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Legal Requirements for Section 54 Obligations
Last Amended: 3 August 2007
Legal requirements for imposing obligations
An obligation to provide information can only be imposed on a person if this information might affect:
- the person's payment of pension, or
- the provision of benefits including treatment at Departmental expense or fringe benefits.
Legal requirements of an obligation notice
Obligations are imposed by way of issuing an obligation notice. This is usually in the form of an advice letter. In order to be legally binding, an obligation notice must meet the following requirements:
- be in writing,
- be given personally or by post,
- specify the time frame for response, and
- tell the person in what manner he or she is to reply to the notice.
Documents served with obligation notices
The Secretary is able to send documents with an obligation notice. The obligation notice can refer to the attached document and oblige the person to tell the Department or a specified Departmental officer, if any of the events listed in the document occur or are likely to occur. The document may also contain the necessary information about the time in which the person is obliged to notify the Department or officer of an event. The legislation provides that this method of imposing an obligation has full legal weight and is just as binding on a person as if all the matters listed in the document were contained in the notice itself.
Obligations and fact sheets
The legal requirements for an obligation notice are satisfied where a fact sheet (containing a specific obligation notice) is attached to a covering letter. The covering letter should explain the purpose served by including the fact sheet, being formal advice of the pensioner's notification obligations. A reference to the section 54 authority should also be included.
Example – Documents served with obligation notice
The 'You and Your Pension' booklet outlines income support pensioners' obligations. The booklet was issued to all income support pensioners in July 1998, and has since been issued to all pensioners who are granted an income support pension. The booklet is a legally binding obligation notice, effective from the date of original issue, or the date of a new grant.
Acceptable forms of advice
There are three acceptable ways (provided they meet the relevant notification period) in which a pensioner can advise the Department of an event or change of circumstances:
- telephoning any Department of Veterans' Affairs office,
- personally visiting any Department of Veterans' Affairs office, and
- writing to the Department (including fax).