5. The issues for determination by the Tribunal are: – Did Mrs. Smith receive age pension in excess of her entitlement for the period 15 August 2012 to 1 October 2014? – If so, is the excess payment a debt? – If it is, is the debt recoverable?

SECTION 37 DOCUMENTS (T DOCUMENTS)

AAT No: 2015/0001
Applicant: Betty Smith
Respondent: Secretary of the Department of Community Services

1. Mrs. Smith has been in receipt of age pension since 15 August 2012.

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2. On 14 November 2014 a Centrelink officer made a decision to raise and recover a debt of age pension of $21,000.50 in respect of the period
15 August 2012 to 1 October 2014.

3. Mrs. Smith requested a review of this decision. The decision was reviewed and affirmed by an Authorised Review Officer (ARO) on 5 January 2015.
4. On 6 January 2015 Mrs. Smith appealed to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (“the Tribunal”). Half of the debt had been repaid by the date of the hearing.

ISSUES

5. The issues for determination by the Tribunal are:

– Did Mrs. Smith receive age pension in excess of her entitlement for the period 15 August 2012 to 1 October 2014?
– If so, is the excess payment a debt?

– If it is, is the debt recoverable?

INFORMATION PROVIDED AT THE HEARING

6. Mrs. Smith provided the following information to the Tribunal on the day of the hearing:
– She thought Centrelink would update their information about how much money she had in her bank account automatically.
– When Centrelink asked her to inform them of her financial investments she didn’t include the term deposit because she did not have immediate access to those funds.

She had a cataract operation in October 2012. She wanted her neighbour, Mr. Bye, to help her read the letters but he was on a holiday in the Cotswolds U.K, so she

didn’t read the letters while he was away. After the operation she could read the letters but found that it strained her eyes and made her eyes weepy. She said she

could read properly for about three days after the operation but she didn’t read the letters because she had misplaced her glasses.
– She suffered depression when her pet cockatoo, Bertie, died, her best friend for 30 years. She did not receive medication for this depression, but she withdrew from

socialising and spent more time at home.
– She read the letter of 17 August 2012 but thought it was a mere typographical error and that since she had given the information only a couple of days before she

didn’t need to do it again.
– She did not read the other letters from Centrelink because she thought she was receiving the correct pension rate so didn’t think anything was wrong, she thought her

details were correct.
– Repayment of the debt has caused her stress. She now has less than $1,000 in her everyday bank account, and is finding it difficult to pay bills and the rent.
– Her husband died five years ago, she has been lonely ever since; he used to handle their financial matters.

DOCUMENTS

7. The Tribunal had access to Mrs. Smith’s Centrelink paper and electronic files. The Tribunal had particular regard to the following documents:
– Details of Mrs. Smith’s savings balances during the period under review;
– Mrs. Smith’s Centrelink file including payment summaries, debt calculations, debt recovery actions, contact records, ARO letter and decision; and

– Centrelink letters to Mrs. Smith dated 17 August 2012, 30 October

2012, 30 June 2013, 1 October 2014, and 30 October 2014.

DISCUSSION OF THE EVIDENCE & FINDINGS OF FACT

8. Mrs. Smith applied for age pension on 15 August 2012 in person at her local Centrelink branch.
9. On 17 August 2012 Centrelink sent Mrs. Smith a letter asking her to check her details and financial investments and to inform Centrelink if the information was

incorrect. There is no record of Mrs. Smith contacting Centrelink.
10. On 30 October 2012 Centrelink sent a letter imposing certain obligations on Mrs. Smith to advise of matters which might affect her pension rate. She was asked to

advise Centrelink if her financial investments were over
$1,000. There is no record of Mrs. Smith contacting Centrelink.

11. On 30 June 2013 Centrelink sent another letter, the same as in paragraph

10 above. Mrs. Smith was asked to advise Centrelink if her financial investments were over $1,000. There is no record of Mrs. Smith contacting Centrelink.
12. On 1 October 2014 Centrelink sent another letter asking Mrs. Smith to advise Centrelink if her financial investments were over $1,000. There is no record of

Mrs.Smith contacting Centrelink.
13. On 30 October 2014 Centrelink sent Mrs. Smith a letter stating that she

has been overpaid $21,000.50 in age pension which she owes as a debt to the Commonwealth. Centrelink records show Mrs. Smith called Centrelink on 3 November 2014 to

ask why she owed a debt to the Commonwealth.

