APM's step-by-step guide on how to apply for the disability pension

Navigating the application process for the disability support pension (DSP) can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to.

Find out how to apply for the disability pension and where to get help if you're not eligible below.

What is the disability pension?

The Disability Support Pension (DSP) is a financial assistance program that helps people living with a permanent disability that affects their ability to work.

The DSP provides a regular income to eligible people in the working age population who live with a permanent disability that impacts their daily life and job opportunities.

The purpose of the DSP is to ensure that people living with disability receive financial support, enabling them to lead a more independent and fulfilling life while navigating the challenges associated with their condition.

How to apply for the disability pension

You can complete a DSP application online or you can fill out a physical form.

Before you submit your claim you will need to supply supporting documents and medical evidence. The steps below explain how to apply for the disability pension:

1. Find out if you're eligible

To be eligible for the DSP, typically you need to be aged between 16 and the pension age, an Australian resident, and living with a permanent medical condition such as a physical disability, intellectual disability or psychiatric condition that affects your ability to work.

People living with a terminal illness may also be eligible.

You will need to meet medical and non-medical rules to be eligible.

  • Non-medical rules are about your age, residency status, income and assets.
  • Medical rules are about your condition or disability and how it impacts your day to day life.

Centrelink may use things like a job capacity assessment, income tests and impairment tables to assess your application.

For more information, read our guide: Who is eligible for the Disability Support Pension?

2. Set up MyGov or Centrelink account

The best way to make a DSP claim is online – you will need a MyGov account to apply online.

If you cannot apply online, you can apply using a printable DSP application form.

If you don't have a printer, you can contact Centrelink to send you a form in the post.

Follow the steps below to set up your MyGov account:

  • Go to the MyGov website.
  • Click on the create an account link.
  • Agree to the terms and conditions.
  • Enter your email address.
  • Enter the code sent to your email address.
  • Enter your phone number or set secret questions.

Once you have set up your MyGov account, you will need to link your Centrelink account.

You may need to prove your identity online to do this.

Follow the steps below to link your Centrelink account:

  • Go to the Services page or find the 'Link your first service' button on your MyGov homepage.
  • Choose Centrelink from the list of available services.
  • Agree to terms and conditions.
  • Provide your Centrelink customer reference number (CRN) and your personal details, such as your name, date of birth, and address. Your CRN can be found on your Centrelink correspondence or concession card. If you don't have a CRN, you'll need to visit a Centrelink office with proof of identity documents to obtain one.
  • Answer security questions to confirm your identity.

3. Get your supporting documents and medical evidence

You will need to provide supporting documents with your application form, to provide proof of your support requirements.

These documents should contain information about your condition or disability and how it impacts your life.

Common supporting documents include:

  • Medical reports and medical evidence from health professionals
  • Hospital records
  • Financial records (such as insurance agreements)
  • Proof of income and assets
  • Income tax returns
  • Housing, rental or real estate information

The particular documents you need to submit will be listed on your claim.

You should submit them before you make your claim.

Note that getting medical evidence is the most important step in your DSP application process.

To get the right medical evidence, consult with your healthcare professionals who are familiar with your condition.

Be sure to ask for detailed medical reports, assessments, and relevant test results that outline the nature of your disability.

4. Find out if you need to participate in a Program of Support

Programs of support help people living with injury, illness or disability look for work and get access to workplace supports and services.

You may need to participate in a program of support before you can claim the disability support pension.

Program of support providers include:

  • Disability Employment Services (DES) – DES providers work with people living with an injury, illness or disability to find and keep fulfilling jobs, including support with resume preparation, interview coaching, job searching, and on-the-job support.
  • Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE) – Community-based, not-for-profit organisations that provide supported employment opportunities for people living with a disability.
  • Workforce Australia – An organisation focused on developing skills needed in the workforce.
  • ParentsNext – An Australian government initiative designed to support parents with young children in planning and preparing for future employment
  • Community Development Program – An Australian government initiative aimed at supporting job seekers in remote areas to build skills, find employment, and contribute to their communities.

5. Make your claim

The steps below explain how to apply for the disability pension:

  1. Login to MyGov
  2. Go to Centrelink
  3. Select Payments and Claims from the menu, then Claims, then Make a Claim
  4. Under Disabled, Ill or Injured, select Get Started
  5. Answer all the questions
  6. Follow the prompts to submit your supporting documents

When all sections have been completed and all supporting documents uploaded, you can submit your claim.

6. Track the progress of your claim

You can use MyGov to track the progress of your claim. Login to see your claim ID, the estimated date of completion and a tracking link.

Once Centrelink has assessed your claim, they will get in touch with you about the results of your claim and what to do next.

If you don't receive emails, they will post you a letter via mail.

If you aren't happy with the Centrelink decision, you can ask for a review.

Where to get help applying for Disability Support Pension

Now that you've learnt how to apply for the Disability Pension, if you need further assistance during the application process, the following services can help:

  • The DSP Help website contains helpful guides and information about how to apply for the Disability Pension, as well as tools such as the Medical Evidence Bot.
  • The DSP and Me guide explains about the Disability Support Pension in easy English.
  • The Economic Justice Australia website contains a list of local specialist legal centres where you can get free advice about making a claim or appealing a Centrelink decision.
  • Staff in Centrelink centres can help you complete forms and create your MyGov account.
  • You can call Centrelink on 132 717 or use the National Relay Service to talk about Centrelink income support payments and services. Use the Multilingual Phone service if you need to speak to a multilingual officer.

What happens when your DSP claim is accepted?

If your DSP claim is accepted, you will start receiving payments from the date listed in your acceptance letter.

The amount of disability pension you can receive depends on your situation.

Things like your age, marital status, living situation, income and assets can all affect how much you can claim.

To keep receiving the pension, you have to meet your obligations. This includes:

  • Reporting how much income you and your partner receive
  • Telling Centrelink if your situation changes

What to do if your DSP claim is not accepted

If you're not eligible for income support through the Disability Support Pension, you may be able to access other types of support and services.

You can search for payments and services you might be eligible for using the payments and services finder on the Services Australia website.

An NDIS Local Area Coordinator can help you find local services and supports that are right for you, even if you're not an NDIS participant.

If you are deemed ineligible for the DSP and don't agree with the Centrelink decision, there are several steps you can take, including:

  1. Ask Centrelink to get your application re-assessed by an Authorised Review Officer, within 13 weeks of the decision being made.
  2. If your application is denied by the Authorised Review Officer and you disagree with the decision, you may be able to get it reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Social Services and Child Support Division.
  3. If you don't agree with the decision made by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Social Services and Child Support Division, the next step is to ask for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal General Division to review your application.
  4. In rare situations where you don't agree with the decision made by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal General Division, you might be able to appeal to the Federal Court. If you do reach this stage, it is recommended that you seek legal advice before continuing.

If you want to work, APM can help.

We are Australia's largest provider of Disability Employment Services, helping thousands of job seekers like you find fulfilling work and access support and services to succeed in the workplace.

Whatever your employment goals are, we want to help you reach them.

Call our team on 1800 276 276 or register online today to get started.