Keyboard slip costs couple $20,000 in pension payments

A couple has been denied more than $20,000 in Age Pension payments after Centrelink made a data entry error, and the money is unlikely to be paid back.

Colin Williams told Perth radio station 6PR that the error was made in 2016 when he and his wife Rhonda were asked to provide information relating to an investment property.

Services Australia overvalued the asset by $70,000, which reduced their pension by more than should have been the case.

Read: Calls for early access to the Age Pension

“Instead of being $74,000 owing on the property, Centrelink entered it as $4000,” Mr Williams told radio host Steve Mills.

“So that’s about four-and-a-half years’ worth of unpaid pension to us.

“When it was picked up by one of the Centrelink officers, he looked at it and thought s***, we’ve got this wrong, and you should appeal against that, which we did.”

Read: Ten reasons wealthy homeowners shouldn’t get welfare

Mr Williams said that the Centrelink officer he spoke to encouraged him to appeal the decision, which he did, but they were still denied any compensation because they needed to notify the department within 13 weeks of the mistake being made.

Centrelink guidelines do explain that any request for a review of a decision should be made within 13 weeks of the decision being made.

You are still able to apply for a review of a decision 13 weeks after it is made, but if the decision is changed, you may only get your entitlement from the date you request the review.

Read: How your superannuation affects the Age Pension

“We thought we had given the information to them, and that was that, and then they would take that information and adjust the pensions or whatever,” Mr Williams said.

“So, there was no need for us to be going in and checking their work, but as it turns out we should have checked it out, because it’s a major error.

“When it’s around the $20,000 mark … it’s worth fighting for.”

Listen to the interview with Mr Williams here:

Centrelink has been embarrassed by a number of cases that have gone public in recent months.

Services Australia came under pressure after a report that Centrelink was chasing a decades-old debt from a 72-year-old woman who had passed away.

Services Australia later confirmed that the letters were sent in error.

In August, federal MP Tony Burke revealed in parliament the plight of 102-year-old Annie Hawkins from western Sydney, who had received notices from Centrelink threatening the withdrawal of her Age Pension if she did not provide identity documents in person. At the time, Sydney was under strict lockdown conditions due to the pandemic.

Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen later apologised for the situation.

Do you think Centrelink should pay the full amount back in this case? Do you think you would have noticed this mistake? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben Hocking

Ben Hocking is a skilled writer and editor with interests and expertise in politics, government, Centrelink, finance, health, retirement income, superannuation, Wordle and sports.

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