Centrelink Benefits for Seniors Absent from Australia
Centrelink administers the Social Security benefit arrangements for Australian residents in constrained financial circumstances. Centrelink benefits continue for seniors absent from Australia temporarily but with some exceptions. Therefore you need to check your Centrelink entitlements as part of your travel plans.
If you are moving overseas to live outside of Australia permanently then your Centrelink benefits would reduce or cease. The Age Pension can continue to be paid to some but not all, seniors who are living overseas permanently.
Centrelink Age Pensioners travelling overseas short term
Most Centrelink Age Pensioners do not lose any of their Age Pension or Pension Supplement during a six week holiday overseas. Your Pensioner Concession Card would not be cancelled just because you are absent from Australia for those six weeks.
The main exception is for people who had previously lived overseas and returned to Australia to claim an Age Pension. If you are a ‘returned resident’ Age Pensioner then you must stay in Australia for two full years before you could continue to receive your Age Pension whilst outside of Australia.
Centrelink Age Pensioners overseas six months or more
If you are absent from Australia for more than twenty six weeks, then your Age Pension payments could be reduced and your Pensioner Concession Card cancelled. You might not think that six months absence is permanent but it is long term for Centrelink.
Please check your entitlements with Centrelink as part of your travel plans. You do not need the additional stress of finding your Age Pension has been reduced while you are away from home.
Centrelink Age Pensioners living in countries with an international social security agreement with Australia
If you move to a country that Australia has a social security agreement with your Age Pension might be impacted by that social security agreement.
If you are staying long term in New Zealand, the amount of Age Pension that you could receive may be affected by the social security agreement between Australia and New Zealand.
If you stay in another country that Australia has a social security agreement with, you may be able to continue to get your payment under that social security agreement. The list of countries that Australia has social security agreements with includes many American and European countries but the list and the individual agreements change often.
Beware the agreement with the United Kingdom (UK) ended on 1 March 2001.
Look at the list of international social security agreements on the Centrelink website and read the latest ‘fact sheets’ at http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/enablers/centrelink/international-social-security-agreements/countries-that-have-agreements-with-australia then follow up your personal situation directly with Centrelink before you confirm your travel plans.
Centrelink Age Pensioners living in countries without an international social security agreement with Australia
If you are not staying long term in a country with an international social security agreement with Australia, then Centrelink could reduce your Age Pension payments after you departed Australia.
An Age Pensioner who had been Australian resident for a minimum of 25 years of working life between ages 16 years and her Age Pension Age could retain her full Centrelink Age Pension after 26 weeks of absence from Australia in 2013. She did not need to have worked or paid tax during this period; she just needed to have been an Australian resident for those 25 years. Read more about your Age Pension Age at www.financialcareservices.com.au/christine-hopper-insights/centrelink-age-pension-age-increases
If you had not completed the required 25 years of Australian working life residence then you would be eligible for only a pro-rata Age Pension whilst living outside of Australia.
Please be aware that the 25 years of working life residence requirement is likely to be increased to 35 years of working life residence.
Centrelink DSP recipients travelling overseas
Most Disability Support Pension recipients are allowed to continue receiving DSP during a six week holiday overseas. After six-weeks of absence the DSP payments stop unless the DSP recipient has almost no chance of ever being active in the workforce.
The main exception is for people who had previously been living outside of Australia and returned to be granted DSP within the last two years. These DSP recipients would have their payments stopped if they leave Australia before completing a full two year stay here.
If your DSP is stopped because you are away from Australia, you might be eligible for a pension from your new country of residence if it has a social security agreement with Australia that covers DSP. However, these agreements normally require you to be ‘severely disabled’.
Hint: Check your personal situation with Centrelink as part of planning your travels.
Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card and Seniors Supplements absent short term
Your Seniors Health Care card would not be cancelled just because you are taking a six weeks holiday overseas.
The Seniors Supplement would be paid if you are still eligible for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and the payment date is within six week of the date of your departure from Australia.
Hint: Before you go on holiday make sure that Centrelink has up to date details about your income for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
Remember that if your Commonwealth Seniors Health Card is cancelled, you might have to re-apply for the card and/or provide updated income details when you return.
Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card holders permanently living away from Australia
If you leave Australia permanently your Commonwealth Seniors Health Card will be cancelled when you depart Australia. Your Seniors Supplement payments will stop when you leave.
When you return to Australia permanently you could re-apply for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
Medicine while you are overseas
Seniors have had many years to succumb to bodily frailty and accumulate health problems. Therefore, as part of your travel plans please think about how you will manage your supply of your regular medications as well as the potential for health challenges in strange places. Remember that Medicare and PBS medicine are for residents of Australia only.
Australia does have reciprocal health care agreements with some countries but these agreements might not cover your every medical need. Read more at www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/medicare/reciprocal-health-care-agreements
To reduce your chances of a nasty surprise regarding medication read the Australian Government’s advice to travellers at www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/medicare/travelling-overseas-with-pbs-medicine
Help is available
Christine Hopper at Financial Care Services is experienced with Centrelink Pensions and Health Care Card Applications. If you would like further confidential, independent and professional advice about Centrelink, lifestyle or financial issues contact Christine Hopper on 03 9808 0338.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is of a general nature only and does not constitute “financial advice”. You should obtain your own personal financial advice before investing any money or moving in to any retirement village, lifestyle community or aged care facility. Financial Care Services is licensed to provide financial advice to individual clients based on their personal situations. © 2014 Financial Care Services Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
To make an appointment for professional advice, call Financial Care Services 03 9808 0338