Warwick woman's defeat after 5-year Centrelink crusade
A MASSIVE crusade to win back thousands of dollars from Centrelink has left a Warwick country singer at her wit's end and almost without a home.
Five years in battle with a system that is "set up to kick you when you're down", there were days when Norma Green didn't think she would make it through.
"There are people out there committing suicide, and now I can see why," she said.
Her struggle all came down to a piece of misinformation Ms Green said she was given seven years ago.
After being told the 'pensioner bonus scheme' had been abolished in 2010 - the year she turned 65 - Ms Green left the Centrelink office in tears, believing she was ineligible for a pension.
Two years later, she found out she wasn't.
"I made an appointment with the financial advisor through Centrelink in May 2012 and he told me I should have been on this pension two years ago."
Ms Green calculated she missed out on $28,000 as a result of the misinformation, and has been fighting ever since to get back the money.
In 2016, after falling victim to Centrelink's 'robo-debt' fiasco, Ms Green discovered she could make an appeal to recover the money she claims she lost in 2010.
The promise of an appeal brought renewed hope to Ms Green, who was behind on rent and struggling with finances as a result of the robo-debt mistake.
But her optimism turned to stress, anxiety and frustration, as she floundered in a system she said was designed to confuse and overwhelm customers.
"I understand why people don't go through it, because it kills you," she said.
"It's all so time consuming and no-one will talk to you straight."
Going through the appeals process, Ms Green spoke to eight different Centrelink staff members and said each gave her a different story.
As the stress mounted and Ms Green's frustration grew, she exhausted every avenue, trying to retrieve funds to which she believed she was entitled.
"I've been to the Ombudsman, to Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and Pauline Hanson but none of them can do anything."
Just last week, Ms Green stormed into the Warwick office of David Littleproud to give him "the shirt off her back" in a symbolic act of frustration.
"That is exactly what the woman at the Centrelink office asked me for when I was discussing my assets with her, of which I have none," she said.
Now, Ms Green is about to lose the house she loves and has lived in for six years.
"I can't afford to live here any more," she said. "It just makes you lose all hope."
Ms Green said her struggled were not unique.
"Everyone out there is going through this," she said.
"Australians gearing up for retirement are being treated like crap."
Ms Green's friend Donna Coleman supported her emotionally and financially throughout the process but said it was hard to watch her friend struggle.
"It's not a happy time if you are close to someone and they're stressed, you feel it yourself," she said.
Ms Green's appeal has been rejected by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which is independent of Centrelink and or Government.
The Department of Human Services has responded to Ms Green's outcry and has contacted her to offer "additional support".
"The department is confident that the decisions made in Ms Green's case have been made in accordance with the legislation."