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Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind - Pension Benefits

Pensions - Benefits - Concessions for people who are blind or vision impaired

First published March 1998, updated October 2001

Information and Referrals Unit

RVIB

557 St Kilda Road

Prahran 3181

Tel: (03) 9522 5222 Fax: (03) 9529 3589

TTY: (03) 9521 2719

Email: [email protected]

Material may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes. In such cases a full acknowledgement to the RVIB is requested. A complimentary copy of the publication would be appreciated. This publication is also available in braille, audio tape, computer disk, and on home page www.rvib.org.au

Victorian Disability Services Standards

Standard 1 - Service Access

Each consumer seeking a service has access to a service on the basis of relative need and available resources.

Standard 2 - Individual Needs

Each consumer receives a service which is designed to meet, in the least restrictive way, his or her individual needs and personal goals.

Standard 3 - Decision Making and Choice

Each consumer has the ability to participate as fully as possible in making decisions about the events and activities of his or her daily life in relation to the services he or she receives.

Standard 4 - Privacy, Dignity, Confidentiality

Each consumer's right to privacy, dignity and confidentiality in all aspects of his or her life is recognised and respected.

Standard 5 - Participation and Integration

Each consumer is supported and encouraged to participate and be involved in the life of the community.

Standard 6 - Valued Status

Each consumer has the opportunity to develop and maintain skills and to participate in activities that enable him or her to achieve valued roles in the community.

Standard 7 - Complaints and Disputes

Each consumer is free to raise and have resolved, any complaints or disputes he or she may have regarding the service provider or the service.

Standard 8 - Service Management

Each service provider adopts sound management practices which maximise outcomes for consumers.

Standard 9 - Freedom from Abuse and Neglect

Each consumer has the right to be free from physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse and neglect.

The following information gives a basic outline of the pensions, benefits and concessions available for people who are blind or vision impaired, and their carers.

The booklet is designed as a guide only. We aim to ensure all information is correct at the time of publication, however some information changes very quickly. For information about individual situations, contact the relevant organisation in each case.

RVIB Services

For information contact:

RVIB Information & Referrals Unit (IRU)

Telephone (03) 9522 5222

TTY (03) 9521 2719

Freecall 1800 33 5588

Facsimile (03) 9529 3589

Email [email protected]

Legal Blindness

What is Legal Blindness?

Legally blind is a term used in Australia to determine a person's level of low vision. Legal blindness determines eligibility for the Disability Support Pension (blind) and the Age Pension (blind). Only an Ophthalmologist can determine legal blindness. There must be no possibility of correcting the vision through treatments such as surgery, laser or glasses.

Remember, people with severe vision loss are still eligible to use RVIB services. You do not have to be legally blind.

Two major areas of vision, called acuity and fields, are measured for legal blindness. Visual acuity is the ability of the eye to distinguish detail. Distance acuity and near acuity must be measured separately. Visual field is the degree of what is seen by an eye looking straight ahead.

The definition of legal blindness is:

C a visual acuity of less than 6/60 with best corrected vision and both eyes openand/orC a visual field of less than 5 degrees of central vision, or central vision loss of greater than 10 degrees.

A visual acuity of less than 6/60 means that a person cannot see the top letter of the Schnellen eye chart. This means a person is unable to see a letter at 6 metres which is designed to be seen at 60 metres.

A central field of less than 5 degrees means that a person has severe peripheral (side) vision loss. Whereas, a central field loss of greater than 10 degrees means that a person only has peripheral vision.

Blind Citizens Australia

BCA is a nationwide organisation providing individual advocacy, systemic advocacy, peer support and information to its members.

They also issue a photo identity card that can be used instead of a driver's licence to provide photographic identification. The identity card costs $20 and is valid for 3 years.

For further details contact:

National Advocacy and Policy Officer

Blind Citizens of Australia (BCA)

Telephone (03) 9521 3433 or 1800 033 660

Facsimile (03) 9521 3732

Website www.bca.org.au

Complaints About a Service

A specific complaint about a service may be addressed through that organisation's grievance procedure. If you feel your needs have not been met by this process, you may contact an advocacy agency for further advice.

