Most, if not all, people who are retired may be able to get some type of assistance from the government. Even if you’re a self-funded retiree, you should become acquainted with the services provided by Centrelink. At the very least, you can access benefits like the Seniors Health Care Card.
Often, when I raise Centrelink, clients will mention that they’ve never received anything from the government but they have paid a lot of tax. So I encourage them to consider what is available to them in terms of government rebates and benefits. There may be some services that some wealthy Australians don’t even know about – and they can most likely access these services if they’ve structured their income correctly.
Some of the main benefits older Australians can access through Centrelink include medical discounts and help on expenses for pharmaceuticals and testing. This goes beyond Medicare. A pension card unlocks access to a range of government subsidies for transport and health cover as well. The actual monetary benefit from these discounts can be quite significant.
If one partner in a relationship passes away, there’s also bereavement help. If you’re a non-homeowner, you can get rent assistance. If you have a disabled child you may not realise that you may also be eligible for a disability support pension through Centrelink. There are also allowances and payments available for carers.
Many benefits from Centrelink aren’t means tested, so it’s important for clients to get advice on what might be available to them. So many retirees miss out on these benefits because they’ve received misinformation about Centrelink. Perhaps they’ve heard on the grapevine that means testing is strict or that it’s only accessible to those on a certain income. This isn’t always the case.
I work out of the Wollongong office and it just so happens that Centrelink is on the ground floor of our building. So I often walk clients down there and assist them, whether it be with their application, updating information or answering questions. I know it can be quite stressful for many people to do that and sometimes pride comes into play and people don’t want to walk into a Centrelink office, so I help my clients through the process.
Centrelink isn’t a world that many people understand well, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t of benefit to you. So it’s important to talk to someone who does understand it and see if there are benefits that you’re missing out on.
David Ross is an Executive Advisor at Viridian Advisory
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