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COTA

What you can do if Centrelink changes your pension income and you don’t know why.

A number of people have come to COTA SA over the past year concerned that Centrelink has reduced their pension payments and asking what they can do about it.

There are a number of reasons why Centrelink could reduce your pension income including changes to age pension asset limits and the taper rate, which is the rate by which your pension reduces for every $1,000 of assets over the limit that Centrelink believes you hold.

If you believe that Centrelink is not calculating your assets correctly you can request a review. It is important to note that a review is not the same as making a complaint.

Centrelink says that your first step should be to contact them - by phone or in person - to ask for an explanation about why your pension has changed and to present any new information. They say this can resolve the problem quickly without having to go to a formal review. However, experience tells us that often this involves either waiting on the telephone for a very long time before you can talk to anyone or going to a Centrelink office in person and finding that all they can do is refer you to another phone line.

As an alternative, you can request a formal review in writing. A review means that Centrelink will have to provide evidence about the level of assets it is assessing when determining your pension payment and explain any changes. The review officer who conducts the review is empowered to correct any changes made to your pension if they are found to be wrong.

The form and explanatory information provided by the Department of Human Services can be downloaded from this link:
https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/forms/ss351

Once you have completed the form you should send it with a covering letter saying that you are requesting a review to:

Centrelink
Reply Paid 7800
Canberra BC ACT 2610

If Centrelink determines that your assets have been assessed incorrectly, you may be eligible for back pay. But it is important to act quickly if you feel that Centrelink have reduced your payments without justification because if you are entitled to any back payment it may only be payable from the date you applied for the review.

If you need assistance to request a review or to challenge a Centrelink decision you can contact:

  • Legal Services Commission on 1300 366 424 or visit www.lsc.sa.gov.au
  • Welfare Rights Centre on 8223 1338 or visit www.wrcsa.org.au

 

And what can you do if you consider the response from Centrelink is inadequate?

You can make a complaint to the Commonwealth Ombudsman which is the office handling complaints about Commonwealth Government services. You can make your complaint by:

Phone 1300 362 072

Post Commonwealth Ombudsman
GPO Box 442
Canberra ACT 2601

Or by using the on line form:
https://forms.business.gov.au/smartforms/servlet/SmartForm.html?formCode=oco-complaint-form