Centrelink aged pension delays plague Shoalhaven retirees Dennis, Carol Johnson

LONG WAIT: Dennis Johnson, 74, and his wife, Carol, flag serious concerns about Centrelink delays in processing aged pension claims.
LONG WAIT: Dennis Johnson, 74, and his wife, Carol, flag serious concerns about Centrelink delays in processing aged pension claims.

If you are eligible for the aged pension, don’t expect the funds to hit your bank account immediately once you’re approved.

Ask retired Shoalhaven couple Dennis and Carol Johnson. Approved for a pension, they have endured more than three months without a payment. After a prolonged wait they had a breakthrough on Wednesday, and expect to see backdated funds in their accounts soon.

Mr and Mrs Johnson contributed to the Australian workforce for a combined century, 59 and 42 years respectively, before they retired this year.

On July 2, they lodged successful applications for the aged pension via Centrelink.

The Johnsons were assured they qualified for the pension, and were told they’d know more by August 15 – the average processing time for the aged pension was 49 days in 2017-18.

By mid September, they were still waiting, and so Mr Johnson urged Fairfax Media to intervene.

“Upon checking with a host of friends and other people we are shocked to find that this kind of treatment appears to be somewhat normal for Centrelink, this being the case then this is a national scandal as it affects thousands of people,” Mr Johnson said.

“Imagine just retiring, or needing to retire because you are getting on, or retiring because you have been told that you must do so or you cannot receive the pension. So you retire, and not having much as far as super or savings go to use until you get the pension, you then find out that it can take up to three months before you find out if your application has been successful or not.

“This is demeaning and belittling and a travesty in justice to the people who have worked hard and contributed so much.

“This kind of negligent delay has serious ramifications for the applicants and places severe burdens on the community at large, your assistance in this matter would be very much appreciated.”

On Tuesday, Fairfax Media contacted Centrelink’s media department via email. Mr Johnson said the matter had been resolved within a day.

On Wednesday morning, Mr Johnson said he received a call from Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis’ office.

He said Centrelink had been in touch with the office, and their pension applications had been expedited. 

Then, he said a Centrelink representative called to confirm the “good news”.

Mr Johnson was relieved when Centrelink contacted him later on to say the arrears pension payments would be lodged into their bank accounts on Friday.

A Department of Human Services spokesperson said while they were unable to comment on specific cases, there were many complexities around aged pension claims.

“Almost 40 per cent of claims have resulted in a part-pension to complement private retirement income,” the spokesperson said.

“Many aged pension claims don’t have all of the supporting documentation required to assess the claim. This can also cause delays.”