Dec 09, 2021

80-year-old man denied pension from Centrelink over name change made decades ago

80yo denied pension Centrelink
Photo: Nine.

Coming to Australia from Lebanon at 22 years old, Joseph Finianos was ready to contribute, worked and paid tax for 58 years. However, when it came time for him to apply for the pension a few years ago, he tells of how a government body expressed to him “we can’t help you”. 

Speaking to Nine, the Sydney man conveyed how the problem had started 75 years prior when he was a small child in Lebanon. Hoping to assist their student in the transition into Western culture, a schoolteacher had adjusted his first name from Youssef to Joseph. 

He used the name Joseph when he emigrated to Australia, however, his passport and birth certificate remained in the name Youssef. 

He describes the name differences, although easily explained and correlated, mitigated all his efforts to get a pension, and he had significant trouble in acquiring the necessary paperwork. 

Continuing, Mr Finianos recalled how he was consistently told by Centrelink, “We can’t accept this.”

Only after being contacted by Nine was a case manager assigned to Mr Finianos’ case at Centrelink. Joseph was then granted an exemption through having an identity expert examine his documents and being given the chance to prove he was both Joseph and Youssef. 

After many moments of frustration and confusion, Mr Finianos has now been approved to receive a pension and is expected to begin receiving payments soon. 

A clear sign of Joseph’s contribution and work ethic, he said he cannot bring himself to fully retire just yet. 

Understandably he added, “But I don’t want to work as hard, so now I can cut back on the hours.”

Services Australia conveyed in a statement to Nine that it was only able to assess a claim for the Age Pension if the applicant “provides us with all the information required”.

They continued, “This can include information about income and assets, identity documents, residence details and responses to all required questions in the claim. 

“If we ask people for more information to support their claim and they don‘t provide it or make contact with us, their claim cannot be assessed. 

“We need to verify someone‘s identity whenever they claim a payment. If they’ve changed their legal name, they need to provide supporting documentation to prove this. This helps us to protect customers from fraud.”

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    1. What a stupid, antiquated ‘so called’ efficient and supposedly transparent system we run at CentreLunk…. poor old bustard. How many more are made to suffer the same incompetence of this bizarre and dysfunctional Goverment Department. To add further salt-in-the-wound, no doubt the old CentreLunk system will now be hosting ‘most’ of their enquiries as “on line” only. Many of our aging community members simply do not understand the on-line complexities
      of the whole internet system, an ongoing nightmare for many older customers.

  1. He’s not asking for a pension as Yousef, so he’s not double dipping. Seriously, why should it take channel 9 to follow this up. Rules are rules but common sense needs to prevail. It should be a senior managers call to override the staff decision.

  2. Centrelink has improved. I recommend using the online complaint link. I don’t recommend using the telephone because you can be on hold for at least an hour. I believe this gentleman did get paid in the end but I completely understand his frustration and distress because almost everyone (including myself) have experienced this kind of service from Centrelink.

  3. Had a similar problem. Was getting letters every second week asking me to prove who I was. Drove me nuts untill they fixed it.

      1. Sometimes not that easy Derka. I submitted a claim and supplied multiple documents only to be told they had lost my file. I work on computers ( easier to wait for work than continue to deal with Centrelink) and unless someone had deleted my file this was not possible. I followed all instructions and was still given the runaround for months. I was one of the lucky ones that gained employment at the old age of 64, not looking forward to going through it again when I retire.

  4. Centrelink will do anything to reject people who have worked most of their lives however they’ll support 3 generations of drug induced alcoholics at the drop of a hat

  5. Centrelink needs to climb down of their high horse stop thinking they rule the country and remember that they are dealing with hard working people who have paid their taxes and are entitled to their pension when their work life ends

  6. It’s sad that he contributed all his life for the Country and yet denied getting pension. But I am glad he finally received a good news. But in saying that. Centerlink is also right. Need to make sure you are this person. As this world is full of evil people trying hard to rob the people by creating all these sorts of evil ways that attracted people to it and later on they are scammers, and that is why the Centerlink has to be certain that all legitimate documents are provided. And it is not just the Centerlink it is all Government and as well as all those big private industries.

