Mum’s $40,000 Centrelink victory
CENTRELINK overpaid single mum Carly Hockey $40,000 - and then demanded she pay the money back for its mistake.
Ms Hockey received a series of bills from the government two years ago, telling her she had been overpaid thousands for the family tax benefit she had been claiming.
Despite admitting the overpayment was the result of a Centrelink computer error, the welfare service still demanded she pay back the money.
Instead, she took them on in a legal battle, and won.
"The hardest thing has been each fortnight opening up my Centrelink account starting off at $46,000 and seeing a debt," Ms Hockey told A Current Affair, saying she has cried a lot over the past three years.
"We had no reason to believe at any point that there was anything wrong with our payments because we were reassured by Centrelink repeatedly that our payments were correct," Ms Hockey told A Current Affair.
"I did all the right things, I gave Centrelink the correct information."
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal also determined Centrelink was at fault and said the debts ought to be waived, the program reported.
After Centrelink appealed that decision, it did a backflip.
"The case is finished," Ms Hockey said.
"My solicitor came to an agreement with Centrelink's solicitor that we would settle the case with Centrelink waiving 70 per cent of the debt that was held against me, which was an outstanding result."
This has reduced Ms Hockey's debt to about $6000.
On whether she should have paid the money back, Ms Hockey agreed, saying certainly but only if she had claimed the money fraudulently.
"If I'd been deceptive in my approach to Centrelink then absolutely you come after me for the money.
"But I didn't claim the money I did all the right things. I gave Centrelink the correct information."
She hopes that by speaking out, she can help others facing similar battles with the welfare body.
"You can fight the system and there can come a point where you have success - if you do the right thing," she told A Current Affair.
In a statement to the program, the Department of Human Services said it had no further comment to make on the case.
"However, we take our responsibility as custodian of taxpayer funds extremely seriously," the statement said.
"It's important people keep us up to date with changes in their circumstances so they receive the right entitlement."