When Trish Goss uses the phrase “you’re not going to beat me”, she isn’t referring to her battle with cancer, she is referring to her battle with Centrelink.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Ms Goss applied for a sickness benefit almost three months ago. Her family has not yet received a cent.
The mother of two and Flinders Island nurse has been the breadwinner for her family ever since her husband suffered a workplace accident. She has had to leave her job, and home, to undergo radiation and chemotherapy in Launceston and has feared that her family will not be able to stay afloat without her regular weekly income.
Ms Goss said her claim for sickness benefits was assessed four times, with requests for different information and documents.
“There’s no question that I’m sick – they don’t question that at all,” she said. “It’s just their ridiculous processes.”
Her claim has now been approved with an about $300 payment promised in the near future. But while she was waiting for her claim to be assessed, Ms Goss went to her bank and refinanced her home loan, using the money to keep her family going in the interim. That action caused Centrelink to deny backdating her sickness benefit, leaving her to face debt at the same time as recovering from cancer.
“I’m coming towards the end of my treatment, and [the benefit] will be cancelled and I’ll go back to work anyway – so the whole thing’s been pointless,” she said.
She has put in a complaint, which was “a process in itself”. The first time she attempted, she got a ‘session timeout’ notification after hours providing information, but she kept persisting through multiple avenues.
Her husband also tried to apply for Newstart to prepare for the period when Ms Goss would be staying in Launceston. But he missed a phone interview when he had to suddenly drive her to the doctor after a “scary” heart rate incident, which automatically triggered his application restarting.
Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen said Ms Goss’ case was being reviewed.
“We understand how difficult it can be when fighting a serious medical condition and the toll it takes on individuals and their loved ones,” he said. “We’ve been in contact with Ms Goss and are working with her to review her case and ensure she is receiving all appropriate support.”
Ms Goss said she considered herself lucky that the chemotherapy didn’t exhaust her so much that she was unable to continue fighting for her sickness benefit.
“I’m really devastated for all those people who are in a much worse position than me,” she said. “They must just give up. There’s sick people out there who can’t deal with all of the rubbish.”