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Factsheet IS147 - Blind Pensioners

Purpose

This Factsheet explains the special rules that may apply to your pension eligibility and/or your assessment for service pension, veteran payment, income support supplement (ISS), wife or age pension paid by DVA, if you are permanently blind.

*Note: - Whilst this Factsheet uses the term 'Pension' and 'Pensioner' it also applies to recipients of veteran payment.

Who is a blind pensioner or person?

A person may be regarded as a blind pensioner or person if they are permanently blind in both eyes. This occurs where:

  • there is total loss of sight; or
  • corrected visual acuity is less than 6/60 in both eyes as measured using the Snellen Scale; or
  • in the written opinion of an ophthalmologist, the visual fields deficits and/or combination of deficits result in a visual impairment which is the equivalent of a corrected visual acuity measure of less than 6/60 in both eyes.

Generally, a report by an ophthalmologist will provide satisfactory confirmation that the above criteria have been met.

Am I eligible for income support due to blindness?

Veterans who have rendered qualifying service, or war widows and widowers, are accepted as permanently incapacitated without further investigation if they are:

  • permanently blind in both eyes; and
  • under pension age; and
  • satisfy other eligibility and payability criteria.

The pensions payable to people who meet the above criteria are the:

  • invalidity service pension for veterans; or
  • ISS on the grounds of permanent incapacity for war widows or widowers.

It should be noted that such persons may be engaged in casual or full-time work without affecting their eligibility for invalidity service pension or ISS invalidity.

Subject to eligibility criteria, people who are blind and do not qualify for invalidity service pension or ISS invalidity (i.e. partner service pensioners, or veterans of pension age) may be eligible to receive a DVA income support pension on other grounds. Special income and assets test rules apply to any income support pensioner who is blind.

Is my pension income counted in income or assets tests?

Persons considered to be blind for income support pension purposes are not subject to the income or assets tests and their service pension, ISS, wife pension, age pension or veteran payment is paid at the maximum rate.

All other income support allowances available to blind pensioners under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act and Social Security Law, are subject to the income and/or assets tests. For example, this means that income and assets may affect how much rent assistance a blind pensioner can receive.  Note, however, that blind war widows and widowers are not subject to the income and/or assets tests for any purpose.

Is my aged care income counted in income or assets tests?

It is important to note that a person who is accepted as blind for pension purposes may be required to contribute to their aged care costs, depending upon their income and assets. People who are considered to be blind for pension purposes are not exempt from the means tests that apply to residential aged care and home care packages. This means that income and assets details relevant to aged care must be provided to DVA by those who are going into care or about to take advantage of a home care package. Failure to provide this information may result in the maximum amount being charged.

How is my pension calculated if I am the partner of a blind pensioner?

If a pensioner is permanently blind and has a pensioner partner, pension payable to the partner is calculated using the regular income and assets tests and eligibility criteria. The only exception to this rule is where both partners are suffering permanent blindness.

How is my (or my partners) veteran payment affected?

Persons considered to be permanently blind will not have income or asset testing applied and will receive veteran payment at the maximum rate.

If a person is permanently blind and has a partner who is also receiving veteran payment, the veteran payment payable to the partner is calculated using the regular income and assets tests and eligibility criteria. 

For further information on veteran payment please see Factsheet IS189 – Veteran Payment Overview.

Is the blind income support supplement (ISS) subject to income and asset testing?

Although the income and assets tests do not apply to the ISS, service pension, or social security pension paid to a blind war widow or war widower, the ceiling rate, usually $278.50 per fortnight, continues to apply.

Is a blind pensioner subject to income tax?

Payments of service pension, ISS or veteran payment to a blind veteran or war widow or widower on the grounds of invalidity/incapacity are not subject to taxation until the person reaches social security age pension age. Refer to Factsheet IS05 Social Security Age Pension Overview for more information on age pension age.

The taxable status of the pension paid to the partner of a person receiving pension on the grounds of invalidity, incapacity, or social security disability support remains non-taxable while both partners remain under pension age.

You may also qualify for a Medicare levy exemption if you receive a pension because you are paid pension on the grounds of incapacity.

If your DVA pension is taxable, you will receive a payment summary from DVA at the end of the financial year.

If you are receiving a non-taxable pension only and you qualify for a DVA Medicare exemption, DVA will issue you with a Medicare exemption certificate.

Generally the exemption is automatically generated and posted soon after the end of the financial year. If your eligibility for full treatment benefits only extends over part of a relevant year, the certificate may not be generated automatically.

If you are required to lodge a tax return and have not received a certificate by the end of July, contact your DVA state office for assistance.

What other publications are available to blind pensioners?

Audio versions of You and Your Pension and the bereavement package Planning Ahead are available from your nearest DVA office. Factsheets are accessible to blind pensioners via the internet for those with appropriate software and hardware. There are two versions of the Factsheets on the internet – PDF and HTML.  Blind pensioners should always choose the HTML version.

*Note: - The 'Planning Ahead' publication does not apply to veteran payment.

More Information

DVA General Enquiries

Phone: 1800 555 254 *

Email: GeneralEnquiries@dva.gov.au

DVA Website: www.dva.gov.au

Factsheet Website: www.dva.gov.au/factsheets

* Calls from mobile phones and pay phones may incur additional charges.

Related Factsheets

Disclaimer

The information contained in this Factsheet is general in nature and does not take into account individual circumstances. You should not make important decisions, such as those that affect your financial or lifestyle position on the basis of information contained in this Factsheet. Where you are required to lodge a written claim for a benefit, you must take full responsibility for your decisions prior to the written claim being determined. You should seek confirmation in writing of any oral advice you receive from DVA.

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20 March 2019