For advocacy needs relating to vision impairment contact:

Blind Citizens Australia.

Telephone 9521 3433

Email [email protected]

For advocacy needs relating to other disabilities contact:

Disability Information Victoria

Telephone 1300 650 865

Allowances

Carer Allowance

Centrelink provide a payment to carers providing constant care or supervision to a person (aged 16 plus) whose disability causes substantial functional impairment.

To be eligible for a carer allowance and health care card the person's disability must appear on Centerlink's list of disabilities/conditions.

Carer's Allowance (Child)

Carer Allowance (Child) applies to people caring for a child with a disability under the age of 16 years at home.

To be eligible for the health care card only, the child must require 'substantially more care and attention' than a child without a disability.

For further information contact Centrelink

Telephone 13 2717

Carer's Resource Centre

If you require general information on resources for carers, support groups and respite care, telephone the Carer's Resource Centre on 1800 242 636.

Mobility

For people working, training or involved in voluntary work for eight or more hours per week and who are unable to use public transport without substantial assistance a fortnightly allowance of approximately $61.90 per person is available.

Telephone Centrelink on 13 2717

Telephone

Centrelink provides a telephone allowance to assist with telephone costs. To qualify the person must be a holder of a pensioner concession card and have a telephone connected in their own or their partner's name. The telephone allowance is paid quarterly.

Assistance

If you require assistance in relation to a Centrelink matter, contact the following departments and they will put you through to a Social Worker.

Other assistance is available for:

Disability, Sickness and Carers

To make a comment, complaint or compliment

Telephone 1800 050 004

TTY 1800 000 567

Enquiries in languages other than English

Telephone 13 1202

Website www.centrelink.gov.au

A teletypewriter service for people who are hearing and vision impaired is available on freecall 1800 810 586.

Some pensions and benefits may be affected by your taxable income.For further information about taxes ring the Australian Tax Office on 13 2861.

Department of Family and Community Services

For information about the payments and services Centrelink deliver on behalf of the Department of

Family and Community Services, the following Centrelink call numbers can be dialled from anywherein Australia for the cost of a local call Telephone 13 1021 for appointments regarding:

Exemptions

Medicare Levy

You are eligible to be exempt from the Medicare Levy. Centrelink will inform you of this in writing. If you are working, this documentation should be forwarded with your tax return.

Telephone 13 2717

Concessions

The following concessions are available to holders of the Centrelink pensioner concession card. Remember to have the card available when requesting any concession.

Ambulance services are provided free of charge.

Council rates provide a full annual concession of $135.00 where the annual rate is $270.00 per annum. If under $270.00 the rebate is 50%. Contact the rates department of your local council.

Dental treatment is available free of charge at the Dental Health Services Victoria or through the dental service provided by your local Community Health Centre. Some concession on dentures is available at approved dentists. Contact your local Community Health Centre.

Dental Health Services Victoria on 9341 0222

Electricity - Individual state electricity authorities offer a concession of 17.5% on your winter energy bills. Concessions are also available on 'service to property charge'. For further information contact your local electricity company on the numbers below.

Gas

Gas and fuel companies offer a concession of 17.5% from your winter energy bill.Individual gas and fuel companies can be contacted on the following numbers:

Large print bills are available on request.

Postage

'Freepost for the Blind' is a service funded by Centrelink. Eligible articles may be sent free of charge or at concession rates of postage.

Eligible Articles

A postal article not exceeding 7kg and containing:

No other matter other than what is described above may be enclosed in the envelope, wrapping or cover.

Eligible participants - Carriage is restricted to eligible articles sent by:

Postal Conditions

Articles must be posted in unsealed envelopes, wrappings or covers. The words 'Material for the use of the Blind' or similar words or appropriate label (for example PM275) and the name and address of the sender must appear on the outside of the article. The minimum and maximum dimensions for Letter Mail are applicable as appropriate. No matter other than that prescribed in Eligible articles above may be enclosed in the envelope, wrapping or cover.

Charges

Surface carriage -- exempt from postage for all destinations.

Air carriage -- concessional rates of postage apply.

Refer to the Post Charges booklet available through Australia Post.