APPLICATION OF THE LAW

14. According to the Social Security Act 1991(“the Act”), the amount overpaid is a debt to the Commonwealth.

15. Mrs. Smith has repaid part of the debt in this case and accordingly there are no grounds to write off the debt.

16. Under the Act, there is no reason to waive the right to recover the debt and there are no special circumstances that warrant the waiver of the debt.

Dear Mrs. Smith

Term Deposit Account Number: 342434 2612 0410 3245

Term deposit details –

Amount: $50,000

Period: 3 years

Start Date: 1 December 2011

Date of maturation: 1 December 2014

Interest amount: 3% per annum

Balance as of 15 January 2012: $50,000CR

If you have any queries regarding your term deposit please contact one of our customer services officers on 123 456, our operating hours are Monday to Friday 8.00am to

8.00pm.

Kind Regards,

Clark Kal-El

RichBank branch manager, Smallville

T3

CRN: 0001S
Mrs. Betty Smith
8 Peacock Place
Smallville NSW
2123

17 August 2012

Dear Mrs. Smith,

Thank you for your application for age pension on 15 AUGUST 2012.

You gave Centrelink the following details. Please check that these details are correct. If these details are not correct, please contact Centrelink immediately. It is

important these details are correct as your age pension will be calculated on the information you give us.

Marital status: Widowed
Dependent children: Nil Own home: No Living in an aged care facility: No Bank Accounts: Yes
$1,000 savings account
Government bonds: Nil Loans: Nil Shares or options: Nil Managed investments: Nil Other country pensions: Nil Current employment: None Own any other real estate: No

Life insurance policies: Nil Disabilities: Nil

Based on the above information, your pension rate per fortnight is $695.30.

Thank you for your co-operation.
? T4
RichBank Smallville Branch
BSB: 362436
Everyday Account Statement

Mrs. Betty Smith
8 Peacock Place
Smallville NSW
2123

1 September 2012

Dear Mrs. Smith

Everyday Account Number: 362436 8150 2650 3280
For period beginning: 1 May 2012 and ending 31 August 2012. Opening balance: $9,288.05CR
Closing balance: $10,000CR

Transaction details: Balance:

1 June 2012 Deposit of $340.95 $9,629CR
1 July 2012 Deposit of $240 $9,869CR
1 August 2012 Deposit of $131 $10,000CR

No further transaction details for period. End of statement.

If you have any queries regarding your banking please contact one of our customer services officers on 123 456, our operating hours are Monday to Friday 8.00am to

8.00pm.

Kind Regards,

Clark Kal-El

RichBankSmallville

T5

CRN: 0001S

Mrs. Betty Smith
8 Peacock Place
Smallville
2123

30 October 2012

Dear Mrs. Smith,

Your age pension rate per fortnight is $695.30

WHAT YOU MUST TELL US

You must tell us within 14 days (28 days if residing outside Australia) if any of these things happen, or may happen. You can tell us by writing to us, by phoning or

you can come in and talk to us at any of our offices. This is an information notice given under the social security law.

INCOME
– if your combined income changes, not including financial investments;
– if you or your partner start work or recommence work;
– if you or your partner start any form of profession, trade, business or self employment;
– if you or your partner buy or sell any shares or managed investments;
– if you or your partner receive any bonus shares;
– if you or your partner receive a lump sum amount of money or one-off payment from any source;

ASSETS
– if your combined assets other than financial investments are more than $0;
– if you and your partner’s combined financial investments are more than
$1,000;
– if you or your partner start any new accounts;
– if you or your partner gift assets or sell them for less than their value;

OTHER THINGS YOU MUST TELL US
– if you stop living with your partner;
– if you divorce or your partner dies;
– if you or your partner move into a nursing home. Thank you for your co-operation.
? T6
RichBank
Smallville Branch
BSB: 362436
Everyday Account Statement

 

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