Overseas pensioners must show ‘proof of life’

Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher believes pensions for as many as 6000 dead people are being paid overseas. Photo by Peter Braig

Government to require ‘proof of life’ for pension recipients living overseas

By Tom McIlroy    13 December 2018   Australian Financial Review

Australian age pension recipients living overseas will be required to prove they are still alive every two years, part of a bid to end welfare payments for people who have died abroad.

Of the 96,000 pension payments going to Australians living overseas, the Coalition estimates some 6000 are being paid to the families of dead people.

The crackdown will see pensioners over 80 and living abroad required to provide a “proof of life” certificate every two years.

Families and Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher said data on the annual death rate of Australians aged over 80 and living on a pension overseas is about half that of pensioners of the same age living in Australia.

“The most likely explanation is that many Australians who were living overseas on a pension have died, but that has not been made known to the government and we are continuing to pay their pension,” he said.

“In some cases it could be fraud. In others, it could be that the former Australian pensioner’s family incorrectly think that they remain entitled to receive the pension formerly paid to their loved one.

“Whatever the reason, we have a duty to taxpayers to make sure the Australian government is not paying pensions to people who are no longer alive.”

The crackdown, to be announced on Thursday, is expected to save about $200 million for the federal budget over four years.

The new rules, administered by the Department of Human Services, will come into force from July 1, 2019.

Similar rules are applied by the United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, France and Italy.

The Coalition has spent years lashing Labor over global financial crisis stimulus cheques sent by the Rudd Government, including thousands sent to Australians living overseas.

As much as $40 million worth of $900 stimulus payments went to 25,000 Australians living overseas, with Tax Office estimates suggesting payments went to about 16,000 dead people.

Mr Fletcher said voluntary reporting of deaths was no longer a sufficient control mechanism for pension payments.

“Unlike the Labor Party, which sent economic stimulus cheques to deceased people during the GFC, our Liberal National government will always treat taxpayers’ money with respect and work hard to keep our welfare system fair and sustainable,” he said.

Affected pensioners living overseas will receive an initial letter with further information from the federal government in the second half of next year.

Original article here

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