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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 370

Senator GIETZELT —Yesterday Senator Watson raised two matters in a question without notice. One matter concerned the current ineligibility of a widow of a serviceman to receive a service pension at the single rate and, hence, the requirement in the legislation that she transfer to a social security age or widow's pension in order to be paid at the higher rate. As this and the other matter impinged on both my Department and that of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes), I thought it was prudent to take the question on notice. I am now in a position to provide an answer to the honourable senator's question.

The question of payment of a single rate of service pension for a widow of a deceased veteran has been raised from time to time. Many policy considerations as well as practical difficulties need to be addressed. The present position is that, following the death of a service pensioner, his widow may elect to continue to receive half of the married rate of service pension, assessed according to her changed financial circumstances, or to apply to be transferred to the single rate of social security pension. Where an entitlement to social security pension appears to exist, my Department advises widows that it is to their financial advantage to transfer to a social security pension. However, I am aware of the difficulties faced by some and perhaps many widowed service pensioners, particularly older widows, in completing applications for social security pensions. My Department has been in consultation with the Department of Social Security exploring ways to assist widows in the transfer of their service pension to a social security pension. That matter has been under review for some time.

I should mention that, for a period of 12 weeks following the death of a service pensioner, the widow continues to receive through the Department of Veterans' Affairs, in addition to her own service pension, the amount of pension payable to her husband at the time of his death. This additional payment is known as a re-adjustment pension and is provided to alleviate the financial hardship of the widow immediately after her bereavement. The transfer to a social security pension occurs only after that 12 weeks has elapsed, if the widow elects to take this course. Naturally and properly, she would be advised to do so by my Department. However, the matter is under review. It requires some further readjustments between the two departments to ascertain whether we can overcome the difficulties that currently exist.

In the second part of his question, Senator Watson asked me whether the proposed pensions assets test will be exactly the same for both age and service pensions. The honourable senator was kind enough to show me an article that seemed to suggest that there were differences between the two departments and the two categories of pensioners-service pensioners in my area and the social security beneficiaries in the social security area. The legislation introduced in the House of Representatives on 21 August 1984 to give effect to the assets test contains identical provisions for both age and invalid pensions and service pensions. The assets test for age and service pensioners is not similar; it is the same.