The partnership between FCVic and Social Security Rights Victoria (SSRV), the Integrated Services Project (ISP), aims to improve client outcomes through financial counsellors and social security lawyers working together more effectively.
This month we are reporting on the new changes to the Disability Support Pension (‘DSP’) impairment tables. To be eligible for the DSP, an applicant must score 20 points on the impairment tables, either on one table or across multiple tables. There are 15 tables, each covering different kinds of symptoms a person may have. Each table has four levels of impairment severity ratings, mild (5 points), moderate (10 points), and severe (20 points.) The current legal instrument containing the impairment tables was set to expire in April 2023.
In preparation of the expiry, the Department of Social Services undertook a review of the impairment tables throughout 2021 and 2022. As part of this review, they consulted various stakeholders including disability peak bodies, medical and allied health organisations, welfare and advocacy organisations and members of the public. In 2022, SSRV attended a consultation meeting and voiced our concerns about the existing impairment tables, provided positive feedback on some of the proposed reforms and identified other key areas of reform that we felt still needed to be addressed.
The new instrument, Social Security (Tables for the Assessment of Work-related Impairment for Disability Support Pension) Determination 2023, has now been finalised and commences on 1 April 2023. It applies to claims for Disability Support Pension made on or after 1 April 2023. Claims that were made before this date will still be covered by the previous Determination.
One of the key changes to the impairment tables includes:
Changes to ‘Fully Diagnosed, Full Treated and Fully Stabilised’
Previous to the amendments, an applicant needed to demonstrate that their medical condition was ‘permanent,’ meaning that the condition was ‘fully diagnosed, fully treated and fully stabilised.’
The amendments remove the terminology of a ‘permanent condition.’ The Determination now reads that a medical condition must be “diagnosed, reasonably treated and stabilised.”
The Department of Social Services has advised the language has been reformed to better reflect the actual requirements people must meet. The Explanatory Statement states that previously the legislation required a condition be ‘fully treated’ but in practice the Secretary would accept a condition that was ‘reasonably treated.’ The Explanatory Statement goes on to say that the term ‘fully treated’ overstated that actual requirements and made the threshold appear higher than it ought to have been. Our service observed that this led to confusion amongst applicants, their treating doctors and their supports, and it is hoped that clarifying this will help to simplify the process for applicants.
The amendments require a person’s condition to be reasonably treated with consideration to the treatment options available to them. The Social Security Guide has examples of when applicants may not proceed with treatment, but it can still be considered that their condition is ‘reasonably treated’ as they’ve exhausted all reasonable treatment options available to them. This includes situations when the treatment;
- Is prohibitively expensive or involves long travel.
- Is experimental and may cause further harm to the individual.
- Is not expected to result in significant functional impairment.
There are also other changes to the Determination. At the moment, we are anticipating what we believe the impact will be and advising applicants on the challenges or hurdles they may face. We expect to see the impact of the changes more clearly as Centrelink and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal begin to consider DSP claims made under the new 2023 Determination.
DSP Help – Updated
Readers may be familiar with SSRV’s website DSP Help. SSRV created this website to help applications and health professionals with the process of applying for the DSP.
The website has information about the application process and eligibility criteria for the DSP. It also has a ‘Medical Evidence Bot’ which allows an individual to enter details about their medical impairments and then creates a personalised DSP Evidence Kit. The kit includes a template letter which can be provided to treating doctors to obtain new medical evidence.
DSP Help will release updates on 1 April 2023 to ensure the content is up to date and relevant.
Keep in touch
We’re looking froward to seeing those registered for our Community Legal Education session on Centrelink Debts on 3 April.
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