28 September 2008

There's a Conspiracy Afoot!

Oh yes...and it's to drive me insane, I'm quite convinced of it.

Remember I posted about reaching pension age a couple of months ago? Right, of course you do. Okay, so I duly went along to Centrelink (our Social Security system in Australia) to apply for the Pension Bonus Scheme. After standing in line for an hour getting a very good education on the vagaries of humankind, I finally reached my destination...the desk...with someone behind it. I handed in my forms, duly filled out, along with proof of identity, age and the other myriad pieces of information required for this process. I was advised to see a FIS officer. A FIS officer? What, I enquired, was that? Financial Services Information officer. Oh, I see. Well do I have to? No, but we do advise it to be sure you know what your rights are. I thought about this and decided, well, why not? So an appointment was made for the following week to see this person.

It was very enlightening and I was glad I had taken advantage of it, because it was financially more to my advantage to take a part pension straight away rather than register for the Pension Bonus, which accrues over five years. Overall a difference in my favour of $10,000 over the five years, plus the concessions, some of which I would have collected with the Bonus Scheme anyway. The part pension just gives me a few more.

Now here's where the fun and games began. I had to fill in four, yes, four multipage forms. Again, I had provide all the documents as above, plus financial statements, assets, tax assessment for the last financial year and so on. One of these forms was a rental statement, which Jane had to sign, stating what rent I paid. I could download and print this off from the Centrelink website, which I did, no problem. Again I stood in line and added to my education, not as long this time, about 40 minutes...and handed in my forms all clipped together with a bulldog clip. The lady who took them was rapt at my organisation (obsessiveness?), and I watched her photocopy everything, stamp it then staple it all together...note the phrase "I watched her."

A couple of weeks later, I get a letter saying they needed a rental statement from me as one was not included. I rang and begged to differ, as stated above. No, replied the voice on the end of the phone, I definitely did not get it. But...but, I watched someone copy and stamp it. That may be, but I haven't got it. Ok, I sighed, I'll send another one in. They had actually enclosed a rental statement form in the letter, which was very convenient. So again, I filled in this form and sent it off along with a superannuation statement I had forgotten (yes, that was my error) and this time, posted it off.

A fortnight later (last Wednesday) I get a letter from Centrelink saying my pension had been rejected because I had not replied to their letter in the timeframe given. So, I rang them again and told them I had no idea what they were talking about. What letter? I thought they must have sent me another one. No, apparently the second rental agreement along with my super statement didn't arrive or they lost it or something. I was speechless...then I exploded! Unfortunately I was talking to someone at a call centre, I didn't care...I had to vent. I asked them what I was supposed to have done if I was actually desperate for that money? I'd have been on the street, unable to pay for food or medication...it was deplorable. The inefficiency was staggering.

Anyway, there was no getting away from it, I had to go through the process again. However, when I went to the website to download the rental statement form, it can no longer be downloaded and printed off. I have to ring and request one or go in and physically get one (more standing in a queue). Anyway, what I wanted to know was, how could I be sure they would get it? Bring it in. Tried that, you lost it. Post it. Tried that, you lost it or something. I eventually got a fax number. Okay, I'll try that. At least I'll still have the originals and a receipt.

Meanwhile I had to ring my superannuation company and ask for another statement. When I explained what happened to the very sympathetic young man on the phone, he was so sorry, but he couldn't help laughing and by that time, I was seeing the funny side of it, too. He posted it off promptly, I received a copy statement about 36 hours later.

So, that being all that, yesterday morning I went online and checked my bank statement. Funny, I thought, there's more here than there should be. All my transactions have gone through, invoices deposited...ah hah! Right down the bottom, the last transaction was a deposit...from Centrelink...for $163.10. WTF? As you can imagine, by this time, I'm really starting to doubt my sanity.

I wondered over in a daze to see Ken. Do I look mad to you, Ken...you know, do I look as if I'm a brick short of a load? Yes, he said, you do look a bit odd. When I told him the story, he said, Centrelink are trying sending you mad...My sentiments exactly.

The moral to the story is...if you are having doubts about your sanity and want to put it to the test, then arguably the best way to do that is to try and get some sense out of Centrelink. You'll be on a cocktail of anti-psychotic drugs in no time!

Meanwhile, I wait...


Peter said...

Yeah that all sounds right Robyn, the $163.10 is for your first lot of anti psychotic drugs.
Centrelink don't like to see you out of pocket!!!

Gattina said...

I see with pleasure (I am bad) that your administration services are as efficient as in European countries too. It seems to me that when people work for public services they become robots and no human feeling or thinking is inside them anymore. Remember the (true) story of a woman, falsly declared dead who had to live for 6 months without pension until finally she was declared alive again even when she stood there and told it ?
Never try to understand administrattions you will get MAD !

Jellyhead said...

Oh my goodness, what a story!! You must have been soooooooooo frustrated!

I have experienced similar things with other institutions - have tried to change my Super beneficiary from my mother to my husband about 5 times - verbally and then in writing, but Mum remains on my statement every year. I told my mother just to give it over to my husband if I die!

Don't worry, the nice men in a white van will be coming to take us both away shortly, but at least we can keep each other company ;-)

Flip Flop Floozie said...

Well, I say that this is quite the problem. You know Mike will be applying for retirement within the year and I am thinking that it is going to be just as hard if not harder. You know the government does not want to give you back YOUR MONEY!! Plus here we get taxed on our SS again!! What sense does that make? NONE!! No wonder so many older people live in such desperate situations.

Anonymous said...

I'm scared! Should I start filling those forms in now? That should give me a head start. Bloody government!

PEA said...

Sheesh, I guess I'd better start filling my forms NOW! lol I think it's the same everywhere, you always tend to get the runaround. I can well imagine how completely frustrated you are, it's ridiculous what you've had to go through. Hopefully they'll get things straightened out before you have to fill out the forms once again! lol xoxo

Walker said...

Its a ploy by the govt to drive you crazy and keep your money. LOL

I make multiple copies when i have govt documents and I don't leave without a repeipt.
I have been through what you did more thqn once and just prepare ahead of time for the beaurocratic BS they line the ailse with today.

Liz said...

Yes, that sounds about right. Younger Son has had similar problems with his unemployment office.

Hello, by the way, I'm back!!!

Gypsy said...

I have a theory about all this Robyn. Centrelink do make claiming any money from them as difficult as possible in the hope that people will just give up in despair and won't bother them again. They don't want to give us any money...if you just remember that you will hopefully hang on to your sanity just a little bit longer.

When my turn comes I fully intened to drive them so crazy that they'll give me anything I ask for just to get rid of me.

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