More couples have come forward in support of direct action, to highlight the situation for gay pensioners.

Other couples have said they would lend their support to James and Mark, two pensioners who last week raised the notion of staging protests to highlight the effects of recent changes to Centrelink entitlements.

One 80-year-old Korean War veteran told Sydney Star Observer of how his pension payments had been cut by $427.76 a fortnight, leaving him with $182.87 a week.

My partner of 11 years is self-employed as a hairdresser and now has the unenviable task of supporting me for statistically another four years –” the latest figure being 84.4 years, he said.

I have written to the Minister for Veteran’s Affairs and sent a copy to 11 Parliamentarians and the Chief Executive of Seniors Australia … I would keenly support James and Mark in assisting with appropriate action.

Another pensioner who became ineligible for his disability pension after declaring his relationship said Centrelink had continued to pay him. He feared incurring a debt, in spite of contacting Centrelink on four separate occassions.

I received no acknowledgement, response, advice or help from Centrelink. Centrelink have ignored all documentation that I have sent them in this matter, the pensioner said.

I do not wish to hide my relationship or be accused of rorting the system -” or deliberately setting out to deceive Centrelink –” I just want them to stop paying me so I do not build up debt.

A spokeswoman for Centrelink said for anyone in this situation there would be recourse for an appeal over any debt incurred.

People always have the opportunity to ask for a review of a decision that we’ve made. So if we make a decision to make a change to a person’s payment rate, people can ask for that to be reviewed if they don’t think it’s correct based on other info they’ve been provided, and certainly there are avenues for appeal in terms of debt and things like that, so there’s scope to look at that, she said.

The spokeswoman said there were both internal and external review systems, including the option for people to take concerns to the Securities Appeal Tribunal or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if they felt they had been wrongly penalised.

There’s nothing that flags on a person’s record whether or not they’re in a gay or lesbian relationship. The only thing that would come up would be that a person has a partner, and if you went into that it would say they are of the same-sex but there’s not a distinctive marker on somebody’s record saying that is what’s happening there, she said.

In terms of sharing information with other government agencies it’s something that we do do on a pretty basic level in terms of income and assets, not relationship information.

We deal with a fair bit of customer information every day and we’ve got pretty strict policies surrounding that. Reports happen every year about issues with customer browsing and looking at records you’re not supposed to, and it’s something that our staff are very aware of, can be sacked for and in fact have been.

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