Tribunal:  Dr Louise Bygrave, Member

The applicant’s claim for the disability support pension was rejected by the Department of Human Services (Centrelink). The applicant subsequently applied to the Social Services and Child Support Division (SSCSD) of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review, who affirmed Centrelink’s decision. On 14 February, the General Division of the Tribunal affirmed the decision on second review.

To qualify for the disability support pension the applicant must satisfy the requirements of section 94 of the Social Security Act 1991 (the Act). The determinative issue in this matter was whether the applicant had an impairment rating of 20 points or more under the impairment tables and a continuing inability to work, as provided by subsections 94(2)(b) and (c) of the Act, respectively.

The Impairment Tables describe functional activities, abilities, symptoms and limitations, and are designed to assign ratings to determine the level of functional impact of impairment. Impairment can be rated between nil and 30 points, depending on how it affects a person’s ability to function. A report by a general practitioner submitted that the applicant suffered from depression, bilateral knees osteoarthritis, C6-C7 cervical disc protrusion, C7 nerve root compression and lower back pain, benign prostatic hypertrophy, and obstructive sleep apnoea.

The Tribunal considered each of these medical conditions and their relevant rating in accordance with the Impairment Tables. In doing so, the Tribunal received medical evidence from a range of medical specialist of different fields. Importantly, an impairment rating can only be assigned if the condition causing it is ‘permanent’. Subsection 6(4) of the Impairment Tables Determination states a medical condition is ‘permanent’ if it has been fully diagnosed, fully treated, fully stabilised and is more likely than not to persist for more than two years.

The Tribunal was not satisfied that the applicant’s mental health condition was fully treated and fully stabilised, and therefore no points were attributed for depression. The Tribunal was satisfied that the applicant’s bilateral knees osteoarthritis was ‘permanent’ and met the descriptors for five points in Table 3 – Lower Limb Function of the Impairment Tables Determination. The Tribunal was satisfied that the applicant’s spine and neck condition was ‘permanent’; however no points were attributed to this condition because there was no functional impact on activities involving spinal function in accordance with Table 4 – Spinal Function. The Tribunal was satisfied that the applicant’s benign prostatic hypertrophy was ‘permanent’ but no points were attributed to this condition because there was no functional impact on maintaining continence of the bladder and bowel under Table 13 – Continence Function. The Tribunal was not satisfied the applicant’s sleep apnoea was ‘permanent’ and therefore assigned no points for the condition.

The applicant did not meet the requirements of section 94(1)(b) of the Act during the claim period as his impairments were not rated at 20 points or more under the Impairment Tables.

Read the full written decision on Austlii.