  7. Centre link people are so rude, i reported my ex six years ago that he was living with his girlfriend and collecting age pension they did nothing, over the
    time have reported him at least six times still nothing. About six months ago paid to get copy from courts where she admitted they were going to together when we separated sent yo centre link still nothing So that shows how good they do there job

  8. If people don’t give all there information . What are they going to do . give it to anybody who ask for it.Were talking about tax . payer’s hard earnings.Good on you centerlink.

  9. I’m so surprised that there are no mechanisms in place to sort out these issues promptly and efficiently without victimising the poor client.


  10. I’m trying to get a care pension for my father who has dementia and mother who can belly walk and I’m a cancer patient

    1. I had to wait on the phone for 6 hours (Over 2 days) in order to receive carers payments and it still took 5 months for the paperwork to be finalised. But in the end everything was worked out and received back payments from the time that I put the paperwork in.

  11. Rules are rules and lots of immigrants Rob our system so his lucky channel 9 helped I understand both parties views but again rules are rules people, otherwise I could go claim three pensions when retirement an that just wouldn’t be fair on tax payers

  12. The government is in the process of cutting out the pension there will be no pension in 20 years or even less this is one reason it’s so hard to get now

  13. I had my name changed my food not have a worry in the world I just went to service Australia and they did it all for me so I don’t know why this poor old bigger. .had. To put up with so much crap

  14. Wow a decision made with a touch of human understanding. Good luck Joseph, enjoy your relaxation. And hope you continue in good health!!!!

  15. I’m very happy for him, it must’ve been a trying and depressing time for him after 58 yrs contributing to the country. Enjoy your retirement Joseph.

  16. I’ve had similar issues with my name also I have a long Italian name and issues always arise with changing phone s ,and even banking,who can I contact to get some support

  17. Centrelink are definately under instructions to deny ANY claim at first interview. Been there done that !

  18. I can’t walk more than 50m at a time & can’t hold my head up. I hame had 0 income for 5 years. I’ve been ruled TPD & still have been denied the pension.

  19. If it was a 1 off incident of stupidity it could be seen as a accident.
    But it is one of to many incredibly dishonourable defaults on the concept of mutual obligation.
    That indicates a deliberate directive by the government to behave in a dishonourable & un Australian way made worse by the stacking of the AAT with unqualified mates ensuring justice is denied to the vulnerable.

  20. It just makes the words an inclusive society an absolute joke. How many people from a culturally diverse background deal with this total lack of understanding from uneducated bureaucrats about the migrants challenges.

  21. Requesting supporting documents is one thing and harassing people is other. Centrelink staff should stop harassing people like this.

  22. It’s a shame that people like Joseph had to experience this but I am also having trouble getting onto the disablety pension due to my health problems, I have been trying for years but you can put in all the paperwork that centreline asks for but they still deny the application they tell you that it must be permanent and you give them the paperwork to say that but they will still turn you down

  23. That’s a easy fix problem, I think Joseph refused to do it, Take his passport and citizenship paper visit RTA and Banks, his super funds to correct his name to Youssef, leave the Joseph as used name. Centrelink needs his 3 types of ID to confirm his identity. It’s controlled by the computer. General staff processing his claim can’t overpass the rules.

  24. It’s hilarious that centrelink only helped him when they got called out. Typical government sector that needs to keep a good moral image. The welfare system in this country is a joke… imagine being a contributing member of society your whole life only to be turned down for a basic income. It’s a human right, not a “privilege”

  25. Centrelink policy, which is blindly followed by all staff including senior management, is government policy. The harder they make it for good, honest, deserving people to receive benefits, the more money the government save. One of the greatest things to have come out of the pandemic was seeing the disbelief experienced by people who had to deal with Centrelink for the first time.
    People who thought the system was fair and there to support those who needed it!

  26. That is absolutely shocking. I’m sure he’s worked all his life and payed taxes. Have a heart and give him the pension.

  27. I think that Centerlink needs to use some common sense. Everybody knows that Youssef is the European name for Joseph. All the other documentation supported his claim.

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