Centrelink benefits – Just the Age Pension? Many clients are aware that the Age Pension can provide a stable portion of an individual or couples retirement income. For some, it becomes the primary source of retirement income. However, to some, more beneficial are the additional benefits that are received as a result of becoming eligible for the Age Pension.
The additional benefits may include:
- Rent assistance and Rent deduction scheme;
- The Clean Energy Advance / Energy supplement and / or Pension supplements;
- Pensioner Concession Card (more on this below);
- Work bonus, Pension Bonus Scheme or Pension loans scheme;
- Carer Allowance;
- Bereavement Payments.
Of these the Pension Concession Card can provide substantial other benefits over and above the Age Pension including:
- Reduction of the costs of medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS);
- Bulk billing of doctor’s appointments (dependent on the doctor);
- Additional refunds for medical expenses via the Medicare Safety Net;
- Assistance with hearing services;
- Discounted Australia Post mail redirection.
Further benefits can include concessions from state and territory governments and your local council:
- Discounts / reductions on property and water rates;
- Energy bill reductions;
- Reduced public transport fares;
- Reductions to motor vehicle registration costs;
- Free rail journeys.
There are also additional Government concessions for states and territories, further information on these can be found at www.australia.gov.au. In QLD, there are also additional concession cards that can be applied for being the:
- QLD Seniors Card;
- Seniors Card +go (same as above though also functions as a go card);
- Seniors Business Discount Card.
These cards can provide discounts at participating outlets. Interestingly the Seniors Business Discount Card has only one eligibility requirement – reaching Age 60. Therefore this card can be applied for at a younger age than the Age Pension.
With all of the available discounts and concessions utilised these benefits can by some be more beneficial than the part Age pension that is received. As a result there are a number of strategies that can be utilised that can assist clients to meet the eligibility requirements for the Age Pension, especially where there is one member of a couple whom is of Age Pension age.
When both members are of Age Pension age, all of your assessable assets and income are taken into consideration. Where one member of a couple is younger and has not met Age Pension age, superannuation assets of the younger member are not considered, potentially reducing the overall assets / income to a point where a part Age Pension payment is obtainable (along with the additional benefits of the concession cards).
For those of Age Pension age that have assets above the required thresholds there is also still hope, via the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. Whilst not providing the same level of benefits, it still provides some of the benefits of the Pensioner Concession Card such as access to cheaper medicines through the PBS.
This card is assessed based on income only and therefore your total asset position is not taken into account.
In summary, with the Age Pension potentially making up such a big part of a retirement income, coupled with substantial ancillary benefits, it makes sense to determine what areas of your financial affairs can be restructured to either become eligible, or increase the rate of these additional income sources.