For further information contact Australia Post Customer Service on 13 1318

Pensions and Benefits

Age Pension (Blind)

To be eligible for an Age Pension (Blind) a person must be legally blind and satisfy certain age and residence requirements. The claimant must be an Australian citizen, or have permanent resident status and have resided in Australia continuously for 10 years. The claimant's eligibility is also determined according to their date of birth. Generally women must be aged 61 years or over and men must be 65 years or over.The age pension age for women is being gradually increased. Women born in 1949 and later will be eligible at age 65.

The income received from the Aged Pension (Blind) is classified as taxable income and must be declared in the tax return. However it is assessed differently to the Aged Pension, and thus it may be beneficial to transfer from the Aged Pension to the Aged Pension (Blind).

Disability Support Pension (Blind)

To be eligible for the Disability Support Pension (Blind) a person must be permanently legally blind. They must be over 16 years and under the aged pension age. The claimant must be an Australian citizen, or have permanent resident status and have resided in Australia continuously for 10 years. There is no period of residence required if permanent blindness occurs in Australia.

The recipient of Disability Support Pension (Blind) is entitled to receive the maximum rate of pension, free of the income and assets test. Centrelink allowances paid in addition to these pensions are subject to an income and assets test. The income received from the Disability Support Pension (Blind) is not classified as taxable income and unlike the Aged Pension (blind) does not need to be declared in the tax return.

Education Supplement Pension

The Pensioner Education Allowance is a form of AUSTUDY which is available to full-time or part-time students who receive the Disability Support Pension (Blind).

Contact Centrelink on 13 2490

Parenting Payments

A single parent with children 16 or under who are studying below secondary level is entitled to a Parenting Payment (single).

Contact Centrelink on 13 2490

Entertainment

Cinema

Various entertainment venues such as cinemas have concession prices for pension card holders.

EASE -- Entertainment Access Service

EASE provides access to low cost tickets for people with a disability and their friends or assistants attending entertainment events. A newsletter is available in regular print, large print or audio tape. This lists the events for which EASE has tickets. EASE will also assist with meeting particular needs where possible, for example, obtaining tickets which give suitable access to events. Audio description is available at certain theatre performances and this is noted in the newsletter. Subscriptions cost $25.00 a year. They also publish a book with reviews of city and regional venues and maps detailing seating and access points.

Contact EASE on (03) 9699 8497

Website vicnet.net.au~artsacc

The Vic Venue Guide

Arts Access and Hyland House Publishing has produced the Vic Venue Guide, a comprehensive guide to over 75 arts, entertainment and sporting venues across Victoria. It includes:

It is provided free from Arts Access Society. A $5.00 postage and handling fee is applicable.

109-111 Sturt Street Southbank 3006

Telephone (03) 9699 8299

Website vicnet.net.au/~artsacc

Hearing Aids

The Australian Hearing Service (AHS), provides a service to people who are pensioners and people under the age of 21, who require a hearing aid. Following an assessment, the AHS will provide you with an aid at no cost. The aid is provided with the understanding that you will pay an annual service fee of $30.00 + GST which covers the cost of maintenance and replacement batteries. Telephone AHS State Office on 13 1797

Housing and Finance

Department of Human Services, Housing can assist with Government housing. They can also provide assistance with the payment of your bond for a private rental property. This is subject to an income test. Telephone the Department of Human Services for your local area housing office.

Telephone general enquiries on 9616 7777

Legal Aid

Legal advice is available, subject to income and assets tests, from Legal Aid Regional Offices which are located across Victoria.

Telephone (03) 9269 0234 to find your nearest office.

Optical

Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital

Glasses are available at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital at a reduced rate, ranging from $35.00 upwards. This depends on your prescription and your optical needs. You must be a pensioner concession card holder. To obtain an appointment you are required to obtain a letter of referral from your GP and send this together with your contact details to:

Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital

32 Gisborne Street

East Melbourne 3002

Telephone (03) 9929 8666

Note appointments cannot be made by phone.

