Claiming a Disability Pension or Applying for an Increase in Pension

The information in this section relies heavily on Departmental booklets on the subjects, as issued from time to time

What is a Disability Pension?


A disability pension is paid to compensate veterans for injuries or diseases caused or aggravated by war service or certain defence service on behalf of Australia.

Can you claim?

You may be eligible for a disability pension if you suffer from an injury or disease that is a result of service:

  • in the Australian Defence Force during a time of conflict;
  • in the the Australian Merchant Navy during World War 2;
  • as a United Nations Peacekeeper representing Australia overseas;
  • in the Australian Defence Force whilst undertaking hazardous service overseas;
  • as one of certain civilians who assisted the Australian Defence Force in wartime; or
  • in the Australian Defence Force (after completion of 3 years qualifying period, unless medically discharged) from 7 December 1972 to 6 April 1994.   (If you enlisted before 22 May 1986 you can also claim for injuries or diseases resulting from service after 6 April 1994.)

You may also be entitled to a disability pension if you served with a Commonwealth or allied country and you lived in Australia immediately before you enlisted.

How to Claim

Obtain a claim form

See your local branch of the Vietnam Veterans' Association of Australia, or other bona fide ex-service organisation to obtain a form.  You may also telephone or write to the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and ask for a copy of the form Claim for Disability Pension and Medical Treatment and/or Application for Increase in Disability Pension to be sent to you.

Get help to complete the form

You should ask a pensions officer from your local branch of the VVAA or other ex-service organisation to assist you in completing the forms.  Ensure that this officer has been trained under the Training Information Program (TIP).  This assistance should be free.  At the very most there may be an administrative fee of $50, or you may be asked to join the organisation that is providing assistance.    If any of the following are familiar to you, you are strongly encouraged to change your pensions officer immediately!


You are probably NOT dealing with a someone genuinely representing a bona fide Ex-Service Organisation if you are:

  • guaranteed a successful outcome; and/or
  • required to pay a fee for service of any amount; and/or
  • required to pay an up-front fee in excess of $50 for administrative expenses; and/or
  • required to sign over a percentage of your initial payment (back pay) to the organisation or individual; and/or
  • strongly encouraged to donate a proportion of your back pay to the individual or organisation when the claim succeeds; and/or
  • encouraged to exaggerate the extent of your disability or make statements that are not true in relation to your injuries or disabilities; and/or
  • encouraged to make statements that are incomplete, or omit facts in relation to your injuries or claim; and/or
  • directed or encouraged to reveal more complete information at a later stage in the claims review (appeals) process, for any reason whatsoever.

What to include on the form if this is an initial claim

You must clearly state on the form:

  • the reasons why you think the disability is related to your service; and
  • your doctor's diagnosis of the conditions being claimed for and the time of onset of the conditions.

You need to get the medical diagnosis sections of Part 17 of the form completed for the conditions in the claim.

It is important that you lodge the form with the Department as soon as possible to obtain maximum benefits if your claim is successful.

What to include on the form if you are applying for an increase in pension

The form is the same form used for claiming new disabilities.  It is important to note that when making an application for increase, you will need to answer from question 20 onwards on the form.

You must clearly state on the form:

  • information about the treatment you have received for your accepted disabilities; and
  • the reasons why you believe that your accepted disabilities have worsened.

Complete a Lifestyle Rating options form

It will help the Department to process your claim if you also complete a Lifestyle Rating options form and submit it with your claim.  Your ex-Service organisation representative should assist you with this. This multi-coloured form provides you with three options for the assessment of the effect of your disabilities on your lifestyle.  Copies of the form are available from the Department or your representative.

How Claims are Processed

How long does it take?

Claim processing can take up to three months or longer, depending on the amount of detail included on the initial claim form, and the complexity of the case.

Why does it take so long?

The processing time is required to:

  • get documents about your service from the Department of Defence if you have never claimed before;
  • conduct further medical examinations if necessary; and
  • allow the Department to gather further information from you about your medical and personal histories if necessary.

What further medical information is required?

It may be necessary to obtain further medical information to help make a decision on your claim. This may involve an examination by you GP, specialist or a Departmental doctor.

The Department will arrange any such appointments at no cost to you.   If you need to travel or stay away from home for the examination, the Department will assist you with the cost of travel and accommodation.

Other information that may be required

The Department may also ask you for more information about:

  • your service background;
  • employment and financial information;
  • details of injuries or accidents; and/or
  • other personal details relating to your claim.

The Basis for Decisions

What is the decision based on?

The decision on whether your disabilities are service-related is based on medical and scientific evidence.  This information is detailed in the Repatriation Medical Authority's Statements of Principles.  These should be shown to you and explained by your ex-Service representative.

What about 'unusual' conditions?

If your claim is for a condition not included in the Statements of Principles, it will be determined on the basis of the best scientific and medical evidence available.

How the Department will inform you

Whether your claim is successful or not, you will be given written reasons for the decision as well as information that explains the decision.

