Lifestyle

U-turn: MSD reconsiders extending super payments to all pensioners stuck overseas by Covid-19


  • MSD stops paying superannuation payments to pensioners who have been overseas for more than 26 weeks.
  • After 30 weeks overseas, pensioners have to repay the entire 26 weeks’ worth of payments.
  • In October 2021, MSD relaxed this policy, but only for pensioners able tp prove they were stranded in Australia by the trans-Tasman bubble closure.
  • This relaxation has now been extended to superannuitants stuck in other countries because of the pandemic.

The Ministry of Social Development is to case-by-case reconsider suspending superannuation payments for pensioners stranded overseas by border restrictions.

Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson told MSD in April she had advice that an October 2021 variation to its policy that pensioners must return to New Zealand within 26 weeks to maintain their super was on suspect legal ground.

Central to the suspensions was whether the inability to return to New Zealand due to border closures and/or MIQ difficulties were “foreseeable” or “unforeseeable”.

MSD decided at the outset of the pandemic in March 2020 that difficulties associated with the pandemic were foreseeable, but then it altered the policy in October 2021 only for pensioners stranded in Australia by the trans-Tasman bubble.

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The Ministry of Social Development is reconsidering suspending superannuation payments for pensioners stranded overseas by border restrictions. (File Photo)

Rebekah Parsons-King/RNZ

The Ministry of Social Development is reconsidering suspending superannuation payments for pensioners stranded overseas by border restrictions. (File Photo)

It was this alteration lawyers criticised as applying policy “inconsistently and unequally”, when the law requires consistent and equal treatment of those affected by it.

Group General Manager Client Service Support for MSD George van Ooyen said the decision took place after the evolving global situation.

“After careful consideration, and taking into account the evolving global circumstances, MSD has decided that the October 2021 policy should be extended to superannuitants who travelled to other countries during the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble period.”

MSD has dropped cases against at least four pensioners who took it to the final appeal body, the Social Security Appeal Authority (SSAA).

MURRAY WILSON/Stuff

MSD has dropped cases against at least four pensioners who took it to the final appeal body, the Social Security Appeal Authority (SSAA).

The law rules state pensioners are not allowed to be overseas for more than 26 weeks, or their pension will be cut off. At 30 weeks, they have to pay the entire 26 weeks back.

OIA documents revealed the stress this policy imposed on stranded pensioners, with one writing: “I am so stressed I can’t think straight. I have post-traumatic stress disorder and am feeling suicidal.”

Note: the original version of this story has been altered to better reflect the MSD position,



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