Disability Support Pension (DSP) Project: A snapshot of DSP client experiences of claims and assessments since the 2015 changes


This paper examines the impact of key changes made to the DSP medical assessment process in 2015. The findings are based on the analysis of a snapshot of DSP client experiences of claims and assessments from one of the NSSRN’s member centres, Basic Rights Queensland Inc (BRQ) (the “DSP Project”).

Research findings

The analysis of the data obtained by the DSP Project is consistent with the concerns previously raised by the NSSRN regarding two key changes which were made to the medical assessment process in 2015:

  1. Removal of the Treating Doctor’s Report (TDR)

The TDR elicited specific medical information from treating doctors relevant to DSP eligibility. The removal of the TDR has made it more difficult for claimants and doctors to understand what information to provide to support their claim. Worthy claimants may not be successful due to the greater reliance on raw medical evidence which may not specifically address the complex and unique legislative requirements for the DSP.

  1. Introduction of the Disability Medical Assessment (DMA) process

The DMA is a second medical assessment by a Government-Contracted Doctor. The introduction of the DMA has negatively impacted the efficiency of processing DSP claims.

Our snapshot demonstrated that many worthy DSP claimants experience significant delays in being granted the Disability Support Pension. In circumstances where a claimant appeals the Department of Human Services’ decision, the Tribunal commonly makes a determination 10 months after the initial DSP claim was lodged.

The data also highlighted a lack of understanding of the Program of Support (POS) requirements. The POS is an employment support program which must be completed by some claimants to be eligible for DSP. The snapshot data establishes that POS requirements remain a critical issue for many DSP claimants, despite the fact that DSS data shows that POS requirements are only a relevant factor in determining a small number of DSP claims. In 10 of our 22 cases, the claim for DSP was rejected on the basis that the POS requirements were not met. On appeal the Tribunal found that 9 of these cases medically qualified for DSP: 1 case satisfied the POS requirements, and 8 cases had their points increased resulting in a finding of a severe impairment (and therefore no requirement to complete a POS).

Media enquiries

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