Hugh McDine’s pension application was delayed six months. Picture: Evan Morgan
Hugh McDine’s pension application was delayed six months. Picture: Evan Morgan

Age pension applicants in revolt

FRUSTRATED older Australians say they are "barely living" as they wait months to receive the age pension because the Human Services Department does not have enough staff to process a flood of applications.

The Morrison Government is facing a grey-haired revolt as seniors reveal they have been forced to cut back on groceries and living expenses because they banked on Centrelink ticking-off on their age pension on time.

Many have revealed horror Groundhog Day scenarios of Centrelink losing their paperwork requiring applicants to resubmit them, then after months of waiting, being told they needed to provide further proof of their finances.

The Department has admitted it has failed to properly plan for eligibility changes that were announced in 2009.

It has urged would-be aged pensioners to lodge their claim up to 13 weeks before they reach the age of eligibility of 65 years and six months, but it has not eased the backlog.

It says the average time to process claims was 49 days, which is infuriating older Australians who say they have been waiting months and living off credit cards or dwindling savings. The Coalition generally views older Australians as "their base".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Kym Smith
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Kym Smith

 

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he wanted to maintain "dignity for older Australians" but many complain the age pension application is too complex, too driven to online services and Centrelink too understaffed.

Ipswich's Lyal Turvey, 65, submitted his application in June and is still waiting - four months later.

The retired Air Force sergeant said be believed Centrelink had the wrong information about his wife's super - which wrongly assumes it is in his name - but if he withdrew the application he'd have to go back to the start of queue.

"That can't be right. This is bulls---t," Mr Turvey said.

"We're eating a lot of mince at the moment. Our living standard is not what it what before."

Hugh McDine, 66, who lives on Magnetic Island, said when he submitted his pension application on February 17 he was told it should be processed by April 7.

He finally received his entitled in August - six months later.

"(Centrelink staff) too seemed to be frustrated with the lack of resources available to them."

Every two years, the eligibility for the age pension increases six months.

Human Services Department Secretary Renee Leon told a Senate Estimates hearing last week that, "there is … a back-up of demand of all people who would have in the normal course of events been able to lodge in July, they're all kicked over to lodge in January.

"So we get a spike of people and this will happen every two years, we'll now have to adjust our models about how we plan and staff for the workload … (because it is) not quite working for age pension when we get that six-month delay."

Labor’s Human Services spokesman Ed Husic. Picture: Gary Ramage
Labor’s Human Services spokesman Ed Husic. Picture: Gary Ramage

 

Labor's Human Services spokesman Ed Husic said older Australians were feeling the pinch from Government age pension stuff-ups.

"(They) admitted they were understaffed and unprepared for so many age pension applications, which caused a backlog. What a shabby cop out.

"They have the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a Census, various intergenerational reports and funded themselves to better predict demographic movements - claiming they weren't prepared for so many pension applications is weak.

"Scott Morrison talks a big game about maintaining the dignity of older Australians but he owes older Australians a massive apology for his government's stuff up."

Member for Oxley Milton Dick blamed Coalition infighting, saying older Australians were paying the price for their dysfunction.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) and Minister for Human Services Michael Keenan. Picture: AAP/Joel Carrett
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) and Minister for Human Services Michael Keenan. Picture: AAP/Joel Carrett

 

Human Services Minister Michael Keenan said he instructed his Department in July to set up a taskforce to ensure pension applications were processed quickly.

"As part of that taskforce, more than 100 extra staff were moved on to claim processing and I am pleased to say they are making good progress,'' Mr Keenan said.

"In the past week alone, more than 4300 pension claims were finalised - a 70 per cent increase on the same time last year.

"It really is rich for Ed Husic to claim that we don't support pensioners when Labor are the ones planning to pick the pockets of older Australians with their big, fat tax on retirement incomes."

CASE STUDIES

 

Hugh McDine of Magnetic Island had to wait six months for his pension to come through. Picture: Evan Morgan
Hugh McDine of Magnetic Island had to wait six months for his pension to come through. Picture: Evan Morgan

 

HUGH MCDINE, 66, MAGNETIC ISLAND

● Submitted the age pension claim online with the requested documents on February 17. The estimated date of completion was April 7.

● On July 15, he contacted the office of Federal MP for Herbert Cathy O'Toole about the delay and was told there were others facing the
same circumstances.

● On July 25, Centrelink asked him to submit more documents.

● One document related to a property the McDines had sold more than five years earlier, which Centrelink believed they still owned. Mr McDine started receiving the pension in August.

 

Lyal Turvey of Ipswich is still waiting for his pension application to go through. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning
Lyal Turvey of Ipswich is still waiting for his pension application to go through. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning

 

LYAL TURVEY, 65, IPSWICH

● Submitted his age pension application on June 29, but is yet to receive the entitlement, more than three months later.

● The former air force sergeant attended the Ipswich Centrelink office at least five times.

● He has waited more than an hour on hold to speak to a Centrelink staff member only to have his calls cut out, losing all his information.

● He has not been told if, or when, he will get the pension.