Victorian College of Optometry

Low cost glasses ($26.00 for reading glasses and $37.00 for bifocal glasses) can be obtained through the college. Recipients need to have been receiving a pension for a minimum of six months to use the service. Consultations are bulk billed to Medicare. For an appointment or for information about country access to this service, contact the:

Victorian College of Optometry

34 Cardigan Street

Carlton 3053

Telephone: 9349 7400

Vision Australia Foundation

Vision Australia Foundation, (formerly Association for the Blind), has low vision clinics in Melbourne and across regional Victoria. Low cost glasses are available through these clinics.

Telephone 9822 1111

TTY (03) 9824 8442

Pharmaceutical

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme allows an item prescribed under the National Health Scheme to be charged at the rate of $3.60 per item. For other items the normal charge applies.

Telephone

Telstra Disability Enquiry

Help Line

Telephone 1800 0 68 424

TTY 1800 808 981

Through help line you can access the following:

This service allows you to phone an operator to gain a person or organisation's phone number and/or address free of charge. You must register to use the service first. Once registered you will be provided with instructions on how to continue to use the service.

Bills can be provided in braille or large print.
Testra will provide A4 sized cards for writing down in large print, the numbers you have stored in the memory buttons of your phone
This service allows you to phone an assistant who connects you to the phone number of your choice free of charge. To be eligible for this service you must have disabilities that restrict your phone use, other than blindness or vision impairment.

Telstra Sales and Billings

Telephone 13 2200

Telstra shops can provide information regarding reduced rates on phone calls, and telephone lines for pensioners

Telephone 131 800

Staff can provide details of your closest telstra shop where you can purchase large number button telephones.

OPTUS

Optus provides limited services for people who are blind or vision impaired .

You can obtain a braille bill by phoning Customer Services on either 133066 (for Optus cable customers) or 1300 300 469 (for Optus phone service only customers).

Technology

Adaptive Equipment Medical Expense Rebates

The cost of certain adaptive equipment can be claimed under the medical expenses rebate section in your personal income tax form. The medical expense rebate means you can claim 20% of all eligible expenses above $1250. The approved products include, a talking computer, a reading system, and a CCTV. It may also include braille related products.

Specialist Equipment Tax Concessions

Equipment especially designed and made for people with disabilities is exempt from sales tax and import duties. The relevant sections are 'Items 93-99 of the Schedule of the Sales Tax Exemptions and Classifications Act'. When purchasing equipment, discuss this with the retailer. You will be asked to sign a form which states that the goods are sold under the provisions detailed in the Act. If you or the retailer have any queries, ring the Tax Office on (03) 9275 2397.

The Green PC

This organisation makes available low cost recycled personal computers to community organizations and individuals on low incomes. Computer users who are blind or vision impaired might still need to purchase adaptive technology separately.

For further information contact the Green PC Team,

Telephone 9417 7039

Website greenpc.com.au

Travel Concessions

The following travel concessions may be available if you are legally blind.

Airline Fare Concessions

Concession fares are available from some airlines, including:

Singapore Airline Telephone 13 10 11

Qantas Telephone 13 13 13

Qantas recognise the 'carer concession card' available through NICAN. Cardholders receive a 50% discount on the standard full price economy and business class domestic travel in addition to 50% off the carer's fare.

Contact NICAN PO Box 407, Curtain, ACT 2605.

Telephone 02 62853713 for information on eligibility and application forms.

Please note that guide dogs always travel free of charge. For further information please contact your travel agent.

Airline Travel Assistance

Most airlines these days provide travel assistance. Services include earlier boarding time.

Vision Impaired Travel Pass (VITP)

This pass is available if you are legally blind and a resident of Victoria. It entitles you to:

Central Pass Office

Spencer St Station Concourse

151 Spencer St

Melbourne

Telephone (03) 9619 1159 or 9619 2668.

The pass does not entitle sighted guides or carers to any concession.

Lost VITP

For replacement of a lost pass simply send a completed Statutory Declaration (indicating you have lost your pass), a passport size photograph, a self addressed envelope and a cheque for $11.00 to the address above. They will have details of your original application and will forward a replacement pass to you.

Alternatively, you can re-apply using a new pass application form.

Met Information Centre (timetable information for Met trains, trams and buses) can be contacted on 13 1638.

