herald

Thursday 21 November 2019

Woman gets €100k bill after her old age pension is overpaid

Fianna Fail TD Shane Cassells
Fianna Fail TD Shane Cassells

A woman in her 80s has been hit with a bill for €100,000 after she received overpayments in her state pension, the Dail's spending watchdog has heard.

The case was raised by Fianna Fail TD Shane Cassells when he quizzed Department of Soc-ial Protection officials on what they are doing to address high levels of incorrect payments to pensioners in their 80s.

Reasonable

He referred to a study of the non-contributory, means-tested state pension scheme that showed 38pc of claimants over 80 years of age whose cases were examined were getting the wrong payments.

Mr Cassells said he knew of one woman whose bill for cumulative overpayments came to €100,000, which he said was "the hit that she had to take in that respect through no fault of her own".

Department of Social Prot- ection secretary general John McKeon said the study found that the "risk areas" for overpayments were people over 80.

He told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) what generally happens is their circumstan- ces change from the time they were originally means-tested for their pension at 65.

Mr McKeon said they may inherit property or money and do not tell the Department of Social Protection and this gives rise to overpayments.

Such overpayments are det- ected by control reviews.

Mr McKeon said the department's approach in these cases is to be reasonable in seeking to recover overpayments.

"We do agree repayment schedules with people which can be quite low in terms of the weekly amount but which we hope will recover the full amount over time," he said.

He added that sometimes the overpayments are recovered from the individual's estate after they die, which he conceded "can be a shock for the family".

Mr McKeon said the department reviews cases every year and sends reminders to pensioners who had been close to the means-test threshold to provide updates if their circumstances have changed.

He said that from this year the department will write to 10,000 people who had recorded "nil" means when they were originally assessed to remind them that they may have to declare changed circumstances.

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