Continual legislative changes by the Federal Government to the Aged Pension and other family benefits is resulting in a growing number of Australians requiring direct access to the relevant agency service.
However, with new legislative changes that will impact up to 300,000 self-funded retirees after 1 January 2017, the government’s poorly designed policy measures will ultimately see an even greater number of retirees become reliant on the Federal Aged Pension.
Despite claims made to the contrary in the May 2015 Federal Budget, the drift to ever bigger and broke government continues.
In anticipation of the coming deluge of inquiries, the Department of Human Services has introduced more online options to communicate with Centrelink.
For example, if benefit recipients are currently receiving an eligible income support payment, they will be able to simply transfer to the Age Pension without needing to complete the full claim form.
How does the Online system work?
Within nine weeks of Age Pension eligibility, they will receive a letter from the Department, either in the mail or online, if registered.
The letter will include an invitation to apply for a transfer to the Age Pension online.
This should be a simpler process than having to initiate a new paper-based claim from scratch.
If the recipient is already over 65 years of age before this new process was introduced, and they are eligible for the Age Pension, they can still complete the transfer online.
To check if they are eligible, log onto humanservices.gov.au/agepension
The eligible income support payments include Austudy, Carer Payment, Disablity Support Pension, Newstart Allowance, Parenting Payment, Partner and Sickness Allowance, Special Benefit, Widow Allowance, Widow B Pension and Wife Pension.
To take advantage of the new process, it is necessary to be registered for a Centrelink online account via myGov at my.gov.au.
Where a family member receives the Age Pension, and plans to travel overseas, they may need to find out if their travel will affect their entitlements.
Human Services has simplified the process, so that pensioners can now notify the department of their overseas travel using their Centrelink online account through myGov, avoiding the inconvenience of having to visit a service centre.
Pensioners can add, view, and update overseas travel details at the website and by answering a few simple questions, information is tailored to their circumstances about how travelling outside of Australia may affect their payment.
The site will also recommend action that they should take before departure.
There are some exceptions, including if a pensioner is paid under the terms of a social security agreement with another country or has returned to Australia within the last two years after having lived overseas and became a recipient of the Age Pension during this period.
Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders can travel overseas for up to 19 weeks before their card is cancelled.
App bug caution
As part of the new online solution, Human Services has also developed 12 applications for smartphones.
The apps are so bad they are getting claimants kicked off benefits, according to complaining users.
But Human Services defended its apps saying 3.7 million versions had been downloaded and they had been used to process over 36 million Centrelink and Medicare transactions.
The department says the apps are the first of their kind in the world and, despite criticism, were constantly being improved.
So for pensioners planning to use the online solutions while overseas, it is probably a good idea to give the system a good trial run before heading off.
For more information about overseas travel and the obligation to notify the Dept. of Human Services, visit humanservices.gov.au/paymentsoverseas or humanservices.gov.au/olderaustralians to learn about services available for seniors.