Changes affecting retirees in 2019

YourLifeChoices keeps you up to date with retirement and income changes.

New Age Pension reporting rule
Australians who are aged over 80 and live overseas will need to produce a “proof of life certificate” to continue receiving the Age Pension in a tightening of rules that start from 1 July.

They will need to go to an Australian embassy or consulate every two years to register that they are still alive and entitled to continue receiving payments.

Aged care royal commission
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety got under way on 18 January in Adelaide, with QC Richard Tracey and former Medicare chief executive Lynelle Briggs appointed as Royal Commissioners. Other public hearings will be held around Australia on dates to be announced. The inquiry is looking at:

  • the quality of care provided to older Australians and the extent of substandard care
  • the challenge of providing care to Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care
  • the challenge of supporting the increasing number of Australians suffering dementia
  • the challenge of delivering aged-care services in the context of changing demographics.

Submissions can be made via an online form on the commission’s website or you can:

  • write to the royal commission at GPO Box 1151, Adelaide SA 5001
  • email [email protected]
  • telephone 1800 960 711 (8am-8pm AEDT Monday-Friday except on public holidays).

Anyone with concerns about the quality and safety of aged care can contact the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which took over the work of the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner and the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency on 1 January.

Revamped Pension Loans Scheme

The Pension Loans Scheme (PLS) will undergo major changes from mid-2019 to broaden its availability. The scheme allows age pensioners to borrow against the value of their home and not make repayments until the property is sold. Unpaid interest will accrue and compound and be taken from the proceeds of the home when sold.

The PLS is similar to a reverse mortgage, but borrowings can only be taken as fortnightly income payments and not as a lump sum.

The proposed changes include making the scheme available to anyone of pension age, whether they receive the Age Pension or not, and increasing the amount that can be borrowed.

Also, new means testing rules will apply from 1 July for pooled lifetime retirement income stream products bought on or after that date and the Work Bonus will be increased to $300 per fortnight (up from $250 per fortnight). It will also be extended to the self-employed for the first time. Both measures are subject to the passage of legislation.

Beware the scammers

If you’ve given personal information to a scammer, call the Scams and Identity Theft Helpdesk at the Department of Human Services (DHS).

The DHS warns about the following scams:

  • An email and SMS scam claiming to be from Medicare, telling people they are owed a rebate of more than $200. The scammers encourage people to click a link to a website and share their personal details.
  • An Age Pension calculator scam is circulating on social media with a link to a pension calculator. If you use the calculator, the scammers charge a fee to your mobile phone account without your permission.

Age Pension rates

The current Age Pension rates will be adjusted from 19 March in the first of the twice-yearly indexations.

Since 20 September 2018, the following payment rates have applied:

The maximum fortnightly payment for the Pension Supplement is $67.80 for singles and $51.10 each (or $102.20 combined) when part of a couple. The maximum fortnightly payment for the Energy Supplement is $14.10 for singles, and $10.60 each (or $21.20 combined) for couples.

The Age Pension age will increase to 66 years from 1 July 2019.

Related articles:
How to reapply for the Age Pension
Age Pension or Newstart increase?
Why would you work until 70?

Written by Janelle Ward

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