1. Lodge all documents on time
Most Centrelink payments start from the date you lodge your written claim. However, there are exceptions to the general rule.
- If you (or another person acting on your behalf) tells Centrelink over the phone or in person that you intend claiming a payment, and you are eligible at the time, and Centrelink acknowledges the initial claim, and you lodge a written claim within 14 days (or up to 13 weeks if there are medical reasons or other special circumstances causing the delay), your payment starts from the date of the initial claim — plus any relevant waiting period.
- If you apply for the wrong payment when you were eligible for another payment, you can transfer to the correct payment without penalty if you subsequently lodge a written claim for the correct payment.
2. Answer all correspondence
If you do not respond to an official letter from Centrelink, or if a letter is returned unopened, your payment may be suspended or even cancelled.
If the suspension or cancellation results in you later being owed back pay, you may not be entitled to all the back pay when the problem is resolved — often only 3 months back pay will be allowed.
If you have a disability that makes it difficult for you to understand or respond to letters, you should inform Centrelink and make sure the disability is recorded on your file.
You can nominate someone to answer your Centrelink letters for you. However, if they make a mistake that leads to you being overpaid, you (not the nominated person) will have the debt because you received the money.
3. Notify all changes
Most payments require you to notify Centrelink within 14 days of any change in circumstances. If you do not notify them, you may end up with a debt.
You can nominate someone to notify Centrelink of any changes for you. However, if they make a mistake that leads to you being overpaid, you (not the nominated person) will have the debt because you received the money.
4. Attend all interviews
Centrelink has the power to suspend or cancel your payment if you do not attend an interview when notified without a reasonable excuse. For this reason, never ignore Centrelink letters.
In addition, not attending an interview when notified without a reasonable excuse counts as a ‘participation failure’ for activity-tested payments.
Next Section: Common problems for chronically ill people