Changed thresholds for the Age Pension
New Age Pension payment rates took effect from 20 September and those changes also involved new income and assets test thresholds for part Age Pensions, which may mean some retirees are entitled to an increase in payments.
The income test looks at money you receive from employment and other earnings. The assets test looks at what you own, such as your savings, investments and property. If your income or assets are above certain thresholds, your Age Pension payment may be reduced, or you may not be eligible to receive the pension at all. Conversely, if your income and assets have dropped, you may be entitled to higher pension payments.
For singles, pension disqualifying income limits are now $2397.40 per fortnight; for couples combined, $3666.80 per fortnight, and for illness-separated couples, $4481.20 per fortnight.
If you earn over those limits, you will not be eligible to receive any Age Pension payment.
Pension disqualifying assets test limits increased from 20 September.
The disqualifying limit for single homeowners is now $667,500 and for single non-homeowners $909,500.
The disqualifying limit for homeowner couples combined is $1,003,000 and for non-homeowner couples $1,245,000.
For illness-separated homeowner couples combined, the disqualifying limit is $1,183,000 and for non-homeowner illness-separated couples combined $1,425,000.
The cut-off points are higher if you receive Commonwealth Rent Assistance with your pension.
Commonwealth Rent Assistance
Rent Assistance also increased from 20 September. The payment is a regular, non-taxable payment available to those who pay rent in the private market or community housing and also receive certain payments for Centrelink, including the Age Pension.
Centrelink checks your eligibility for Rent Assistance when you apply for the Age Pension.
Rent Assistance, says Centrelink, is payable at the rate of 75 cents for every dollar of rent payable above the rent threshold until the maximum rate of payment is reached.
See payment rates here.
Work Bonus increase
The maximum Work Bonus Income Bank amount that can be accrued is set to be be permanently increased from $7800 per year to $11,800 per year when the Senate sits later this month.
Pensioners over Age Pension age accrue any unused part of the $300 fortnightly Work Bonus in a Work Bonus income bank. The income bank amount offsets future income from work that would otherwise be assessable under the pension income test.
Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
Income limits for eligibility for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) increased on 20 September, by $5400 to $95,400 per annum for singles and by $8640 to $152,640 for couples combined.
The CSHC is a concession card that delivers cheaper healthcare and some lifestyle discounts if you’ve reached Age Pension age.
Free Shingles vaccine
Shingles can cause severe nerve pain that can last for months and is caused when the chickenpox virus reactivates.
Since 1 November, the two-course shingles vaccine Shingrix is free through the National Immunisation Program for over-65s and over and other eligible people.
If you previously received a free Zostavax shingles vaccine under the NIP, you are not eligible for a free Shingrix vaccine for at least five years.
If you bought the Zostavax vaccine privately, you can receive the Shingrix vaccine for free under the program, if you’re eligible. However, you should wait at least 12 months between receiving Zostavax and getting the Shingrix vaccine.
Discuss your eligibility for Shingrix with your health professional.
Also be sure to take advantage of the following:
Free vaccinations – free vaccinations for flu and pneumococcal disease.
Medicare Safety Net – reduces your out-of-pocket expenses for seeing doctors after you’ve spent a certain amount.
PBS Safety Net – helps you pay less for medicines after you’ve reached a certain amount.
Cancer screening – free early detection screenings for breast cancer and bowel cancer.
Free annual health assessment – if you’re 75 or over. You may have to pay the gap if your doctor doesn’t bulk-bill.
Free home medication review – help with using medicines at home if you use more than five medications per day. Ask your GP or pharmacist.
Energy bill relief
The federal government is partnering with state and territory governments to provide up to $3 billion in electricity bill relief for eligible households through the Energy Bill Relief Fund. The states and territories administer the rebates. Review your eligibility and check to ensure you’re receiving these savings.
Do you know of any other services or rebates that retirees should be aware of? Share them in the comments section below.