Personal Circumstances at Centrelink or DVA

Personal Circumstances at Centrelink or DVA

by Christine Hopper

The amounts of income support benefits available from Centrelink or DVA, depend on your Personal Circumstances at Centrelink or DVA.  So what are “Personal Circumstances” at Centrelink and DVA?

Your Personal Circumstances at Centrelink, or DVA, is based on your relationship with the people that you live with.  You could be ‘single’ or part of a ‘couple’.

Single status Personal Circumstances at Centrelink or DVA

An elderly widow living alone is treated as a Single person at Centrelink who is entitled to the Single rate of Age Pension.  If she owns her own home then she could be a Single Homeowner at Centrelink.

If her intellectually disabled son still lives in the family home, he could also be Single at Centrelink.  The son might be able to claim the Disability Support Pension, DSP, plus Rent Assistance if he contributes to the household running costs.

A Single Pensioner living alone in a privately leased home unit could claim the Single rate of Rent Assistance.  But a Single pensioner, who pays rent to a community mental health agency to live in a share house with other Centrelink customers, could claim Rent Assistance only at the lower ‘sharer’ rate.

Couples status Personal Circumstances at Centrelink and DVA

Married Couples

An elderly married couple living together would each be entitled to the Couple rate of Age Pension.  If one of the couple were to die then Centrelink would deem the survivor to be a Single who receives the bereavement rate for a few fortnights initially.

If either member of the Couple had to move into residential aged care then they would become a “Couple separated by illness”.  Each member of a Couple separated by illness gets the Single rate of Age Pension but the amount of the pension is reduced by the Couples means testing .

A widower veteran could receive a Service Pension from DVA as a Single person.  But if he had war service related illness he might be eligible for the DVA Disability Pension.
A War Widow who has entered a new relationship could retain her War Widow Pension from DVA.  But any Income Support Supplement, ISS, assessment would be based on the current Personal Circumstances status as a Single person or a member of a Couple.

Other permanent relationships and ‘just living together for a while’

Personal Circumstances at Centrelink and DVA provide for any two adults who share domestic arrangements and present socially as a couple to be treated as a “Couple living together”.  The couple are only entitled to the Couples rates of Rent Assistance and Age Pension subject to the Couples means testing as from the date they commence living together.

Disability Support Pension, DSP, recipients could be surprised to discover that their partner’s assets and income including earnings from work, are counted for the Couples means testing of DSP.

If your partner is expected to stay ‘permanently’, or at least a few months, in a psychiatric hospital, or another supported residence (such as SRS in Victoria) then you could apply to be a “Couple separated by illness”.  If your partner is in prison then Centrelink could grant you Single status.

How do you update Centrelink about your Personal Circumstances?

The State registrars inform Centrelink and DVA of the deaths of Pensioners.

Commonwealth regulated aged care homes are quick to notify the Commonwealth, and thus Centrelink or DVA, about new permanent residents.

But ongoing Centrelink and DVA clients need to tell Centrelink, or DVA, about any changes in their Personal Circumstances at Centrelink or DVA. 

If your partner is expected to stay ‘permanently’, or at least a few months, in a psychiatric hospital, or supported residence (such as SRS in Victoria) then you need to inform Centrelink or DVA.  Your partner might be eligible for some Rent Assistance to help with the costs of living in a supported residence or SRS.

Regarding the changes of ordinary life, Centrelink or DVA require personal details of your new and/or departing partner.  You are expected to inform Centrelink or DVA within
14 days of any change in your Personal Circumstances.

The extent of the detail required and Centrelink’s preference for an ink signature results in a paper notice of a change in Personal Circumstances.

Centrelink provide a form for advising about the starting and ending of Couple relationships.  Thus you can keep your record of Centrelink Personal Circumstances updated by submitting new ‘Partner Details’ forms every time someone starts or ends,
a live in relationship with you.

You could attend a Centrelink office to collect the form, call Centrelink to have a Centrelink form mailed out or just download and print the Centrelink form ‘Partner Details’ from

Beware that failure to update your Personal Circumstances at Centrelink or DVA, could result in overpayments of benefits.  Overpayment of benefits means a debt at Centrelink or DVA, which would need to be repaid.

If you would like further confidential, independent and professional advice about Centrelink, lifestyle or financial issues please contact Christine Hopper (03) 9808 0338.

Financial Care Services – call (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. © 2013 Financial Care Services Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
To make an appointment for professional advice, call Financial Care Services
(03) 9808 0338