GOOD ADVICE: Learn how Centrelink calculate your entitlements and CSHC works.
GOOD ADVICE: Learn how Centrelink calculate your entitlements and CSHC works.

Aged Pension: I've qualified so what happens next?

THIS week I look at Centrelink entitlements and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) benefits.

If you are at least 65 and a half years old, you are eligible to apply for the Age Pension. The maximum age pension (including supplements) is $690.70 per fortnight each for a couple. For a single, the maximum is $916.30 per fortnight.

Your Age Pension entitlement is subject to means testing.

There are two components of the means testing; an asset test and an income test. Centrelink calculates your Age Pension on the test that generates the lowest eligible pension amount.

Under the Assets test, all of your assets with the exception of your family home are counted at current market value.

The Assets test reduces your Age Pension by $3 per fortnight for each $1000 that the assessed value of your assets exceeds the threshold.

A couple who own their home are currently entitled to receive the full Age Pension if their assessable assets are less than $387,500. ($258,500 for a single). For a non- homeowner couple, the threshold is currently $594,500. ($465,500 for a single).

The current cut off point to receiving a part Age Pension for a couple who own their home is assessable assets less than $844,000. ($561,250 for a single). For a non- homeowner couple, the threshold is $1,051,000. ($768,250 for a single).

Under the income test, government pensions, defined benefit pensions, distributions from trusts and private companies, rental income, interest and earnings from work are counted to calculate your assessed Income.

Income from financial investments is deemed to earn a rate of return regardless of what the actual amount received is. For a couple, the first $85,000 of investment assets is deemed to earn 1.75 per cent and thereafter 3.25 per cent. If you are single, the threshold is $51,200. The deemed amount is included to calculate the Assessed Income.

For couples, the income test reduces each person's entitlement to the Age Pension by 25 cents per fortnight for every dollar of assessed income over $304 per fortnight. A single person can have $172 per fortnight of assessed income then the income test reduces the Age Pension by 50 cents per fortnight for each additional dollar of income.

To apply for the Age Pension you need to register via your online myGov or Centrelink account. If you cannot claim online, you will need to print and complete the Centrelink Age Pension form and Income and Assets form. You can either apply individually or claim on the same form as a couple.

Applications can typically take four to eight weeks to process, so don't wait until you attain the relevant age. You may apply up to 13 weeks before you qualify for the Age Pension. From July 31, 2018 retrospective payment of the Age Pension is limited to the date when the application is accepted rather than when you lodge the initial request for the application.

So the onus is on you to ensure you include all requirements to ensure you receive your entitlements as quickly as possible.

Commonwealth Seniors Health Card

The question posed to me is: We have recently been advised by Centrelink that we have lost our Age Pension due to exceeding the assets test. We have been advised that we will now qualify for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. What is this and what are the benefits?

The CSHC is a concession card that is available to individuals who are an Australian resident, of Age Pension age, who do not qualify for the Age Pension due to their level of income or assets.

The benefits of the CSHC include discounted prescriptions for medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Once the PBS Safety net has been reached, you will receive PBS prescriptions without charge for the remainder of the calendar year. You are entitled to access to bulk-billed doctor visits if these are provided by your doctor. Additionally, access to a larger refund for medical costs when you exceed the Medicare safety net.

Unlike the Age Pension, the CSHC is not subject to the asset test however it is subject to an income test threshold. The threshold limit is income of $87,884 a year as a couple or $54,929 a year as a single.

To apply, contact the Department of Human Services and request an application for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. If you have previously been issued a Centrelink Customer Access Number, this number remains current. Applications can be made online at www.humanservices.gov.au.


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