People who are blind or vision impaired from any State or Territory of Australia are entitled to half adult fare (first or economy class) on Countrylink.

For people wishing to travel to either Sydney or Brisbane the following concessions apply:

VITP Sleeping Berths

If travelling with an attendant, sole use of the cabin and half adult rail fare for the person who is blind or vision impaired. There will be a two berth charge.

If travelling with a guide dog, sole use of the cabin and half adult rail fare for the person who is blind or vision impaired, plus a one berth charge.

If travelling with a guide dog and an attendant, sole use of the cabin and half adult rail fare for the person who is

blind or vision impaired. A two berth charge will apply.

When a person who is blind or vision impaired travels without a guide dog or attendant, they are not entitled to sole use of a cabin.

For further information contact Country Link on 13 22 32

V/Line inquiries can be contacted on 13 22 32

National Recognition of the Blind Travel Pass

The Australian Transport Council has endorsed the implementation of national reciprocal arrangements for use of the Blind Travel Pass in all States and Territories from 1 January 2001, including the introduction of a uniform card.

These arrangements will entitle all holders of the Blind Travel Pass to all benefits that would normally apply to residents of the host state.

At the time of publishing, the implementation of these proposals was not uniform.

For further details ring:

Central Pass Office

Spencer Street Station

151 Spencer Street, Melbourne

Telephone 9619 1159

Interstate Public Transport Concessions

There are varying, and changing reciprocal arrangements with some other States for a person who is blind or vision impaired. It is preferable to contact the

relevant travel authority in the state you are proposing to visit to obtain current details.

Multi Purpose Taxi Program (M40)

Taxi cards entitle you to half price taxi fares to the maximum value of a $50.00 trip (where you would be required to pay only $25.00). However, should your trip cost more than $50.00 you will be required to pay the additional fare in full.

To be eligible for this card you must have vision of 6/36 or less in both eyes or have a permanent disability that

limits independent travel on public transport.

Application forms may be obtained from RVIB or:

The Taxi Directorate

Vic Roads

PO Box 666

14-20 Blackwood St

North Melbourne 3051

Telephone (03) 9320 4360 or 1800 638 802

Application forms must be signed by a medical practitioner (opthalmologist or general practitioner).

Interstate Taxi Vouchers

Heading interstate for the holidays? Interstate taxi vouchers can be issued where members plan to travel to another state. You will continue to receive the same subsidy rate as you receive in Victoria, however as most states have different trip values interstate taxi drivers may be unfamiliar with Victorian entitlements. The correct information is included on the interstate vouchers and members should ensure they receive the correct subsidy. To obtain your interstate vouchers you should contact the Directorate (details above) at least to weeks prior to travelling. Generally 10 vouchers for each 7 days away with a maximum of 50 vouchers will be issued.

Travellers' Aid

Travellers' Aid Centres offer FREE assistance to travellers and a place to rest for a few hours while in town. The main centre is located on the second floor of169 Swanston Street (corner Bourke Street), with an additional centre in the basement at Spencer Street Station.

The Swanston Street Centre has a Disability Services Centre which has equipment such as hoists to assist people with special physical needs. FREE attendant care is available on the premises. A TTY is available for use by visitors.

The Centre also provides an information service about transport, holidays and accommodation for people with special needs. If you require a guide to meet you:

Telephone (03) 9654 7690 (voice or TTY).

Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme (VPTAS)

The Department of Human Services provides financial assistance to help Victorian residents who need to travel from their home to obtain specialist medical treatment.

To be eligible to receive this allowance the patient must:

Telephone your regional Department of Human Services office and ask them about the Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme.

Telephone (03) 5226 4540
Telephone (03) 5722 0555
Telephone (03) 5333 6669
Telephone (03) 5177 2500
Telephone (03) 5434 5555

Vehicle Registration

For information on motor vehicle registration concessions contact Vic Roads

Registration enquiries on:Telephone 13 11 71

Water

Melbourne water authorities proviced a concession of up to $135.00 per annum to home owners and a concession of up to $67.50 per annum is available for tenants.

