This topic explains the following provisions that are common to most payments, allowances and benefits and can affect the rate of payment:
Act reference: SSAct section 4(7) Illness separated couple, section 4(8) Respite care couple
Assuming all other conditions are met, if one of a couple is receiving a pension and the other receives NSA, SA or SpB, the pension is paid at the single rate once. If they are receiving a benefit or allowance, the benefit or allowance is paid at the single benefit or allowance rate. RA can be paid to each recipient.
For each partner of an illness-separated couple in a retirement village, the EC payable to render them an ineligible homeowner is the 'single' EAA. For the partner not resident in the retirement village, home ownership status continues to be decided on whether the principal home (section 11A(1)) is 'owned' by either partner.
Home ownership for each partner of a non-illness-separated couple is set at half the EAA. For illness-separated couples, the full EAA applies to each partner.
Explanation: EC is compared to the EAA.
Example: John and Mary go into a retirement village and pay an EC of $100,000. The EC is compared to the EAA of $90,000, and so they are considered to be homeowners. If John and Mary are illness separated and go into a villa unit in a hostel, they each have an EAA of $90,000, so if they pay $100,000, then they are considered non-homeowners.
The following table explains the assets limit that applies:
If both partners have...
the same home ownership status,
the relevant homeowner or non-homeowner allowable assets limit applies with RA payable, subject to the rent test, to non-homeowners.
different home ownership status,
a common allowable assets limit is adopted.
The common allowable assets limit is determined by the following calculation:
Only the party who is the non-homeowner is eligible for RA.
Act reference: SSAct section 11A(1) Principal home
To be eligible for the single rate of pension, one of a couple must be admitted as a respite care resident for at least 14 consecutive days.
Explanation: This minimum residence period removes the inequities that could otherwise arise if an admission of one or 2 days coincided with a payday but a longer admission did not.
In addition to the single rate pension, RA may continue to be payable to a pensioner in respite care if they were receiving RA prior to admission to respite care. However, respite care fees are NOT rent for RA purposes.
The usual notification provisions apply when a member of a couple is in respite care. Payment can only be increased:
Policy reference: SS Guide 188.8.131.52 Determining a Respite Care Couple
If an admission to respite care exceeds 63 days, payment at the single rate may continue. In the case of CP, if one admission or the total of 2 or more admissions to respite care in a calendar year exceeds 63 days, payment may continue in special circumstances.
Act reference: SSAct section 4(7) Illness separated couple
Policy reference: SS Guide 184.108.40.206 Qualification for CP during Temporary Cessation of Care
The VEA has similar provisions for illness-separated couples, which enables service pension to be paid at the single rate where a couple are living apart due to ill health. In order to assist consistency between the 2 departments, a liaison advice is necessary when it is intended either to grant or refuse a claim for single rate in these circumstances.
As part of reforms to pensions from 20 September 2009, a person's pension may be paid under transitional arrangements where this provides a higher rate of payment.
Further information on the transitional arrangements is at 220.127.116.11.
Act reference: SSAct Schedule 1A Savings and transitional provisions
Policy reference: SS Guide 18.104.22.168 Pension Reform - Transitional Arrangements
Last reviewed: 21 September 2009