Dealing with Centrelink is a saga for some people. My tips on how to stay sane while getting what you’re entitled to. Contact me for more information. Originally published on ProAdviser.com – Melinda
Have you ever had to deal with Centrelink? For yourself, or a family member?
I once had a client tell me she would pay me $10,000 if she never had to go to Centrelink again. Considering she was on an Age Pension, this is quite a statement. Luckily it doesn’t cost that much for this assistance, however it shows you just how difficult it can be.
One of the tasks we assist our clients with regularly is helping to lodge applications and correspond with Centrelink for benefits and pensions. Our clients really appreciate assistance in helping to understand the systems and processes, and most importantly maximising the benefits that you are entitled to.
Overview of Centrelink
Centrelink offer a range of payments to assist you in a number of circumstances including if you have children, are disabled or sick, are studying or you have retired. Benefits are provided in a variety of ways such as pensions, allowances, concessions and other services. The most common Centrelink benefits are:
- The Age Pension
- Family Tax Benefit
- Newstart Allowance
- Disability Support Pension
- Carer Payment and Carer Allowance
There are generally three main tests you need to meet before you will receive a payment:
- Residency requirements
- An Assets Test, and
- An Income Test
For some payments you will need to meet additional requirements in relation to your age, health or employment situation.
How do you organise payment?
Claims will generally need to be lodged with Centrelink either online or on paper. Suitable identification must be provided. However these are the relatively simple aspects.
There are hints and tips that can help you to move more smoothly through the system and keep up with the rules. In a similar way to an Accountant dealing with the Australian Taxation Office on your behalf; keeping you up to date minimising your tax; many Financial Planners will deal with Centrelink on your behalf and utilise strategies to legally increase your benefits.
Keeping up to date with the current rules and options, updating changes to your financial position and navigating the processes are invaluable to your peace of mind and financial well-being. However these strategies can also add thousands of dollars each year to some people’s benefit entitlements.
Another area of risk is to ensure you are not overpaid and have to make repayments to Centrelink, and checking that Centrelink have entered your data correctly and you are not losing benefits due to simple administrative errors.
Case Study 1
A client receiving an Age Pension updated Centrelink when he undertook two weeks of paid casual work. Centrelink did not record that the work was of a short duration, and reduced his Age Pension payments for over 12 months. Upon assessing his entitlement, we realised he was being underpaid and corrected the data.
As the amount his payment was reduced by was a relatively low amount of $38 per fortnight and he was a part Age Pensioner; he did not realise he was being underpaid. However over a year, this amounted to $988. He could have been underpaid for many years and this could have added up to tens of thousands of dollars.
Case Study 2
A client who gave up work to care for her elderly mother-in-law reported her husband’s income earnings to Centrelink when she applied for a Carer Payment. When updating his income some time later, she discovered that they had not included his income in their calculations and had been overpaying her for 8 months.
Centrelink demanded she repay the overpaid amounts which amounted to over $4,000. Centrelink admitted their error, but told her she still needed to make the repayment. With our assistance she successfully appealed the decision via the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and had the debt waived due to Centrelink’s administrative error.
Case Study 3
A client tragically lost her husband to Cancer. Whilst he was ill she had given up her job to care for him, and was receiving a Carer Payment and Carer’s Allowance from Centrelink. Once he passed away, she was unable to cope with the paperwork and new applications required to assist her to maintain some income whilst she was in mourning and coming to terms with her changed life. We were able to assist her with the paperwork to reduce her stress levels and let her focus on other matters.
Many Full or Part Pensioners are able to improve their benefits via appropriate asset structuring. The rules are constantly changing and it is important that you maximise your benefit entitlements to ensure your funds last so you can maintain your quality of life.