Your successful claim may entitle you to be paid a disability pension, or a higher rate of disability pension if you already have accepted disabilities.

Appeals Against Decisions

You can request the Department to review the decision

If you want to appeal, you should write to the Department and request a review of the decision.  Your ex-Service representative can assist you with this and may counsel you about the likely success of such an appeal.  State in your letter that you want a review by the Veterans' Review Board (VRB). The VRB has offices in each capital city.

If you decide to appeal the decision it is in your interest to send a letter as early as possiblye after receiving your decision as time limits apply.   These limits are mentioned in the decision.
The Repatriation Commission may intervene and conduct a review under Section 31 of the Veterans' Entitlement Act.  If this results in a decision that you are happy with, the appeal need go no further.

If you are not happy with the result of the Commission's review, or the Commission is unable to intervene, then the VRB will review the first Commission decision about your pension claim.

If you are unsatisfied with the Veterans' Review Board decision

If you are dissatisfied with the VRB review, you may then appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).  It is in your interest to lodge the appeal immediately following the VRB review as time limits apply. The VRB will inform you of the time limits.

Information about your rights to appeal

Information on your rights of appeal will be given to you with the advice on the decision.


Pension Rates

Categories of disability pension

There are four categories of disability pension:

  • General Rate - paid in increments of 10% up to 100%;
  • Extreme Disablement Adjustment - for over 65 years of age only;
  • Intermediate Rate; and
  • Special Rate - also known as Totally and Permanently Incapacitated or TPI.

How much per category?

The grounds on which these pensions rates are paid are complex but generally the greater the incapacity you suffer, the more pension you receive.

The Intermediate Rate and Special Rate may be payable if your ability to work is affected by your accepted disabilities alone, and you incapacity reaches a certain level.  In some cases, the Special Rate is granted temporarily. In these cases, it is known as the the Totally and Temporarily Incapacitated (TTI) Rate.

You can obtain a current Disability Pension Rate Chart by contacting your nearest office of the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Other allowances you can claim

Supplementary benefits are available to certain veterans who suffer from accepted disablities.  These benefits include allowances for specific purposes, assistance with the education of children, and assistance in purchasing and maintaining a motor vehicle.  Details of these benefits, who is entitled to them and how to claim them are available from the Department, or your ex-Service representative.

What Affects Your Pension

The basis for the amount

How much disability pension you are paid is based on the degree of incapacity you suffer from your accepted disabilities and the effects of those disabilities on your lifestyle.

The factors are decided by using the Guide to the Assessment of Rates of Veterans' Pensions (GARP).

Where you have been in paid employment and your accepted disabilities alone are preventing you from continuing to work, you may be eligible to be paid at the Intermediate Rate or Special Rate of pension.

Payments for the same disabilities

Your disability pension will be affected by any payments you are claiming or already receiving from other organisations for the same disabilities.

If you are receiving such payments, you must say so on your claim form.

These other payments are usually related to compensation from the Department of Defence, from another country, worker's compensation or damages awarded by a court.

Defence Forces Retirement and Death Benefits

Defence Forces Retirement and Death Benefits (DFRDB) payments will not affect your disability pension.

Payments, Indexation and Taxation

How are pensions paid?

Disability pensions are paid fortnightly to an Australian bank, building society or credit union account nominated on your claim form.  You can change this account at any time by notifying the Department in writing.

Are disability pensions indexed?

Disability pension rates are indexed twice yearly in line with changes to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  Any increases from indexation are paid automatically, you do not need to contact the Department.

Are disability pensions taxed?

Disability pensions are not taxed.  You do not need to declare it as income in your tax return.  If you receive a disability pension only from the Department of Veterans' Affairs, a group certificate will not be issued.

Your Pension and Other Benefits

Service pensions

Your disability pension is not regarded as income when assessing your service pension entitlements.

Rent assistance

Your disability pension is regarded as income when assessing your eligibility for rent assistance.
If you are granted a disability pension, or your rate of disability pension is increased, your rent assistance may be reduced.

Age or invalidity pensions

Centrelink treats your disability pension as income when assessing entitlement to the age or disability support pension.  This also applies to age pensions paid by the Department of Veterans' Affairs on behalf of Centrelink.

Health Care Benefits

Health care and medical treatment

If you have disabilities accepted as being service-related, you will be issued with a health care card. The card you are issued will depend on a number of factors:

  • whether you already have a health care card;
  • the level of disability pension you are granted; and
  • whether you satisfy alternative qualifying conditions for a health care card.

Types of health cards

The Department issues two types of health care cards:

  • White Repatriation Health Card for specific conditions; or
  • Gold Repatriation Health Card for all conditions.

Information about health care

Details about your entitlement to health care will be provided with the letter advising you of the decision on your claim.

Information is available from the Department about the range of health care and treatment provided by the Department, and how to qualify for it.


Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act gives you the right to see any documents held on your file, or which have been used to make a decision on your claim.  You can arrange to see your file or other documents by contacting the nearest office of the Department.


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