Stuart Barnett is our mining industry’s leading personal injury lawyer. This month he has some important advice in relation to applying for Centrelink benefits whilst waiting for a dispute about weekly compensation to be resolved.
Whilst there is often no dispute or delay in the commencement of weekly compensation after an injury occasionally there is a delay or an extended dispute. This means that the injured worker is not receiving weekly compensation. If the worker does not have accrued entitlements such as personal or annual leave or income protection insurance this can mean that they have no income.
It is permissible to apply for and receive Centrelink benefits in circumstances where you have no income and where there is a dispute about weekly compensation. Centrelink does have various income and assets tests that apply to individuals and family situations and the injured worker would need to fit within those guidelines.
When making an application Centrelink will ask whether the time off work relates to a work injury and for the name of the Insurer. This should be disclosed and if it is available a copy of the letter declining liability can be attached. Centrelink will also ask for the name of your lawyer if you have one and once again there is no reason why that information should not be given. Centrelink will then write to the lawyer advising them of the payments and requiring the lawyer to keep Centrelink informed about the disputed compensation case.
It is important to understand that in the event the injured worker is successful in having weekly compensation payments made by the insurer Centrelink will require a repayment of the benefit paid by them in the relevant period. Where the worker receives weekly compensation backdated then the repayment is normally on a dollar for dollar basis.
It is ok and often necessary to seek Centrelink benefits where there is a dispute about weekly compensation as long as it is understood that there will be a payback of some or all of the benefit once the weekly payments are commenced. Weekly payments will also affect the right to receive and or the amount of any future Centrelink benefits.