27th Aug 2013
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Owing Centrelink money
Owing Centrelink money

Ebe has just been advised by Centrelink that he and his wife both owe $15,000 each in overpayments and don’t know what to do. Is there anyone who can help?

Q. Ebe
When I retired I presented to the local Centrelink all my tax and financial information. I have been receiving my Age Pension for over five years and I have just received a letter advising me that my wife and I both owe $15,000 each and don’t know what to do.

A. I can only imagine how shocked you are, that’s a lot of money to owe. Firstly, it’s important not to panic or to ignore the letter.

I’m not sure how much detail you have been given as to how the amount you owe was calculated, but you need to ascertain this information from Centrelink. Also, although it is over five years since you made your claim for the Age Pension, but if you have the information you submitted at the time, this will be useful.

You will need to contact Centrelink and ask to make an appointment with a Centrelink Financial Information Services officer to discuss your case. You can do this by calling 13 2300. If you’re uncertain about dealing with Centrelink, or understanding what you may be told, you can take someone with you, such as a family member or friend, who may be able to take notes.

If you are unhappy with the outcome of the meeting, you can ask for your case to be reviewed. This has several steps, which can include the Social Security Appeal Tribunal (SSAT) and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). Find out more about the review process.

If a resolution is still not possible, then you can contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman and ask for your compliant to be considered. Ombudsman.gov.au.

Should you require legal advice, you can visit a your local community legal centre where you can obtain advice free of charge. Find out more about free legal advice which may be available.





    COMMENTS

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    evilmonk
    27th Aug 2013
    10:26am
    First up - don't assume that they are correct.

    Next - If they are, don't assume that the error was yours. Centrelink makes mistakes all the time. They could have miscalculated, they could have entered the information incorrectly when it was given to them. If they are in error, you may not owe as much as you think - or indeed anything at all.

    Ask for an Authorised Review Officer to review your case. Then, if you are not happy with the result - or anyway as it is such a large amount - go to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.

    For the two of you to supposedly owe this amount of money, someone stuffed up somewhere, and if you provided all information required and asked for by Centrelink, it may well be them.

    Also, and this is important. If at the end you still owe them money, you do not have to pay back more than you can afford to. They can't leave you without money to pay rent, mortgage, basic bills and food. Enter a payment arrangement that is affordable and which will be, almost certainly, less then they want you to pay on a fortnightly basis.

    Fight this. Please. They are not infallible, and if they are coming up with you owing this amount of money you must have been overpaid for quite some time - why wasn't it picked up earlier? Stand up for yourself.
    neverquit
    27th Aug 2013
    3:14pm
    I fully agree with the above, a friend a had phone call
    first thing in the morning, it nearly put her in hospitial. Centerlink said it was because she did not own up to the UK increases of 10.00 pounds a month!!! for the last 15 years for heavens sake she 80 + She thought it was the currency movement. Centerlink would not back pay you 15 years!!
    You fight it and get Centerlink accountable !
    My daughter sent a email to Current Affair but there was not enough noise made and nothing came about it.
    Andy
    27th Aug 2013
    3:50pm
    evilmonk has good advice, as far as your case goes. I myself am sure I am beening underpaid,(there beening a big hole in wage earning and rent of house,) left open by all goverments, for purpose of rip off pensioners. I tried all aveniues as mensioned by evilmonk, and found them to seem to be name only.I been to top and back, only to be told, its the law forget it, we have all corners covered.( in other words take it, and forget it) Hope one day this become an election issue.
    Janpeter
    27th Aug 2013
    8:00pm
    Please do not make an appointment with a Fis Officer regarding this matter. Explaining debts and appeal,options are not what Fis do. Your letter will have a contact number to ring to discuss this debt. Ring that number, get a full explanation of the debt. Ask for a copy of the relevant Guide to the SSAct that explains the law in your situation. Then tell that person you wish to appeal the debt, appeal straight to an ARO - authorized review officer, then contact Welfare Rights in your state and ask them for assistance. Evimonk also has some good information for you. Yes, Centrelink can & does make errors, You also need to ensure you inform them of certain things as your circs change, check your own records and make sure you have done that.
    Nightshade
    27th Aug 2013
    11:27pm
    LAWYER UP - IT WAS THEIR FAULT
    GET AN INDEPENDENT ACCOUNTANT TO GO OVER THE FIGURES THEY ARE NOT VERY BRIGHT YOU KNOW
    WHEN WE DID ANYONE INCLUDING THE GOVERNMENT GET THE IDEA THAT THE LAWS OF THIS LAND DO NOT APPLY TO ALL EQUALLY.
    ALL EQUALLY
    THERE ARE NO EXEMPTIONS WHEN IT COMES TO THE LAW.
    NONE.
    Nightshade
    28th Aug 2013
    12:03am
    VERY SERIOUS QUESTIONS NEEDS TO BE ASKED HERE.

    ;- HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT ANYONE IS BEING OVERPAID.
    ;- HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE BEING OVERPAID.
    ;- HOW MUCH OF THIS OVERPAYMENT IS BEING DISCOVERED.
    ;- MILLIONS PER ANNUM
    ;- BILLIONS PER ANNUM
    ;- IS THIS AS A RESULT OF HUMAN ERROR
    ;- IS THIS A RESULT OF TECHNOLOGICAL ERROR
    ;- HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON FOR
    ;- A LONG TIME
    ;- WHY HAS NO ONE DONE ANYTHING TO CORRECT THIS PROBLEM
    ;- WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THE MONIES DOLED OUT BY CENTRELINK
    ;- OR MAYBE THE QUESTION SHOULD BE
    ;- IS ANY ONE IN CHARGE OF THE MONIES OF THE MONIES AT CENTRELINK
    ;- IS IT A FREE FOR ALL & WHO CARES
    shele
    28th Aug 2013
    9:01am
    My husband and I were overpaid years ago when he was out of work and we also received family supplement. It still was not enough with three children and we had no knowledge that we were being overpaid. It was not a huge amount but we had to repay and it affected our budget terribly. Then other times we did not realise that we could have received benefits and missed out when brought up with Centrelink we were informed that benefits could not be backdated!!Very confusing. Surely, it is their mistake and $15,000 is a lot to repay. You have my commiserations. Their error not yours!


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