One Person’s Experience – Claiming a Centrelink Disability Support Pension

Fate and progression of my illness led me on the path which I am now on.  After 30 years of consistent, dedicated and often soul destroying working years I find myself unable to participate in the workforce in the same capacity that once embodied my daily life.  A decision not made by me, but made by my body.  Wheelchair bound, fatigued, in need of care for common duties like showering and cooking, my partner is needed more at home with me than at work earning a full-time salary.

How to survive on a sole, part-time income for two?  Look at the services available.

This is the first in a series aimed at sharing my experiences navigating the available support services in Australia:

Claiming a Centrelink Disability Support Pension

June 2016 – The start of my journey

I needed to find out what was required to get a Centrelink Disability Support Pension (DSP).  It concerned me when I read articles in the news like this one.

Still, my claim was genuine so I checked with Centrelink’s The Department of Human Services website,

Navigating this portal seemed clear cut.  It recommends before you start to contact them by phone or visit a service centre.  If you have ever wanted to spend 40 minutes on hold then I recommend giving them a call on 132 717.  There is also a very detailed information sheet on their website which answered many of the questions I had.

Health & Finance Integrated (HFI), helped me determine that I was financial eligible to apply, so I went ahead and downloaded the forms:

November 2016 – Finalising the paperwork

I don’t know anyone that enjoys filling in forms but these really tested my patience.  Nonetheless, after weeks of gathering information, proof of identity, and checking and cross-checking boxes all that remained was the supporting medical evidence.

There are no longer forms allowing supporting doctors to answer questions about their patients. Doctors and medical specialists are now asked to document the claimant’s disability and medications.  I’m not too proud to say that I spent at least 1 phone call with a Neurologist’s secretary crying with frustration at the time it was taking to get my medical evidence and the fear that I would need to wait until after Christmas holidays to lodge my claim.

December 2016 – Lodging the claim

Forms and paperwork in hand, I eagerly mailed my application to the Canberra address listed and waited to hear back.  It took over 2 months but I received mail asking for clarification on questions I had answered incorrectly.  They also needed to see proof of identity in person so off to a Centrelink office I went.

May 2017 – Medical Assessment

A medical assessment of disability support pension claims is conducted by Centrelink’s Department of Human Services staff employed as “job capacity assessors”. In practice, they make the decision about a person’s medical eligibility for the disability support pension.

Again, this was a process done face to face.  Another visit to a predetermined Centrelink office and a 30-minute discussion with a very thorough job capacity assessor was completed.  She then lodged a report about our meeting,

June 2017 – Disability Medical Assessment

This second review by “government-contracted doctors” (GCDs) is called a “disability medical assessment” and was undertaken because the job capacity assessor determined I was medically eligible for the disability support pension.  This was completed by an independent doctor on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Human Services.  After a 30 minutes face to face meeting discussing my symptoms and medications, she will now also lodge a report “to ensure Disability Support Pension is the right payment for me.”

I’m feeling confident that making it to this second medical assessment is a good sign.  Fingers crossed and watch this space for further updates.

In my next blog, Applying for NDIS

Why not share your experience? – email


Useful information

To qualify for the Centrelink Disability Support Pension:

  • Your health problems must give you at least 20 points under the Impairment Tables
  • Your health problems must stop you working for 15 hours per week or more, or retraining for work,
  • for at least the next two years, and
  • You must have participated in a program to help you find and keep work, called a “program of support”, unless exempt

Examples of medical evidence you should provide:

  • medical history reports/print outs
  • specialist medical reports, including outcomes of specialist referrals by your treating doctor
  • allied health professional reports, such as physiotherapy or audiology reports
  • psychologist reports, including IQ testing reports
  • medical imaging reports
  • compensation and rehabilitation reports
  • physical examination reports
  • hospital/outpatient records or discharge summaries including
  • operations you have had.

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