A Melbourne man died from bowel cancer while waiting for his disability support pension claim to be approved in what his advocate called “one of the worst cases” she has seen, the Guardian reports.
The man, known as John to protect his privacy, was left to survive on Newstart as he battled stage 3 bowel cancer and had earlier attempted suicide after learning of a two-month wait on his pension claim, according to Katrina Newman, who took up his case in February.
Newman, of DRC Advocacy, told Guardian Australia that John had died in hospital on 3 April with his claim still pending, 54 days after he first lodged the application with Centrelink.
The agency went on to approve his claim posthumously and confirmed it would pay his estate $4,207.33 in backpay, Newman said.
But she was concerned that his estate now owed a debt to the commonwealth. While she had twice notified Centrelink of John’s death, Newman said she later received a letter confirming an additional $1,063.40 fortnightly payment and had been informed by a Centrelink social worker a debt would be owed.
“It’s one of the worst cases I’ve seen,” Newman, a specialist in disability pension claims, told Guardian Australia.
Alerted to John’s case by Guardian Australia, the Department of Human Services apologised and promised to investigate to avoid a repeat incident. A spokesman also insisted “no debt was raised”.