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B36/1990 AMNESTY - FAILURE TO ADVISE CHANGED CIRCUMSTANCES
DATE OF ISSUE: 06 SEPTEMBER 1990
AMNESTY - FAILURE TO ADVISE CHANGED CIRCUMSTANCES
Overview of the Amnesty
The Government has decided to introduce an extended program of computer data matching to detect cases in which persons, who are receiving income support payments, have not disclosed circumstances that are relevant to determining their eligibility or entitlement.
2.Before this is undertaken, it has been decided to give all current Veterans' Affairs clients who have failed to advise changes in their circumstances affecting eligibility or entitlement the opportunity to set the record straight without penalty. They will be allowed to do this under an Amnesty which will run from 22 August to 2 October 1990.
3.The Amnesty will be authorised by legislation which will provide that a person who advises the Department of a change in circumstances between 22 August and 2 October 1990 and meets the specified criteria will not be liable to repay any overpayment or to be prosecuted for any offence. It will not be necessary to calculate, raise, or waive an overpayment because there will be no overpayment under the law.
4.The pension being paid to a person will be cancelled or adjusted as necessary.
Eligibility for the Amnesty
5.The Amnesty may apply to people who are being paid a pension by the Department of Veterans' Affairs and who believe they may no longer be entitled to some or all of that payment because they have not told the Department of a change in their circumstances that could reduce their rate of payment or remove their entitlement altogether. Such people might be:
.someone who starts a full or part-time job and does not tell the Department:
.a single pensioner who begins to live with a partner and does not tell the Department;
.a person in receipt of remote area allowance who moves out of the remote area and does not tell the Department;
.a person in receipt of rent assistance who ceases to pay rent and does not tell the Department;
.a person in receipt of additional pension for children in relation to a full-time student 16 or over who does not tell the Department when the student commences work;
.a person in receipt of additional pension for children who does not advise the Department of the death of a child;
.a married couple receiving a pension who are separated by ill-health and who are re-united and do not tell the Department;
.a person who receives a pension and gains income and/or assets from sources other than employment (e.g. a lottery, raffle, etc.) and does not tell the Department;
.a married couple in receipt of a pension who divorce and do not tell the Department;
.a person who is in receipt of a Carer's pension and no longer provides, or is required to provide, constant care and attention to a veteran and fails to notify the Department; and
.a child over the age of 16 yearsa in receipt of an allowance under the Veteran's Children Education Scheme (VCES) who receives income without advising the Department.
6.Only people currently in receipt of a pension from the Department are eligible under the Amnesty. Former clients are ineligible. Current clients who have already been notified in writing of overpayments are ineligible in respect of those overpayments but are not disqualified from applying for the Amnesty in relation to situations that have not led to prosecution or written notification of an overpayment. People who are being paid a pension on 22 August 1990 will be considered to be current for Amnesty purposes.
Exclusions from the Amnesty
7.In general, the Amnesty does not apply to people who are receiving more than they should because they knowingly misrepresented their circumstances when they first applied (see paragraph 11 below). However, it will apply where the misrepresentation could have arisen as the result of a misunderstanding, for example where a pensioner claims not to have understood the types of income relevant to assessment of their entitlement.
8.Where the Department was already aware of or suspected an overpayment and the pensioner does not contact the Department during the amnesty or before we have advised him/her in writing of the overpayment the amnesty does not apply.
9.If there is any doubt as to whether an applicant misrepresented circumstances when he or she first applied (Amnesty not available) as against subsequently failing to advise a change in circumstances (Amnesty available) the applicant should be given the benefit of the doubt.
10.The Amnesty is not for people who have perpetrated fraud against the Department by claiming single or multiple payments to which they never had any entitlement. For example:
.a person running multiple claims;
.a person in full-time employment who applies for service pension; or
.a married person living with his or her spouse who applies for single rate.
11.Also excluded are people in receipt of a pension at a rate in excess of the rate to which they are entitled and who initiated an increase in their rate by knowingly misrepresenting their circumstances either when they first applied or at a later date. An example would be where a person has obtained additional benefit by claiming for non-existent dependent children.
12.Broadly, the following distinction applies:
.the Amnesty is for clients who allowed the Department to continue to pay them at an increased rate by passively misrepresenting their circumstances (i.e., failing to advise a change); and
.it is not for clients who themselves initiated an incorrect payment by actively misrepresenting their circumstances.
13.The Amnesty is not available where the pension was first claimed after the beginning of the Amnesty (i.e., on or after 22 August 1990) or where the change in circumstances which reduces or removes a person's entitlement took place on or after 22 August 1990. This prevents people from deliberately taking advantage of the Amnesty to get more than their entitlement from the Department. For example:
.a person in receipt of rent assistance who, on or after 22 August 1990, ceases to pay rent while retaining rent assistance is not eligible; and
.a pensioner who, on or after 22 August 1990, receives additional income (including wages) reducing his or her entitlement but fails to notify is not eligible.
14.Where there is doubt about the date of the event constituting a change of circumstances, the applicant should be given the benefit of the doubt (i.e., the event should be assumed to have taken place before the start of the Amnesty).
15.Persons who were officers or employees of the Departments of Social Security or Veterans' Affairs at the time they failed to advise of a relevant change of circumstances are not eligible under the Amnesty.
16.The Amnesty guidelines should be applied on the basis that the Amnesty legislation will be retrospective. In cases falling within the guidelines no action will be taken in relation to any excess payments. WHERE THE AMNESTY GUIDELINES ARE SATISFIED IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO CALCULATE, RAISE, WRITE OFF OR WAIVE AN OVERPAYMENT AS NO OVERPAYMENT WILL EXIST UNDER THE LAW.
17.The Amnesty does not apply to claims submitted during or after the Amnesty period.
18.Attachment A is a check list to aid decision makers in determining whether a pensioner qualifies for the amnesty. This check-list should only be used where a client, between 22 August 1990 and 2 October 1990, advises of a change of circumstances, or of a previously made false or misleading statement, or seeks the application of the amnesty.
19.The contact officer for inquiries on this matter at Central Office is Jeanette Ricketts, Income Support, phone 06 2896440.
NATIONAL PROGRAM DIRECTOR (BENEFITS)
AMNESTY DECISION MAKER'S GUIDE
QUESTION — ANSWER — DEPARTMENTAL
1.Was the claim made — YES/no — Para 13
2.Was there a genuine — YES/no — Paras 7,12
entitlement when the claim
3.Was the applicant — YES/no — Para 6
"current" on 22/8/90?
4.Did the event/change of — YES/no — Para 13
circumstances take place
5.Did the applicantyes/NO — Paras 12-14
his/her circumstances to
increase the rate of payment?
6.Was the applicant ayes/NO — Para 15
DVA/DSS officer when the
event/change of circumstances
7.Has the applicant beenyes/NO — Para 8
advised in writing of
prosecution or an overpayment?
8.Were there multipleyes/NO — Para 10
claims other than those
allowed by law?
Answer all the questions by circling YES or NO in the answer column. If all the answers in capitals are circled (ie the YES answers to questions 1-4 and the NO answers to questions 5-8) then the applicant is eligible for the amnesty. If any of the answers in small typeface is circled the applicant is ineligible.