Individual water companies can be contacted on the numbers below:

TTY: 9313 8699
TTY: 9552 3322
TTY: 9872 1199

Your Comments

We hope this booklet is useful in providing you with information about pensions and concessions. Feel free to contact the IRU or a regional office to offer your suggestions about how this booklet can be improved to better meet your needs.

RVIB Sites

Head Office and Client Services Information and Referrals Unit

557 St Kilda Road

Prahran 3181

Telephone (03) 9522 5222

TTY (03) 9521 2719

Freecall 1800 33 5588

Facsimile (03) 9529 3589

Website www.rvib.org.au

Email [email protected]

National Information and Library Services (NILS)

85 High Street

Prahran 3181

Telephone 1300 654 656

Freecall 1800 33 5588

Facsimile (03) 9521 3670

Email [email protected]

Training & Technology Services

201 High Street

Prahran 3l81

Telephone (03) 9520 5555

Freecall 1800 33 5588

Facsimile (03) 9521 3685

Email [email protected]

VisEquip

Telephone (03) 9520 5588

Freecall 1800 458 555

Facsimile (03) 9520 5585

Email: [email protected]

VisTech

Telephone (03) 9520 5555

Freecall 1800 458 555

Facsimile (03) 9525 2065

Email [email protected]

ASSIST

41-43 Regent Street

Prahran 3181

Telephone (03) 9510 9060

TTY (03) 9510 9060

Facsimile (03) 9510 5152

Email [email protected]

RVIB Education Services

333 Burwood Highway

Burwood 3125

Telephone (03) 9808 6422

Facsimile (03) 9808 2194

Email: [email protected]

Eastern Metropolitan Region

Level 1, 252 Dorset Road

Boronia 3155

Telephone (03) 9761 0011

TTY (03) 9761 3733

Facsimile (03) 9761 2455

Email: [email protected]

Western Metropolitan and Barwon Region

37 Albert Street

Footscray 3011

Telephone (03) 9689 0166

TTY (03) 9689 0243

Facsimile (03) 9689 0241

Email: [email protected]

Northern Metropolitan Region

104 Mount Street

Heidelberg 3084

Telephone (03) 9457 6611

TTY (03) 9457 7841

Facsimile (03) 9457 7826

Email: [email protected]

Southern Metropolitan Region

69-71 Atherton Road

Oakleigh 3166

Telephone (03) 9569 7255

TTY (03) 9569 7404

Facsimile (03) 9569 7565

Email [email protected]

Gippsland Region

110 Hotham Street

Traralgon 3844

Telephone (03) 5174 5000

Facsimile (03) 5174 8909

Email: [email protected]

Lodden Mallee Region

49 McCallum Street

Swan Hill 3585

Telephone (03) 5032 9122

Facsimile (03) 5032 4228

Email: [email protected]

Hume Region

Cnr Ovens & Faithfull Streets PO Box 456

Wangaratta 3677 Wangaratta 3676

Telephone (03) 5721 5477

Facsimile (03) 5721 9844

Email [email protected]

Wimmera Region

79 Firebrace Street

Horsham 3400

Telephone (03) 5382 5833

Facsimile (03) 5381 0008

Email [email protected]

Central Highlands Region

33 Little Bridge Street

Ballarat 3350

Telephone (03) 5331 3875

Facsimile (03) 5331 3720

Email [email protected]

Useful Links

Important information can be found on the websites of associated organsiations.

Useful Links for People with Diabetes and the Wider Community

More Info for People with Diabetes and the Wider Community

What is Diabetes

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Medicare and Optometry

Regular eye examinations

Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind - Pension Benefits

Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind - Free Publications List

Royal Victorian Institute For the Blind - Services Booklet

Vision Australia

Consumer Guide-NHMRC

ICEE - International Centre for Eyecare Education

ICEE Media Release

Redfern Aboriginal Eye Care Clinic

RVEEH Retinopathy Poster

Lions Eye Health Program - Australia resource materials

Australian Lions Working with the Vietnamese Community

Olympian Andrew Gaze and his Team do their bit to Promote the Prevention of Diabetic Retinopathy

Eye and Ear Hospital Services

Australian Lions working with the Turkish Community

Diabetic retinopathy diagnosis and managment

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