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C34/2008 Partner Service Pension - changes to eligibility


DATE OF ISSUE:  December 2008

Partner Service Pension - changes to eligibility


The purpose of this Departmental Instruction (DI) is to advise staff of important changes to eligibility criteria for partner service pension (PSP) and associated changes to the Consolidated Library of Information and Knowledge (CLIK) and other departmental information products.

The changes are:

  1. Change to the eligible age for PSP where the veteran is on an above general rate (AGR) disability pension.
  2. Changes to eligibility for PSP where the veteran and spouse are maritally separated; and
  3. a revised commencement date for this change.

Legislative changes

The legislative amendments relating to partner service pension are contained in Schedule 2 of the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment (Further 2008 Budget and Other Measures) Act 2008 No.143 (the Act) which received Royal Assent on 9 December 2008.

Partner Service Pension – age criteria

1 July 2008 changes

From 1 July 2008 the qualifying age for new claimants of partner service pension increased from 50 years to qualifying age, unless the claimant has a dependent child or is the partner of a special rate (TPI) disability pensioner.  Qualifying age is equivalent to veteran pension age, currently 60 years for males and 58 years and 6 months for females, gradually increasing to age 60 by 2014.

This change did not affect those people receiving partner service pension prior to 1 July 2008 who have not reached qualifying age, unless eligibility is lost for any reason.

Further change – reinstate age 50 for partners of AGR pensioners

In December 2008 legislation was passed to further amend the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 to reinstate the eligible age for PSP to 50 years of age for those people whose veteran partner is in receipt of Service Pension and a above general rate (AGR) disability pension.

AGR disability pension, for the purposes of partner service pension eligibility, refers to:

  • Disability pension under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) at the following rates:
  • increased by a Specific Disability Amounts specified in subsection 27(1) items 1 to 6; or
  • extreme disablement adjustment (EDA); or
  • intermediate rate; or
  • temporary special rate (TTI);or
  • Veterans assessed as having at least 80 impairment points as per subsection 80(1) of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA).

If a veteran indicates on a claim for service pension that MRCA entitlement exists, the veteran's impairment can be checked in VIEW, MRCA tab, Permanent Impairment Assessments folder.

The commencement date for this measure is 9 December  2008, the date of Royal Assent.

Claims lodged prior to Royal Assent

Where a partner of a veteran in receipt of AGR disability pension has lodged a claim for PSP prior to 9 December 2008, and the partner is under qualifying age but over 50 and does not have a dependent child, PSP can only be granted with effect from 9 December 2008.

PIPS changes for new Partner Service Pension age rules

The rules for information messages on the PIPS Adult Details Screen have been updated to take into account this change.  When attempting to grant PSP to the partner of a veteran in receipt of one of the categories of VEA AGR pension noted above, a message regarding the age criteria will only display if the partner is under 50 and does not have dependent children.

PIPS users should be aware that this messaging is not sensitive to the 9 December 2008 commencement date for this change.  Claims Officers must ensure that partners of this class of veteran who are not qualifying age and do not have dependent children are only to be granted PSP from 9 December 2008.

Partner Service Pension – eligibility of separated partners

PSP for separated partners

Legislation to limit eligibility for partner service pension for any partner who is maritally separated from their veteran partner to a maximum of 12 months from date of separation, received Royal Assent on 9 December 2008.

However, the new legislation includes significant amendments to the originally proposed legislation.

  • The commencement date for the PSP separated measure is now 1 July 2009; and
  • The loss of eligibility for PSP only applies to those partners who are under age pension age; and
  • There is now a group of separated partners who will be exempt from loss of eligibility due to special domestic circumstances; and
  • The veteran partner forming a new de facto relationship does not impact on the 12 month grace period for the partner.

Special Domestic Circumstances

The Act provides for the creation of a legislative instrument under new subsection 38(2AD), that will provide exemption from cancellation in specified circumstances.

It is intended that “special domestic circumstances” will be accepted if all of a number of circumstances applies at the date of the separation of the veteran and partner.  Details of this exemption are set out below.

Step 1: Psychological or mental health issues

The first step to be satisfied is that the veteran partner has a psychological or mental health condition that is recognised by DVA.

The condition/s need to be already recorded by DVA as accepted, thus there would be no need to refer back to the veteran for confirmation.

