Understanding Australia’s age pension for a blind person
The biggest difference for Australian seniors who are ‘legally blind’ is that they can be paid the full rate Age Pension without any means testing. That means that while, for the regular Age Pension, asset and income details have to be provided to Centrelink, this isn’t necessary for those who fit the Age Pension-Blind category.
The requirements are that they be Australian citizens or permanent residents who satisfy the age and residency requirements for the Age Pension.
Who is ‘legally blind’
The Age Pension-Blind pension is for seniors who are legally and permanently blind. The definition of ‘legally blind’ is included in the Social Security Regulations. In practical terms, to be legally blind you must have very low vision or non-functioning eyes.
The legally blind definition requires that if you have some vision then you must fail to be able to see in at least one of four ways.
1. Your vison could be so blurred that standing six metres away you can’t read a road sign designed to be read at 60 metres by someone with ‘normal’ vision.
The other tests for legal blindness relate to your field of vision:
2. Some legally blind people can see only straight ahead; each eye sees its own tiny field.But you need both eyes to judge the speed of a moving object and the distance from your eyes to anything you see.
3. Other legally blind people need to look sideways to see an object because their central vision field is very blurred.
4. Finally, some seniors have bits missing from their vision field: they might have lost the left half of their vision; or their vision field might be like looking through glasses that have big black spots randomly stuck on their lenses.
Low vision, but not legally blind
As noted, being legally blind means having no vision or very low vision. Many seniors find that their eyesight deteriorates to the extent that they can’t safely drive a car anymore, but they still have vision that’s far better than the legally blind and don’t qualify to be considered legally blind.
For those who find that their eyesight continues to deteriorate, they could have a vision assessment—by a medical specialist ophthalmologist—to check if their vision has fallen to the level of the legally blind.
Mobility aids for low vision seniors
It’s well known that guide dogs and white canes are used by people with low or no vision to help them get around independently. But not every legally blind person has or needs assistance from a guide dog. For instance, many of them have some peripheral vision and can move around—carefully—without needing to tap the ground ahead.
Free suburban public transport for blind pensioners
If your pensioner concession card shows ‘Age Pension-Blind’, you could apply for a free travel pass. Blind pensioners are entitled to travel free on suburban public transport in Australia. In Victoria, for instance, the Victorian Blind Travel Pass is like the regular travel pass (MYKI) to open the ticket barriers. Station staff are usually ready to open the gates for low-vision travellers.
Before retirement, the Disability Support Pension-Blind is available to adults who are legally blind but haven’t attained their Age Pension age. Applicants for this support must also be adult Australian citizens or ‘permanent residents’ who satisfy the residency requirements for a Social Security Pension.
This is part of a continuing series about Centrelink by Christine Hopper who talks to Centrelink as a customer and on behalf of clients. She understands the range of Department of Veteran Affairs and Centrelink income support benefits, their relevant means tests and eligibility conditions. She’s an actuary who also holds a Bachelor of Science, a Diploma of Financial Planning and a Certificate of Theology.
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