Frequently Asked Questions - Revised Impairment Tables for Disability Support Pension (DSP) – 1 January 2012

Who will be impacted by the revised Impairment Tables?

  • The revised Impairment Tables will apply to all new applicants for DSP and any existing DSP recipients selected for medical review, from 1 January 2012. 
  • Claimants who are manifestly eligible for DSP, and therefore granted without requiring an assessment under the Impairment Tables, will not be affected by the change. 

Will more DSP recipients be medically reviewed after the implementation of the revised Tables? 

  • The revised Tables will apply to any existing DSP recipients who are selected for a medical review on or after 1 January 2012.
  • The current review process will continue after the revised Impairment Tables are introduced.
  • A review is normally brought about by changes in circumstances such as earnings, assets or updated medical information.
  • There will be no additional medical reviews as a result of revisions to the Impairment Tables.
  • The review process is not intended to cause distress, but is part of a general review process to ensure that a DSP recipient’s circumstances have not changed and they remain qualified for the payment. 

Do the revised Impairment Tables make it harder for people to receive DSP?

  • The review of the Impairment Tables has not changed the qualification criteria for DSP which require a person to have an impairment rating of at least 20 points as well as a continuing inability to work.
  • DSP will remain a safety net for those people who are unable to work for at least 15 hours per week at or above the relevant minimum wage, independent of a program of support, due to a permanent physical, intellectual or psychiatric impairment.

What happens to people with disability who are not eligible for DSP?

  • Customers who are not eligible for DSP, due to anticipated improvement to their medical condition, may be eligible for activity test exemptions under another income support payment due to the current state of their health. 
  • A Job Capacity Assessment, undertaken by a medical or allied health professional, will determine the impact of a person’s medical conditions and disabilities on their ability to work and whether they can benefit from employment assistance.
  • The Government funds specialist employment services for people with disability, including the Disability Employment Service (DES).
  • DES provides support and assistance to people with a disability, injury or health condition to help them prepare for, find and keep a job.

Do the revised Impairment Tables make it harder to qualify for DSP?

  • The revised Tables are consistent with contemporary medical and rehabilitation practice and support a greater focus on functional ability. They consider what people are able to do, rather than what they cannot do.
  • For example, under the old Tables, ratings for some conditions such as back conditions were based on loss of movement.  Under the revised Tables, ratings will be based on what the back condition prevents a person from doing.
  • The old Impairment Tables contained anomalies and inconsistencies which distorted the assessment process.
  • For example, under the old Tables when hearing impairment was assessed, a person with a hearing aid was not required to wear it, but someone who was having their sight impairment assessed had to wear their glasses.  Under the revised Tables, people will be assessed when using or wearing any aids or equipment that they have and usually use. 

Did the Department consult with people with disability when drafting the revised Impairment Tables? 

  • An Advisory Committee consisting of medical, allied health and rehabilitation experts, representatives of people with disability, mental health advocates and relevant Government agencies was established in 2010.
  • The Department consulted widely with a range of medical and allied health professionals and organisations as well as disability peak organisations representing the interests of people with disability.
  • Stakeholders invited to contribute to the review included but were not limited to: the National Welfare Rights Network, the National Council on Intellectual Disability, various pain stakeholder groups, Australian Medical Association, Deafness Forum Australia, Blind Citizens Australia and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.
  • A number of stakeholders provided feedback directly to FaHCSIA and a series of consultative workshops were also held in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
  • Input from all stakeholders was considered by the Advisory Committee in providing their advice on the revised Impairment Tables.

How will episodic or fluctuating conditions be assessed under the revised Impairment Tables?

  • Impairments caused by episodic or fluctuating conditions can now be assessed across the revised Impairment Tables.
  • A rating must take into account the severity, duration and frequency of the episodes or fluctuations as appropriate. 
  • When determining which rating applies to a person, the assessor must apply the rating that best describes the person’s ability to do the activities listed in the descriptor normally and on a repetitive or habitual basis and not only once or rarely.   

How are people who use aids or equipment assessed under the revised Tables?

Across the revised Tables a person’s functional abilities are assessed with the person using or wearing any aids and equipment they have and usually use.

How are people who have a range of co-morbidity conditions assessed under the revised Tables?

  • The revised Tables no longer list specific medical conditions and instead assess the functional impact caused by the conditions.
  • The revised Tables recognise that multiple conditions may result in a single impairment and a single condition may result in multiple impairments. 
  • A person’s conditions are to be assessed based on the resulting impairment that they cause, using all the Tables relevant to the areas of function affected.  For example, a person who has suffered a stroke may have resulting impairments in communication function, upper limb or lower limb function or visual function.  Each of these impairments should be rated under the relevant Table. 

How are people with chronic pain assessed under the revised Impairment Tables?

  • There is no Table specifically for the assessment of pain.
  • Where a person has diagnosed chronic pain, the resulting impairment is assessed using the Table, or combination of Tables, relevant to the areas of function affected. 

How are people with Morbid Obesity assessed under the revised Impairment Tables?

  • While the revised Impairment Tables do not include a table for conditions such as Morbid Obesity, the functional impacts of this condition would be appropriately assessed using a range of Tables.
  • Any resulting impairment is assessed using the Tables relevant to the areas of function affected.

How are people with HIV/AIDS assessed under the revised Impairment Tables?

  • While the revised Impairment Tables do not include a table for conditions such as HIV, the functional impacts of this condition would be appropriately assessed using a range of Tables. 
  • Any resulting impairment is assessed using the Tables relevant to the areas of function affected.

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