You may recall our article in December which shared tips from Steven Sadler? We asked him what works best when dealing with Centrelink and he responded with some really useful insights into how to progress your Centrelink interactions, including the best time of day to call. Because this article was published on Boxing Day, we realise that not everyone will have seen the extensive Q&A discussions it evoked. So today we are featuring a roundup of some of the most common questions you have asked us about Centrelink and what Steven had to say in response.

And at the very end we share Glenn’s heartfelt comment on the Centrelink system – he’s got a bit to say on the subject.

Mario is interested in a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC)

Q. Hi I have two houses, $1 million in super (combined). Would I be entitled to a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card when I’m 67?
A. Steven says…

Hi Mario, thanks for kicking off the comments. There is no asset test for the CSHC so it will depend on how much income you are receiving from your second house and any other sources. The best way to check your eligibility is with our free online calculator which you can find HERE.

Q. Does Centrelink accept a screenshot of transactions? Your commentary suggests it doesn’t?

A. Steven says…

Hi Patrick, thanks for your query. Generally speaking, the answer is ‘no’. Centrelink would not accept a transaction history on its own. It is best to provide a formal statement whenever possible.

Carla is selling her home…

Q. What are the Centrelink ramifications for a full age Pensioner when selling her home? How long can she wait with the proceeds of home sales before having to use these funds to purchase another home. Are there penalties for having the liquid funds for any period of time? I have heard so many conflicting stories from acquaintances about this! My home is on the market and I would like to purchase another after this one sells. Thank you.

A. Steven says…

Hi Carla, thank you for seeking our help! When you sell your home, you will then need to update Centrelink on your new living situation (renting, living with family etc.) and address whilst you look for your new home. At that time they will also ask for a copy of the settlement certificate and a bank statement to confirm how much the house sold for and where the money is currently sitting (to ensure you haven’t invested some of it elsewhere in a new asset). The exemption allowed to build/buy/renovate your new home lasts 24 months. HOWEVER it is not necessarily applied to the full amount you received from selling as it is only applied the portion that you intend to use for the new home. So if you sell for $1million and plan to spend $800,000 on the new home, the exemption only applies to the $800,000.

(Editor’s note: You may wish to learn more about the downsizer contribution and ways to top up super if you do have a surplus from the sale of a property)

Maria is unsure which pension she can apply for…

Hi, I am about to retire at the end of the month, but I am a little confused, I have been declared legally blind and told I should go onto the Disability Pension, and then others say I should go onto the Age Pension. I have contacted Centrelink who were no help at all.

A. Steven says…

Hi Maria, thank you for seeking further support! You will receive the same payment amount regardless of which pension you are on. The main point of difference is that while the Disability Pension has ongoing medical review requirements, the Age Pension does not. Disability Pension recipients may be eligible for a Pensioner Education Supplement and Education Entry Payment whereas this is not available with the Age Pension. Both Disability and Age Pension recipients may receive a Mobility Allowance.

Jeremy is moving money around…

Hi Retirement Essentials,

In the near future I plan to submit to Centrelink a Claim for Age Pension form (SA 002) and also an Income and Assets form (SA369). I will do this online. My situation is relatively straight forward and I am confident of my eligibility for a part Age Pension.
I also wish to carry out a superannuation Re-Contribution strategy, in order to overcome an adverse Death Benefit taxation liability which will inevitably occur. I feel confident of carrying this out myself and I am satisfied that the great number of rules and recommendations surrounding such a thing have been well considered.

However, I can see a potential problem.

As you know, such a strategy requires moving finances backward and forward and, because the ‘machine’ can be slow, it can take some time. If my ‘Re-Contributing’ is carried out after submitting my financial information to Centrelink, then during the period of processing my claim, there will be a discrepancy between the financial information I originally submitted to Centrelink and the financial information that exits in reality as it changes. Therefore, bank balances won’t match, super balances won’t match and maybe some account numbers won’t match either.

Centrelink tells me that I can ‘Upload Documents’ in order to keep them informed of my changing financial status, of which there will be quite numerous instances. I have no idea about how the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the claim processing is carried out, but I do fear that the whole thing will turn into a complete shemozzle – Centrelink confused and scratching their heads, me waiting with no pension.

Provided that the documentation is all as required, correct and properly uploaded, in your experience, what is the likelihood of the ‘Uploaded Documents’ finding their way to the correct place, for Centrelink staff to become aware of and understanding any changes, and for my claim to be processed smoothly? Can you offer any tips as to avoid any pitfalls I might encounter? Thank you.

A. Steven says…

Hi Jeremy, thanks for seeking further clarity! You are right to be cautious, we have indeed seen scenarios such as yours go pear-shaped. In theory, you can make these changes whilst your claim is being assessed and so long as you provide the necessary documents to evidence the changes as they happen then Centrelink can – and should – action them accordingly. Having said that, our recommendation is to either process the changes before applying or once approved.

If you do it prior to applying then all Centrelink has to worry about is your current situation and you will obviously have all of the documents on hand because it has only just happened so you save doubling up supplying one set of supporting evidence just to come back and update them. If you do it post-approval then the documentation required is the same, but from Centrelink’s perspective they now only have to worry about making the updated changes for you. From our experience asking Centrelink to work on your claim and then make changes at the same time is fraught with danger and best to be avoided if possible. It can be done though.

Angela is unsure when she’ll be eligible…

I was born in 1957, so when can I apply for the Disability Pension or the Age Pension?
At the moment I’m on Newstart (now called JobSeeker), after working all my life until 2008, when I started having health issues. Can you let me know where I stand please? Thanking you in advance.

A. Steven says…

Hi Angela, you will be eligible for the Age Pension when you turn 67, so if you were born in 1957, then you will be eligible this year.

And then there’s Glenn, who just wanted to let off some steam!!! 

Comment: Why is there not a national uproar about how complex Centrelink is in regards to the Age Pension and its unreasonable time frames in getting back to people?
Where is the lobbying on this issue?
It’s good that Retirement Essentials exists and is here to help us.
But many people my age (68 years old) were told to work for 50 years, be a productive member of society and you can retire at 65 years old (now 67) and get an Age Pension.
Yes, super came along halfway through our working lives, but it has many disadvantages as society is finding out. It’s a feeder institution for multi-nationals to make profit.
We should be like New Zealand or England where you turn pension age and are told,
‘Congratulations enjoy your twilight years (because) you have paid millions in tax’.
The Australian Age Pension was sold to us as a rite of passage. But the government has now made it a complex quagmire and treats elderly people as second class citizens.
Thanks Retirement Essentials for the updates on simplifying the complexity of the government and its changing goal posts.

Need to learn more about your own Age Pension entitlements? Start by checking your likely eligibility using the free Age Pension Eligibility Calculator. And if you need to check further detail, then a Maximising Your Entitlements consultation will help you understand the rules you need to know.

What say you?
Do you think Glenn has a point?
Or is this a bit harsh?
How has your experience of Services Australia and its agency, Centrelink gone? We’d love to hear more about your own ‘Age Pension’ journey.