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.”