Superannuation in Australia refers to the arrangement that Australians can have funds available to them in retirement. This system is a government supported one in Australia and minimum provisions are compulsory for employers. These funds are typically released after reaching the preservation age, but in certain circumstances, such as medical situations, it can be accessed early.
Eligibility criteria for early release
Early release of superannuation funds may be applied for on compassionate grounds to meet medical treatment or transport costs. Individuals eligible for such early release of funds need to meet certain criteria such as the following:
– The individual or their dependent suffers from a terminal illness or injury, acute or chronic pain or acute or chronic mental illness. “Terminal” is only used when an individual is at the stage where without treatment, they will either die or suffer an irreversible degeneration of the condition leading to premature death. Likewise “acute” and “chronic” reflect the progress of a condition to a stage where there is an urgency for treatment.
– The individual or their dependent requires support to meet the financial costs of the medical treatment that is neither available through the public health system nor covered by insurance.
– The individual or their dependent requires assistance to pay for the cost of transport to acquire medical treatment.
– The individual does not have any existing funds available to meet these expenses without getting access to their superannuation.
– The individual or their dependent needs modifications to be made to their home or motor vehicle. This may arise from special needs due to severe disability. Examples include installing ramps, widening doorways or installing hand controls on property. In some cases, funds may also be released to purchase assistive aids such as wheelchairs, dentures or hearing aids.
However, the individual will not be eligible for an early release of funds for medical purposes if either they or their dependent are unable to work due to a medical condition and need help with covering living expenses or have access to medical treatment and transport paid by work coverage.
Requirements for early access to superannuation
There are four types of requests that can be made for early release of your superannuation funds. These are for medical treatment, medical transport, vehicle modifications and palliative care. Below are the list of requirements for each type of request you can make in order to get your super earlier.
1. Medical Treatment
Proper documentation is a requirement for application of release of funds. For assistance with medical treatment the following need to be provided:
– 2 reports about the treatment with one from a registered medical practitioner and a second from a registered medical specialist who qualifies in the area of medicine in which the treatment is sought.
– Each report needs to state that the individual or their dependent suffers from a terminal injury or illness, acute or chronic pain or acute or chronic mental illness. The reports also need to confirm that the required treatment is not available through the public health system.
– The reports need to clearly indicate the doctors’ qualifications, be dated and signed and be no older than six months upon submission.
2. Medical Transportation
For assistance with medical transportation, the following need to be submitted:
– 2 reports about the transport with one from a registered medical practitioner and a second from a registered medical specialist who qualifies in the area of medicine in which the treatment is sought.
– Each report needs to state that the individual or their dependent suffers from a terminal injury or illness, acute or chronic pain or acute or chronic mental illness. The reports also require one of the medical practitioners to confirm that the required transport is needed to access medical treatment, along with details such as the type of transport as well as the frequency, duration and location of the treatment.
In addition, the reports also need to clearly indicate the doctors’ qualifications, be dated and signed and be no older than six months upon submission.
When applying to purchase a vehicle to access medical transport when the individual already has a vehicle, the following need to be provided:
Confirmation of the trade in value of the current vehicle from a relevant service provider and a written statement from a medical practitioner explaining why the existing vehicle may not be suitable for the individual.
3. Modifications to a home or motor vehicle
For assistance with modifications to a home or motor vehicle, a letter from a medical practitioner conforming the existence of the severe disability needs to be established. In addition, the utility of the proposed modifications also need to be highlighted.
The fact that any costs pertaining to the modifications and aids are not met through the public health system, government program or nongovernment organisation also need to be proved in the letter.
4. Palliative care
Palliative care is specialised care for individuals who are dying. There is typically no prospect of cure for such individuals as they are in the progressive and far advanced stage of the disease.
Applying for super funds for palliative care for an individual or their dependent need to demonstrate the reasonable costs of accommodation in hospice. The funds can also be used to cover employment charges of a palliative care nurse and the purchase of required medications.
A medical certificate should accompany the application stating that the individual is terminally ill and is in need of palliative care.
Evidence of dependency
When superannuation funds are required to take care of a dependent, proof regarding the dependent’s financial, domestic, personal or medical reliance need to be submitted. Such proof may include bank statements and medical certifications revealing the applicant’s provision of financial and medical support to the dependent.
Quotes or unpaid invoices
Any quotes or unpaid invoices that reveal the amount needed for the medical treatment or transport need to be submitted. Any quotes must indicate amounts claimable through private health insurance and be no older than 6 months while unpaid invoices should not be more than 30 days old.
Applying for early release of superannuation takes time and requires a lengthy process in order to get it approved. Individuals should review the following steps in order to understand the procedure involved in applying for early release of any superannuation funds.
Step One- Contacting the Department of Human Services: After checking eligibility for accessing the superannuation benefits on compassionate grounds, individuals can then proceed with the application. They can apply to the Department of Human Services (DHS) by calling 1300 131 060 to see if they qualify. The DHS makes decisions on the release of the funds.
There are different forms that will need to be filled out. In this case they will include the following:
– Medical, dental or transport application from
– Report for medical practitioners or specialists
– Certified identification
– Supporting documents requested in the application form
Step 2- Notifying the Department of Human Services of your super balance: The DHS will also need to know the applicant’s account balance before approving any claims.
Step 3- Waiting for letter of approval: The DHS’s role is to assess the application and approve it if it meets all legislative requirements. Upon approval, applicants will be notified in writing.
Once approved by the DHS, applicants can then apply to their super fund. The superannuation fund will require written proof from the DHS before releasing any funds.
However, it is worth mentioning that not all superfunds will permit early access for different reasons, even for compassionate grounds. It is best to check their super fund’s policies regarding early withdrawal before applying.
Requesting review of decision
If individuals believe that a wrong decision was made about their application, they can send in a review of the process. However, the review must be submitted within 28 days of the date of the decision and indicated on the application. Any new information included or going beyond the 28 day time frame will require a new application to be submitted all over again.
An assessor will review the application and if the first decision cannot be reversed, the application will be further reviewed by an Independent Review Officer.
1. Compassionate grounds medical treatment: http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/enablers/centrelink/early-release-of-superannuation/compassionate-grounds-medical-treatment
2. Early release of superannuation guidance for medical and dental practitioners and specialists: http://www.humanservices.gov.au/health-professionals/subjects/early-release-of-superannuation-guidance-for-medical-and-dental-practitioners-and-specialists
4. Legal reasons to cash your super: http://www.superguide.com.au/accessing-superannuation/accessing-super-early/legal-reasons-to-cash-your-super#8
5. Superannuation in Australia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superannuation_in_Australia