New assets test limits
New assets test limits came into effect on 1 January 2017.
The assets test applies to the Service Pension and Income Support Supplement as well as pensions paid under the social security laws such as the Age Pension. The changes provide a fairer pension system that is better targeted and more sustainable.
The new assets test will affect people differently. Pensioners with modest assets will now receive an increased rate of pension to better support their retirement. Only people with a high level of assets will have their pension reduced.
Compensation payments such as the Disability Pension and War Widow(er) Pension are not affected by the assets test. Veterans or war widows who currently hold a DVA Gold Card will not lose their Gold Card as a result of their Service Pension or Income Support Supplement ceasing following the assets test changes.
There will be no change to the existing assets test exemptions for the family home. Assessable assets include bank accounts, shares, investment properties and cars.
The asset taper rate will be doubled, meaning that once an individual holds assets in excess of the limit, their pension will reduce at a higher rate.
You can claim a Health Care Card from the Department of Human Services (DHS) if your assets exceed the cut-off, resulting in your payments ceasing. You will not have to meet the usual income test requirements for this card.
A Commonwealth Seniors Health Card will also be issued for people over the pension age without the need to meet income test requirements.
Those affected by the changes should have received correspondence detailing the changes.
For more information, including tables showing asset values, visit the ‘Rebalanced assets test’ page on the DVA website and the ‘Changes to the pension assets test’ page on the DHS website.
You can also call DVA on 133 254 or from regional Australia free call 1800 555 254.
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SRCA legislation amendment
A new Bill, the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation Amendment (Defence Force) Bill 2016, has been introduced into Parliament.
If passed, the legislation will replicate the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA) to create a standalone Act for current and former Australian Defence Force (ADF) members. This Act will be called the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act (DRCA).
Importantly, eligibility and benefits under DRCA will be the same as those currently available to ADF members and veterans under the existing SRCA.
The new Act will not apply to, or have any impact on, veterans with eligibility under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 or the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004.
The Bill reflects the Government’s commitment to recognise the unique nature of military service. If passed, it will make the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs responsible for all compensation Acts for ADF members and veterans. Currently, the Minister for Employment has responsibility for the SRCA, which covers all Commonwealth employees, including ADF members.
The prospect of a standalone Act was announced by the Government nearly two years ago. Since then, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has consulted with the Department of Defence and ex-service representatives. Both Defence and ex-service representatives have been supportive of this important change.
This is a significant step in the broader reform being undertaken by DVA to improve services for veterans and their families.
To implement veteran-centric reform most easily, policy responsibility for all of the relevant legislation should sit with the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.
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Female Veterans and Families Forum
The first-ever Female Veterans and Families Forum was held in Canberra on 6 December 2016. Minister for Veterans' Affairs Dan Tehan attended along with female veterans and representatives from veterans and family groups, who discussed ways to improve services.
The forum provided a platform for female veterans to raise issues directly with the Government and the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA).
'One striking message was that our female veterans do not feel they receive the recognition they deserve for their service and sacrifice,' Mr Tehan said.
More than 9,000 women currently serve in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), which is around 15 per cent of the total permanent ADF.
In addition to acknowledging the service and sacrifice of women in the ADF, the forum canvassed a range of communication and transition issues that the Government will seek to address.
'The female veterans and families gave feedback about areas of improvement that are specific to families and the important role they play in supporting the veteran community,' Mr Tehan said.
The Government is improving the transition process by ensuring that all personnel will have appropriate documentation, including health records, superannuation and training records when they leave the ADF.
Since the beginning of 2016, DVA and the ADF have started sharing some information that will allow DVA to communicate with ADF personnel at appropriate stages of their careers and post-service life.