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.

Written by Debbie McTaggart