If you’re about to apply for a Centrelink benefit such as the age pension or Commonwealth Senior Health Care Card, you’re going to play a game called Centrelink Snakes and Ladders…
The purpose of this is to suggest some tips to finding more ladders and fewer snakes. The difficulty with a Centrelink application tutorial is that everyones’ experience in applying for a benefit is different and subject to so many personal variables, let alone the complexities of the system itself. There’s a reason why so many clients prefer to simply pay us to help them with the system barriers, jargon, enormous time delays and hair pulling stress that can be avoided!
Let’s begin with the basics:
Firstly, don’t give up on your entitlement. There’s a lot of steps to get through and even the tech savvy find it cumbersome.
There are three streams to applying:
- All online
- Partly online with phone support, or:
- All manual (paper). This option may sound easier but take it from my experience, this path is full of boa constrictors. There are too many reasons to list why, other than to say it will likely squeeze the life out of you.
So good choice, you’re now thinking stream 1 or 2.
Before you start, you will need:
- Multiple forms of ID on hand; Driver’s Licence, Passport & Medicare Card ideally
- An email address (no you can’t share an email account, it has to be your own) PLUS, it’s helpful if you have your email access on your smartphone.
- A keen sense of enthusiasm and maybe a stiff drink…
The 4 general steps you will take for stream 1 or 2 are:
- Set up a MyGov Account
- Set up a MyGovID or go to a Centrelink office with a full assortment of IDs.
- Link Centrelink to MyGov
- Apply for your Centrelink benefit
Tip/Ladder: the additional step of downloading the Centrelink Express app on your phone is worthwhile but not a necessity.
Step 1: My Gov account (my.gov.au)
Follow the prompts from “Create Acccount”. If you plan to go to Centrelink with your ID, definitely choose the “email” option, rather than the digital ID. This step is not overly complex but you will need to provide answers to security questions. For those wanting to set up a Digital ID, jump to next step.
Step 2: Digital ID or Centrelink office
The purpose of this process is that you need to be verified as a legitimate person linked to authenticated ID. The Digital ID is not hard if you have some tech understanding but I’ve seen this process go round in circles and time out without success. Very frustrating! Another common mistake is people think they have done enough by just getting a “basic” ID profile in the MyGovID process. If your ID profile refers to being basic, it means you have a profile but the ID has not been verified or accepted. It’s often at this stage that people give up and go back to Step 1 (email). The first of the snakes that takes you back to the start.
You can also find your Customer Reference Number (CRN) online which you will need later in the process: Refer to Matthew Kelly’s blog on this subject here…
Step 3: Linking Centrelink to MyGov
If your digital MyGovID worked in Step 2, then this should be able to be linked automatically. Easy.
But if not, here’s the next snake in the system. To link Centrelink via the My Gov Portal using an email (refer Step 1), you need to call Centrelink on 132 307 and request your Linking code. HOWEVER, they will not provide you with a linking code unless you have either done the MyGovID, or provided them with appropriate ID that is verifiable. The snake is that they rely on their records being accurate to verify you, and Centrelink’s records are often out of date. I’ve had clients discover that their Centrelink records show them still married to their ex-partner from 3 relationships prior!
Tip/Ladder: the visit to the Centrelink office will update your ID before you land on any more snakes. Also, later in this process you may be asked to visit a Centrelink branch in person anyway before you can lodge your Centrelink application (particularly if born overseas). When at the Centrelink office, ask for your Customer Reference Number and then phoning 132307 should be a breeze.
Then follow the prompts to finish linking Centrelink to MyGov.
Step 4: Apply for your benefit
Tip/Ladder: Don’t start applying for anything until you’ve checked your Personal details in your Centrelink profile. Make sure these are up to date by amending if necessary; contact details, partner details, need for an interpreter etc. The snake is that if you start an application with incorrect details, you may get to a point where you can’t proceed any further and have to start a new application.
Then, under “My Online Claims” you can start your application for whichever benefit you are eligible for. If you were born overseas, you may be asked details such as when you first arrived in Australia, what flight or ship you arrived by. It’s handy to have those details ready.
If you have a partner, they will be asked to verify online that they are in a relationship with you (at the end of the application). Ironically, having jumped through lots of ID hoops, this partner process is completely open to fraud – which Centrelink will have to find a better way to verify – however for the time being, that is the process for now so make sure you don’t declare anything illegitimate!
At the end of the application process, you will be hit with a checklist of requirements that you need to provide before it will allow you to submit the application. This may include: bank statements, investment statements, partner confirmations, additional ID needs, income statements (payslips, tax returns) etc etc. Ultimately I’ve given up on trying to anticipate what they will ask for, as everyone (including differences between married couples) can be asked for something outside the square…
The final ladder is missed too often; people are asked to provide the info and assume that when the checklist is green, they are done. But alas, you still need to submit the application by scrolling through until you get a “Receipt number” confirmation. Print the receipt number page and keep it on file, at least until you get your benefit. I have seen the system simply miss applications and without that receipt number, you aren’t going to be back paid if Centrelink take 6 months to work out the problem.
And that’s it. You’re a Snakes and ladders winner!
Time for a Gin and Tonic. Or maybe a lie down?
Of course, if you just think it’s all too hard, we do help our clients navigate through this jungle.