Recognition by DVA includes accepted disabilities and disabilities accepted for treatment only under the VEA or MRCA, and disabilities accepted by a foreign government for which DVA provides treatment.  Disabilities accepted as defence service related under the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA) are also included.

It does not include mental health conditions associated only with claims for Invalidity Service Pension.

Accepted disabilities

Any disability that can reasonably be considered to be a psychological or mental health issue is included.  These are conditions that would be assessed under Chapter 4 Emotional and Behavioural in the Guide to the Assessment of Veterans' Pensions (GARP).  This includes “substance abuse” or “substance dependence” in relation to drugs, including alcohol.

The disability is accepted if it is:

(a) An accepted war caused injury or disease

(b) An accepted defence-caused injury or disease

(c) An accepted service-caused injury or disease

(d) A psychological or mental health condition that has been accepted for the purposes of non-liability health care under subsection 85(2) or paragraph 88A(1)(a) of the VEA

Step 2:     Living Separately

The second step to satisfying the special domestic circumstances criteria is for the veteran and spouse to be living separately and apart in different residences.  Claims from partners who are considered to be separated under one roof will not be accepted.  This is because step three could not be reasonably satisfied in a separation under one roof situation.

Step 3:
Unsafe Domestic Environment

Step three is the existence prior to separation of an unsafe or abusive domestic environment.  An unsafe or abusive domestic environment is one where the separated partner:

  • was fearful for their safety or that of their children
  • was subjected to physical abuse or violence
  • was subjected to psychological or emotional abuse or social isolation
  • felt they were threatened or oppressed.

This list is not exhaustive or prescriptive.

Supporting evidence of domestic situation

There will be many cases where there is no documented evidence that describes the domestic situation that existed prior to separation.  In other cases there may be information in existence but it will not be released for privacy reasons.

In all cases the matter needs to be dealt with in a compassionate and confidential manner, recognising that the affected partner may be distressed or uncomfortable about describing very sensitive situations. The delegate should record the specific circumstances of the case.

Apprehended Violence Order

Apprehended Violence Orders (AVO) have different names depending on the jurisdiction but in general terms they are a court produced document that places restrictions on a particular person.  The restrictions are usually about contact with a second person, or conduct such as harassing and intimidating the person in need of protection.  They apply for a certain period of time.

If the delegate is satisfied that a declaration by a separated partner that an AVO or equivalent protection order was taken out is true, then it will be sufficient to prove an unsafe or abusive domestic environment existed even if the person no longer has a copy of the document.

Statement by Partner

In order to establish whether special domestic circumstances apply, separated partners will be asked to complete a questionnaire to outline their situation.  They may include any available supporting information such as AVOs, police reports, or advice from medical practitioners.

If the delegate is satisfied that a written statement describing an unsafe or abusive domestic environment by a separated partner is true, then it will be sufficient to prove an unsafe domestic environment existed even if there is no other supporting evidence.

  Special team

Income Support Service Delivery have established a special team to handle these cases prior to the commencement date of 1 July 2009.  Enquires made to general phone numbers should be referred to the special team in Brisbane office on 1300 654 052, or by writing to:

Attention: Mr Des Dargusch I403

GPO Box 651


Policy updates – CLIK

Policy in relation to changes to the qualifying age for partner service pension has been updated in the following areas of CLIK Policy Library:

P3/C1/S4 – Partner Service Pension

P3/C4 – Age

Glossary terms

Please note that as the PSP Separated measure does not commence until 1 July 2009 CLIK will not be updated with this information until that time.

Fact sheets and other information products

The fact sheets listed below have been updated to reflect the changes to the eligibility for partner service pension:

IS01 – Service pension overview

IS02 – How to claim Service Pension

IS45 – Partner Service Pension

The online version of You & Your Pension has been updated.  These changes will be incorporated in the next annual bulk print.

Please note that as the PSP Separated measure does not commence until 1 July 2009, the relevant Fact Sheets and other information products will not be updated with this information until that time.


The following form booklet has been updated:

D503/4B – About Claiming Service Pension

Standard Letters

Changes have been made to the following IS Standard Letters under the New Claim tab:

PSP Reject – DP pending

PSP Reject – Not veteran

PSP Reject – Under age

PSP Reject – Vet not pensioner


Contact Christine Johnston, Income Support Policy Implementation, on (02) 6289 4773 or by email for further information on this DI.

Sean Farrelly

National Manager

Compensation and Income Support Policy

   December 2008