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3.5.7 Investigating the claim
188.8.131.52 — Employment
If the alleged employer is a large organisation, a phone call to the personnel area may be sufficient to confirm the pensioner is employed there. Details of the employment should then be obtained with a formal request under section 128 VEA. If there is any suggestion that the pensioner may be working under a different identity, advice should be sought immediately from the National Fraud Control Unit (NFCU).
184.108.40.206 — Rent Assistance
If an informant claims a pensioner is being paid rent assistance when in fact he/she owns (or partner owns) the house in which they are living, the first step would be to check the files to see to whom the claimed rent is being paid. This could be an individual, a real estate agent, a private trust or a private company. A title search with the Land Titles Office will reveal who owns the property. The local council (or appropriate authority in the State) will know to whom the rate notices are sent. In relation to a private company or trust, the status of the pensioner as an attributable stakeholder would need to be determined.
220.127.116.11 — A pensioner could be accused of claiming rent assistance when they were not paying rent but were actually living either in a defacto relationship or simply rent free. The landlord should be able to produce a record of rent received. It should also show on the taxation records of the landlord. If a defacto relationship is uncovered in the process of investigation, there may also be, in addition to the rent question, a need to follow up on details relating to the partner's income/assets.
18.104.22.168 — Marriage or Marriage-Like Relationship
One reason to hide a marriage would be that the veteran's partner has income or assets that would affect the pension, or because both partners have been receiving pension at the single rate. The first step would be to confirm that the couple are living together and that the partner is clearly identified as not being a relative (parent, brother, sister, son or daughter).
22.214.171.124 — The name of the partner will need to be obtained. If enough details are available the Registrar's Office can confirm a marriage. If a name is available, a match can be made by checking with the Electoral Roll, the Motor Vehicle Registry, employer, landlord or real estate agent. An interview may be conducted with both parties in order to ascertain the relationship as described in section 11A VEA. Alternatively the pensioner and partner may be requested to complete a statement or questionnaire outlining the factors described in this manual's Section 126.96.36.199
188.8.131.52 — In forming an opinion about the relationship of the couple, the following matters (which are described in more detail in section 11A VEA), are to be considered:
- the financial aspects of the relationship
- the nature of the household
- the social aspects of the relationship
- any sexual relationship between the people; and
- the nature of the people's commitment to each other.
184.108.40.206 — Dependent Child
To qualify as a dependent child it is not necessary that the child be living with the pensioner, so their absence from the pensioner's home is only significant if the pensioner has claimed they do live together. Information previously given by the pensioner as to the children's school would be a good starting place. If there is a suggestion that the child or children do not exist, then the birth register should be checked if enough information is available to begin a search. A pensioner claiming dependent children from DVA is also likely to be receiving benefits for those children from Centrelink, and the ATO should also have details.
220.127.116.11 — Undisclosed Income/Assets
It is essential to have details of income and the financial institutions involved, or details of the financial adviser handling the pensioner's affairs, to make inquiries concerning income. Assets may be more easily investigated, particularly if they are property (land titles and council), motor vehicles or boats (registry).