Our May Virtual Education Session covered ‘Social Security and Your Rights’. We were fortunate to have guest speaker Elizabeth Divers (Liz), a community lawyer from Social Security Rights Victoria (SSRV).

SSRV is an independent state-wide community legal centre that specialises in social security and related law, policy and procedure. SSRV provides free legal services to people in Victoria and their support networks. Their legal services help people understand rights and obligations concerning social security payments and dealing with Centrelink.

Liz started her talk by referencing the award-winning documentary Free Solo. The film follows Alex Honnold, a free solo climber, as he redefines what’s possible for the human body and spirit through his attempt to climb the famous 3,200 foot El Capitan mountain in Yosemite National Park – without a rope or safety harness. Liz described how the difficulty he experienced in climbing without a rope can be likened to the experiences some have in trying to navigate Centrelink payments and processes. 


Summary of the virtual education session

Liz delivered an insightful session that discussed some of the complexities of applying for the Disability Support Pension (DSP) through Centrelink. The main points covered were:

  • The DSP medical eligibility criteria
  • The three steps in the appeal process and
  • Time limits that apply when appealing Centrelink decisions


Key take aways from the session

After opening the session for attendees to ask questions, Liz summarised by providing some key take aways when applying for DSP:

  • The qualification criteria for DSP can be complex.
  • The only way to know if you meet the qualification criteria for payment is to lodge a claim and have it assessed by Centrelink.
  • You have appeal rights to test the correctness of Centrelink’s decisions, so don’t be afraid to ask for a review.
  • If a claim is unsuccessful, you can always re-test your eligibility, particularly if your circumstances change or you obtain further evidence.
  • You can appeal a decision AND lodge a new claim simultaneously (this may be relevant if you have updated medical evidence that is outside the original qualification period).
  • If you are based in Victoria and would like information and advice about appealing a Centrelink decision, you can contact SSRV’s Legal Assistance Line on 9481 0355.


Practical tips for your Disability Support Pension application or appeal

Liz offered some tips on how to prepare your application:

  • Review SSRV’s DSP help website to understand the DSP eligibility criteria. 
  • Look at the medical evidence you have against each of the DSP eligibility criteria. Do this for each condition.
  • If there are gaps in your medical evidence, book an appointment with your treating professional(s) to speak with them about further medical evidence.
  • Provide your treating professionals copies of the relevant impairment table(s) and the medical evidence template letter available through the DSP help website.
  • Refer your medical practitioners to the DSP Help website if they need further information.  Or if they are based in Victoria they can contact the SSRV Worker Helpline for a secondary consultation.
  • Provide updated medical evidence / additional medical evidence after you lodge your claim and before Centrelink decide, or at ANY stage of the appeal process.  Note: all medical evidence must refer to the status of your condition(s) at the date you lodged your claim or within the 13 weeks after that date.


The appeal process

Liz summarised the three step appeal process and explained how the same appeal process is used to challenge any decision Centrelink make that you disagree with, not just for decisions regarding DSP eligibility.

  1. Authorised Review Officer (ARO) review. This can be requested by calling Centrelink or by uploading the SS351 form through MyGov and then ringing Centrelink to confirm it is actioned. 
  2. Review of the ARO decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (Social Services and Child Support Division). Request over the phone by calling AAT or online through AAT website.
  3. Second review by Administrative Appeals Tribunal, this time at the General Division. Lodge review request online through the AAT website.

Time limits apply to preserve rights to back pay if an appeal is successful.

  1. Must request an ARO within 13 weeks from date of original decision.
  2. Must request review by Administrative Appeals Tribunal (Social Services and Child Support Division) within 13 weeks from date of the ARO decision.
  3. Must request review by Administrative Appeals Tribunal (General Division) within 28 days from date of AAT (SSCSD) decision.

There are no time limits to challenge debts until you have a decision from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (Social Services and Child Support Division) at which point you must lodge a review request with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (General Division) within 28 days of that decision.


Where to find further information or ask for help

Services Australia has a Disability Support Pension

SSRV’s DSP Help website.

If you are based in Victoria and would like information or advice on appealing a decision Centrelink have made regarding your eligibility for a payment, cancelling or varying your payment or raising a debt against you, then you can contact SSRV’s Legal Assistance Line on 03 9481 0355.  If you are not based in Victoria, you can find your state’s specialist community legal centre by visiting Economic Justice Australia.

If you have a complaint about the customer service or treatment you have received from Centrelink as opposed to a decision they have made regarding your payments, you can lodge a complaint with them directly via:

  • Telephone – 1800 132 468
  • Website – via MyGov
  • Mail

If Centrelink do not respond to your complaint about the service or treatment you have received, you could raise a complaint with the Commonwealth Ombudsman.


The content of this article is information only and does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice please contact SSRV’s Legal Assistance Line on 03 9481 0355, or if you are outside Victoria, you can find your state’s specialist community legal service through the Economic Justice Australia website