3.1.5.30 Bereavement Payment Provisions for Couples

Summary

This topic explains the following bereavement provisions relevant to surviving members of couples (1.1.M.120):

  • re-assessment of surviving recipient's rate as a single person, and
  • survivor's entitlement to keep payments made to the deceased during the bereavement period, and
  • recipients living apart due to ill health or respite care, and
  • the effect of DFISA on bereavement payment.

The LBP for surviving members of couples is explained in another topic.

Act reference: SSAct section 21(2) Bereavement definitions, Chapter 2 Pensions, benefits and allowances

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.1.5.70 The Lump Sum Bereavement Payment - Member of a Couple, 3.1.5.40 Both Members of Couple Die during Bereavement Period, 3.1.5.50 Bereavement Payments for Couples where One Member is a DVA Pensioner

Legislation

Each part in Chapter 2 of the SSAct includes a division about the application of the bereavement provisions to a specific payment.

Act reference: SSAct Chapter 2 Pensions, benefits and allowances

New single rate - surviving partner

Following notification of the partner's death, the survivor's rate is immediately adjusted to the single rate from:

  • the LATER of the following, if the person and their partner were in receipt of a benefit or pension:
    • the day of the partner's death, OR
    • the day after the date paid to, of the combined couple rate, OR
  • if the person's partner was NEITHER a long term social security recipient or a pensioner:
    • the payday on or after the death, provided the Department was notified of the death within 4 weeks of the day after the person died, OR
    • the date of notification if the Department was notified outside the 4-week period.

The following table explains the arrears and lump sum provisions that apply when the deceased person was a pension or benefit recipient:

If the survivor's single rate is… Then…
  • MORE than the couple were receiving, AND
  • the first available payday is within the bereavement period,
arrears are payable from the date of death and there is no lump sum payable.

Example: A person's single rate may be higher because the partner had significant earnings that cease on their death.

  • MORE than the couple were receiving, AND
  • the first available entitlement period end date (1.1.E.126) is NOT within the bereavement period,
no lump sum or arrears are payable.
LESS than the couple were receiving, a LBP may be payable.
NIL because of excess income or assets as a single person, ONLY a LBP may be payable.

Act reference: SSAct section 21(2) Bereavement definitions

Changes during bereavement lump sum period

If there is a change in the level of the survivor's income or assets during the bereavement lump sum period, the usual provisions that govern the effective date of rate changes apply. That is, during the bereavement lump sum period most increases in rate apply from the date of notification and most decreases in rate apply from the date of the event.

Example: The surviving recipient's income may change because they cease or commence work.

If the survivor was a joint owner of the couple's assets, the delegate needs to ensure that the correct amount of income and assets is attributed to the survivor.

The LBP is assessed on the recipient's circumstances at the time of its payment. If the LBP has already been made, it is NOT adjusted for subsequent changes in income or assets.

Example: The recipient has an increase in income from earnings within the bereavement period, but after the LBP has been paid. The LBP is not recalculated to take into account the change of the person's rate of payment.

However compensation preclusion provisions do apply, as bereavement payments are recoverable payments.

The following table explains when the rate changes if other events occur within the bereavement lump sum period that affect the survivor's single rate of pension.

Example: The recipient gains or loses a dependent child.

If the change results in… Then the date of effect is the…
an increase in the rate payable, date of notification of the event.
  • a reduction in the rate payable, AND
  • the notification occurred WITHIN the notification period,

the EARLIER of the following:

  • date of the delegate's decision, OR
  • the end of the notification period.
  • a reduction in the rate payable, AND
  • the notification occurred AFTER the notification period,
the date of the event.

Act reference: SSAct section 21(2) Bereavement definitions

Policy reference: SS Guide 6.4.1 Compensation Recovery in Specific Circumstances

Payments in deceased partner's name

A surviving partner is entitled to keep any instalments that are paid in the name of the deceased person during the BEREAVEMENT PERIOD. This applies regardless of how the payment was made.

The right to keep the instalments paid during the bereavement period exists even if:

  • the new single rate is more than the combined couple rate previously paid, OR
  • there is no single rate payable to the surviving partner because of the income and/or assets test, OR
  • the couple had been living apart due to ill health or respite care (see explanation).

Explanation: In the case of illness separation or respite care, the amount paid in the name of the deceased is restricted to the amount that would have been paid to the deceased if they were not separated.

If the deceased was being paid by group payment and the survivor is not, the institution that received the group payment is expected to make the payment/s issued in the bereavement period available to the survivor.

If the Department is aware that the survivor has not been able to access any of the deceased's payments issued in the bereavement period, then the payments may be reissued to the survivor.

Example: The survivor may not be able to access the deceased's payment if:

  • a cheque payment is returned, or
  • an instalment is returned.

Explanation: Financial institutions are protected from any legal action or claims by other parties, when the surviving partner is given access to the payments issued to the deceased during the bereavement period.

Couples living apart due to ill health or respite care

If a couple are living apart because of ill health or respite care, bereavement payments are worked out as if the couple had been living together.

In this case the delegate must remember:

  • the LBP is calculated on the basis of notional rates - that is, what would have been paid had the couple been able to live together, and
  • an adjustment may need to be made to account for the instalments paid in the name of the deceased person, at the single rate, and
  • if the notification was significantly delayed, usually more than 4 paydays after the death, the survivor will have been overpaid. The amount overpaid is a recoverable debt.

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.1.5.70 The Lump Sum Bereavement Payment - Member of a Couple, 3.1.5.90 LBP Example Calculations - Members of a Couple where Separated due to Illness or Respite Care or Death of Both Members of a Couple

DFISA & bereavement payment

Where a member of a couple who received a social security pension or benefit and a DFISA payment dies, the survivor may be paid a bereavement payment.

An amount equal to the total of the rates of DFISA and the social security pension or benefit payable immediately prior to the person's death will be used to calculate the bereavement payment to the survivor.

In some circumstances DVA will deliver part of the bereavement payment and may recover overpayments of DFISA from that payment. However, the total bereavement payment (paid by both departments) remains a social security payment.

Act reference: Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 section 118ND Bereavement payments under the SSAct

Policy reference: SS Guide 4.3.5.73 DVA DFISA & Bereavement Payments

Last reviewed: 4 January 2016