Hundreds lose pension as impairment tables turned

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Twenty eight thousand people under 35 who recently qualified for the Disability Support Pension are being re-assessed under tighter medical tables. Welfare Rights Review reports on the impact of the medical review.

Over the period 1 July 2014 to 15 May 2015, a total of 7,249 people aged under 35 have had their qualification for the Disability Support Pension reviewed, under a review program that started on 1 July 2014.

Of those re-assessed, 746, or 10.3% have had their payments cancelled and were no longer eligible for the Disability Support Pension (DSP). The National Welfare Rights Network estimates that the number of people who are losing entitlement under the stricter and narrower Impairment Tables for the DSP is four times more as many compared with previous medical reviews.

There are about 137,500 people aged under 35 years on the DSP. The Government started reviewing around 28,000 of these people who had qualified for the DSP between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2011. Almost half (48%) of those being reviewed were experiencing mental health issues when granted DSP.

The reviews are conducted under the new Impairment Tables that were introduced in January 2012. A government medical assessor is undertaking assessments to determine if these people qualify for the DSP, and if they have any capacity for work, education or training.

A person who was granted the DSP on ‘manifest grounds’ (this is about 5% of people receiving the DSP, where eligibility was self-evident) or assessed as having a work capacity of less than eight hours a week, will not be reviewed under this initiative. 

There remain around 10,000 people still to undergo these reviews. The remainder of assessments will be conducted between now and December 2015.

It is not known how many of the 746 people who were previously receiving the DSP have sought a review of the decision to cancel their payment. However, answers provided to the Senate Estimates indicates that, from 1 July 2014 to 14 March 2015, 308 people appealed the decision to cancel their DSP. We estimate that the appeal rate is between 35%-40%, which is a significant increase in the proportion of people who would normally seek a review of a decision to cancel a payment.  It is likely that many of these people with disability will now be trying to survive and manage their illness whilst they receive Newstart Allowance at a significantly lower rate.