifest medical rules – Services Australia. Www.servicesaustralia.gov.au. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/disability-support-pension/who-can-get-it/medical-rules/manifest-medical-rules
  9. Services Australia. (2020c). Disability Support Pension – Other payments if you can’t get DSP – Services Australia. Servicesaustralia.gov.au. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/disability-support-pension/who-can-get-it/other-payments-if-you-cant-get-dsp
  10. Services Australia. (2021a). Disability Support Pension – Claiming by form – Services Australia. Www.servicesaustralia.gov.au. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/disability-support-pension/how-claim/claiming-form
  11. Services Australia. (2021b). Disability Support Pension – How much you can get – Services Australia. Www.servicesaustralia.gov.au. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/disability-support-pension/how-much-you-can-get
  12. Services Australia. (2021c). Disability Support Pension – Income and assets tests – Services Australia. Www.servicesaustralia.gov.au. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/disability-support-pension/who-can-get-it/non-medical-rules/income-and-assets-tests
  13. Services Australia. (2021d). Payments for people living with an illness, injury or disability – Services Australia. Www.servicesaustralia.gov.au. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/subjects/payments-people-living-illness-injury-or-disability
  14. Services Australia. (2021e). Reviews and appeals – Services Australia. Www.servicesaustralia.gov.au. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/topics/reviews-and-appeals/34676
About the Writer
Julia Banks
Julia is a nurse, disability support worker and writer. She has thoroughly enjoyed her career in care provision, and believes the key to great health is education and empowerment. When she's not working, she fills her days with travelling, salsa dancing, and hanging out with her foster cats.
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