Centrelink delays force retirees to wait 10 months for health discount cards
For many senior Australians the price of medication can quickly add up, with many relying on the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card to keep costs down. However, one retired couple has called on Centrelink to improve its system, after they were forced to wait 10 months to receive their discount cards.
Ian and Gabrielle Jones, from Toowoomba, QLD, were unable to purchase medication at the reduced price while they waited for the cards to arrive, leaving the couple approximately $600 out of pocket by the time the discount cards arrived at the end of September.
Ian, a former teacher and professional engineer, told Starts at 60: “The system is not really transparent, it’s almost impossible to find out what’s going on for starters. Secondly, the fact that you have to wait months for a card. It took us 10 months and I’ve heard loads of people complaining about the same thing – there ought to be some easy way to get a temporary card when you apply, or a number or something.
“It’s totally non-transparent. It seems to me that the only people who can sort it out are the chemist and Medicare. We, as individuals, shouldn’t have to go through this.”
The 72-year-old and his wife applied for the discount cards at the end of last year, after Gabrielle, 66, retired from nursing and her superannuation pushed the couple over the limit of the assets test, meaning they were not eligible to receive the Age Pension.
Retiree’s 13-month Centrelink wait for pension approval The federal government has tried to streamline Centrelink processes, but for some older Australians, dealing with the welfare body is only getting harder, and the delays getting longer.
Carole Austin, 73, is a retiree with no income.
She applied for the age pension more than a year ago, but is still yet to hear whether she'll receive it.
Carole Austin has been waiting more than a year to see if her age pension application will be approved.
Two months after submitting her paperwork, she was knocked back.
A 13-week appeal period followed, so Ms Austin immediately applied for a review.
After the 13-week period ended, she said she had a phone call from Centrelink seeking proof she was not receiving any income.
This was followed by months of silence.
After Ms Austin contacted her local MP, she was told her pension application had been rejected because she supplied the information Centrelink requested after the appeal period - although she said the request was only made after that time.
"I'm just totally disappointed in the whole thing," she said.
She is down to her last $17,000 and said Centrelink staff told her that her application will not be a priority until she is down to her last $2000.
Australian Pensioners and Superannuants League Queensland president Cherith Wise said pensioners should get together and fight for what they needed.
"You need more staff, definitely need more staff at Centrelink, or have a good look at the system and see where they can do better," she said.
Australian Pensioners and Superannuants League's Queensland president Cherith Wise said Centrelink needed looking at.
David McIntosh claimed paperwork he had submitted to Centrelink had gone missing numerous times, and that Centrelink's calculations of his assets had left him out of pocket.
"I now find that I am actually losing $40, and this is despite the fact that my assets have dropped $50,000," he said.
"I can't understand it."
David McIntosh claimed paperwork he had submitted had gone missing.
When Mr McIntosh first applied for the age pension, he received two letters on the same day - one requesting more details about his assets, and another approving his application.
A Current Affair has previously highlighted the long waiting times for people trying to contact Centrelink by phone.
Human Services Minister Michael Keenan said he was "not satisfied" with the service people had been receiving, and pointed to the government's investment in the body as an effort to improve its performance.
Centrelink has outsourced some of its call centre work.
However, Labor's Ed Husic said additional staff was not the answer.
"You can't expect privatised labour brought in quickly to prop up Centrelink," he said.
But the government continues to insist Centrelink's efficiency will improve.