How do I appeal a Centrelink decision?
If you think Centrelink has made the wrong decision about your claim or payments you can ask Centrelink to review its decision. Asking for a review of the decision is easy and free.
An initial review of the decision is conducted by an Authorised Review Officer (ARO). You can ask for the Centrelink decision to be reviewed by an ARO, in writing, over the phone or in person at your local Centrelink office. If the decision is about Centrelink possibly owing you money, it is important that you ask for the decision to be reviewed within 13 weeks of the date that you were notified of the decision if it’s a social security payment (e.g. NewStart Allowance) or 52 weeks if it’s a Family Assistance payment (e.g. Family Tax Benefit).
If the decision is about a debt, there is no limitation period at this level.
If you are unhappy with an ARO review you can then proceed to the Social Services and Child Support Division (SSCSD) of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). Until the middle of 2015 this was the SSAT. It is important that you ask for an appeal to the SSCSD within the same periods as above.
If you are unhappy with the SSCSD decision you may appeal to the General Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (GD AAT). It is important that you ask for an appeal to the GD AATwithin 28 days of the date that you were notified of the SSCSD decision. We advise that you get legal advice before taking this step.
What sort of decisions can I appeal?
You can appeal any decision that you believe to be incorrect (there are a few exceptions, noted below)
This includes such things as:
- whether someone is eligible for a payment;
- how much of the payment they are eligible for (noting of course that the level of payment is usually as a result of Government decisions)
- the length of time someone can be paid for;
- auxiliary benefits such as Rent Assistance;
- assessment of income and assets;
- membership of couple status;
Apart from those noted below, nearly every Centrelink decision can be appealed.
Can I appeal any Centrelink decision?
Generally, nearly every Centrelink decision can be appealed. There are a few obscure areas such as rejections of Compensation for Detriment due to Defective Administration (CDDA) and Payment Pending Review claims, but most others are appealable.
My application is taking a long time, what can I do about it?
Unfortunately the amount of time taken to process an application is not reflected in the law. Your rights are not reduced by any delay in processing, however you normally do not get anything extra if there’s a delay. Your local Federal Member of Parliament may assist in speeding this up.
Someone from Centrelink rang me up and told me I had to go to an appointment, what should I do?
You should ask for a request in writing. This is so that you have a record of Centrelink’s communication with you. Generally, verbal advice from Centrelink has no legal status.
Notices posted to a person’s ‘on-line access’ portal are considered to be written notice, which you must comply with.
I’ve received a letter from Centrelink asking for my payslips from last year. Do I have to provide them?
Yes. Centrelink can request any written information it requires (within reason) to assess you (or your partner’s) eligibility. However, you are only required to provide what they request. You should receive a specific time frame in which to provide this information.
A staff member from Centrelink was rude to me over the phone. What should I do?
You have the right to complain to the Federal Ombudsman about the behaviour of Centrelink staff.
I received a letter from Centrelink saying I need to appear at my local office and bring certain documents. What should I do?
You must comply with the notice. If you are unable to comply, for example, due to illness, you need to contact Centrelink and tell them. Centrelink may require evidence that you cannot comply.
I received a letter from Centrelink asking me questions about my ex-partner who I share a house with. Do I have to answer the questions?
Yes, but only in writing, remembering that “I do not know” and “I have no idea” are valid answers to questions.
Centrelink will generally give you a period of time (often seven days) to provide the answers. You may wish to speak to SSRV about the questions, as these tend to be fairly important.
It is important that you keep a copy of documents that you send to Centrelink.
My ex-employer received a letter asking about my pay. Is this allowed?
Yes. Employers and other organisations (for example Universities and schools) are required by law to provide information to Centrelink if requested.
I went to the SSCSD and they told me that whilst they were sympathetic I don’t have a case until the law’s changed. What can I do about that?
The laws governing Centrelink are made by the Federal Government. You may wish to speak, or write to your local member of Federal Parliament about things you believe to be unfair.
Is SSRV part of Centrelink?
No. SSRV is an independent community legal centre that specialises in social security issues. It is a member of the National Welfare Rights Network which comprises of welfare rights legal centres around Australia. Until 2009, SSRV was known as the Welfare Rights Unit. It receives funding from both the Federal and Victorian State Governments.
How can I contact SSRV?
You can contact SSRV by phone between 9:30am and 12:30pm on our telephone advice line, or by or email. SSRV is a service that operates across Victoria and is committed to providing equal service to clients wherever they live.
Does SSRV provide advice regarding all Centrelink issues?
No. As our name implies we specifically concentrate on providing advice regarding laws and policy that govern social security matters. SSRV does not provide advice regarding the other issues that Centrelink deals with, for example, aged care assessments, flood and drought relief, fishing licence buy-backs and other areas of government work.