Letters - Waiting for pay day...

AFTER reading Beverley Johnston’s story (YT Feb) I am writing on behalf of my partner of over 20 years. Garry started work at an early age (8 years) in the early ’50s, to help his mum when his father died. He is 76 this month.

He decided to retire last year and go on the pension. Garry worked for 10 years past retirement age after losing most of his super.  Kevin Rudd had introduced the pension bonus scheme as an incentive to keep people working. 

He registered for this bonus scheme as soon as he turned 65, and every year for 10 years we received a letter from Centrelink confirming that he was still registered, all we had to do was supply proof of earnings, which we did.

They still wanted all of this again and this bonus needed to be claimed within 13 weeks of retirement. 

So, as Beverley did, we thought if we went to Centrelink three weeks before he finished work with all the necessary paperwork, including a lot of extra information to claim the bonus, we could get a head start. Downhill from here.

We couldn’t finish off the claim, as Garry needed a separation certificate. We waited for the certificate and off we went again. We were told it could take up to eight weeks. On November 16, we went again with more documents. Eventually a young lady came and we tried to explain that we were trying to claim the pension, and the bonus to which he is entitled.

“Oh, the bonus is longer available,” she said. Yes. We know, but Garry is still registered for it and I had 10 years of paperwork to confirm it. We submitted more paperwork. After not hearing anything for over seven weeks, we went into Centrelink in early January. A young lady  told us our application had been rejected although she couldn’t work out why.  On January 22, we got a call from a lady asking for more information – all the information we had supplied in November. So that’s 75 days.

We went back to Centrelink again February 6, to see how it was going. Again we were told that there was a letter being sent. Again it was asking for details we had already given them.

When we arrived home frustrated, I sat and rang and rang until at last I spoke to a lady who confirmed everything, and said she couldn’t understand why it was happening.  What we can’t understand is how people get bogus claims through the system.  Finally, surprise, surprise, Garry had a phone call on February 12, advising his application had been approved. A letter is on the way but we won’t be convinced until it arrives.

The stress of this has taken its toll on a man who was in good health and looking forward to retirement.

Why are we, the older generation, having to cop this sort treatment? It makes us feel like criminals when we are only trying to claim something that this generation should be entitled too.

Finally, I agree with Beverley Johnston. I do believe they hope you will die first, so they don’t have to pay you.

Roslyn Wills

REGARDING age pension access, I applied on February 13, 2017 and was approved on April 24, 2017 - around 10 weeks, which is similar to what I was told when originally lodged. It was backdated to February 25 and I was not offered any financial assistance during the approval time. As I have my own funds, this was not a concern but without funds it would have been a major problem.

I attended the office in person and staff at all times were helpful. My original lodgement was checked on the spot and ATM printouts were rejected so I obtained statements and dropped them in the next day. No other problems were encountered. I did make contact after five weeks to check that it was progressing.

Regarding slow approval times, I note that one can lodge the application up to 13 weeks ahead of the actual availability date which negates to some degree the long approval time.

Col Hart

I ARRIVED in Australia from NZ in 2002, so I had to also apply for part-pension from NZ. Much like Beverley Johnston, I had several attempts at supplying paper work at our local Centrelink, only to be told they needed more paperwork, separation certificates and wife’s payslips, more than once.

Aged pensioners are encouraged to go online but a lot do not have access to a computer. My brother-in-law in Auckland turned 65 about the same time as me and laughed when I told him.

He had to ring up, get an appointment, and was given a list of documents he was required to present. After 40 minutes at the WINZ office, he had his pension.

Yes, they do have the universal pension in NZ, less paperwork, however they have a department within the system that deals with aged pension, and case managers. Now there’s a thought.

It took three months after I applied for the pension to receive any money.

Don’t rely on your federal MP or for that matter any MP. I dealt with a Senator who was sponsoring a bill for aged pension reform, but that ran out of steam, and after a while the communication dried up. I’m not so sure any MP is much worried about aged pensioners.

There needs to be a huge overhaul at Centrelink, and may I say it should start at the top. The Government should be thanking the aged for their service to the country and not treat us like a burden on the budget. Start treating the aged with more respect, we’ve earned it.

Russell Campbell

I RETIRED in April 2012 and received my first pension payment on May 8, so no complaints there. My problems related to two features mentioned in your article – the time it took to get through on the phone or at an office, and the conflicting information received.

In 2012, I travelled around Australia in my camper-trailer which was my only home. Initially, I was advised that I would receive rent assistance as I was paying to stay in caravan parks. In my first pension payment I received $120 rent assistance, in the next I received $8!

A phone call revealed that I should be filling in a form for a “temporary residence” rather than “permanent” as I had been previously advised. Next pension, I received no assistance at all!

Every time I rang Centrelink I was given different advice. I could be talking to offices in any part of Australia and there was absolutely no consistency. Often, the advice totally contradicted what I had heard previously.

The phone calls were a saga. Each time I needed to call Centrelink (and it was often) I went to a phone box armed with cushion, book and Sudoku and sat on the cement floor of the phone box for up to an hour waiting for a response.

If there was an office in the town it invariably took 30 minutes to an hour to be served. I realise my situation was a little unusual in that I was moving all the time but the time wasted and the contradictory advice received spoke of an organisation that was not organised!

Bruce Reid

I WAS happily on the aged pension from 2009 to May 2017. I then took a job in Mt Isa for six months finishing on November 17. I reapplied for the pension a week  later.  It is now February and still nothing.

As I had rented my home till July 2018, I am staying with my ex-husband for the interim. Consequently, I had questions I wanted to ask Centrelink. I have consistently been told I cannot ask clarifying questions of a person and must just put in the application online and they will let me know if I have it wrong! I have had to resubmit documents three times.  I have finally started asking for stamped copies to show when I have submitted them. My local member tried ringing the local Centrelink and got no further.

I am 73. I have been divorced for over 25 years – filling in “separated under one roof” forms which obviously relate to people in the family home just separating, seems pointless. My many questions now come down to one big question - is this death by starvation for seniors? What am I supposed to do for essentials like food, medication, health insurance?

Medications for my heart (I have a pacemaker) are now $38 instead of $6. Yes, if the pension finally is back-paid and if I keep receipts, I can get that paid but where do I get the money to start?

Susan Stephenson

IT WAS disappointing to see so many pages allocated to the process of gaining access to the age pension.

As stated in this article, the projected bill for age pensioners will rise to $52.3 billion within three years. Much of this will be from borrowed money.

Surely it would be more responsible to provide information on how to self-fund retirement and avoid the pension, rather than inadvertently encouraging seniors to jump on the gravy train. Our taxes paid during our working lives went to provide roads, hospitals, schools and other essential services. 

There was no guarantee of a pension for everyone after retirement.

The pension was meant to provide for the vulnerable and those who had been unable to take responsibility for their retirement through illness or other reasons beyond their control.

Desley Kassulke

I FOUND your article interesting and timely. I qualified for the age pension five years ago and it was a relatively smooth process in 2013, done by paper form and seeing a staff member who checked all the relevant documents at the counter.

Processing took a matter of weeks.

Now, my partner and I have moved together to Queensland. We completed and posted the required change of relationship status form last March. This change can’t be done online.

We heard nothing from Centrelink so entered the resulting changes of assets online months ago. We heard nothing until last month. Centrelink called to say  that they have noted the changes and that we will receive notification. We were abruptly cut off,  before it arrived.

Pharmaceutical scripts now cost more despite the fact that I will be eligible for the Commonwealth Health Seniors Card as it is assessed on income, not assets. I wonder how long this will take?

Cathy Hawes