Q: I have had two spinal operations and a heart attack three months ago at the age of 39. I have been on government benefits and disability living allowance, and because of my disability I can no longer work. What will happen to my super? Will I be able to get it early or will I have to wait until I am 60, as my parents are having to look after me I am struggling financially.
We’re sorry to read about your situation.
Possible TPD insurance cover with your super fund
We suggest you check with your super fund to see whether you have any permanent disability insurance cover with your super account, and whether your condition is covered, which can mean a greater payout if the policy conditions are met. For more information on claiming total and permanent disability insurance through your super fund, see SuperGuide article Accessing super: How long does it take for TPD insurance to be paid out?
Satisfying permanent incapacity definition
Even if you don’t have disability insurance cover, where an individual satisfies the definition of ‘permanent incapacity’, he or she may be able to access their super benefits if the trustee of a super fund is reasonably satisfied that “the member’s ill-health (whether physical or mental) makes it unlikely that the member will engage in gainful employment for which the member is reasonably qualified by education, training or experience” [Regulation 1.03C of SIS Regulations].
For a super fund trustee to be satisfied, you generally require separate certification from two doctors certifying that your permanent incapacity meets the definition outlined in the previous paragraph.
Another option available to an individual suffering disability, is to apply for early access of super benefits on compassionate grounds. You can apply for early release of your super benefits on compassionate grounds, if you have medical costs for you or your dependant, and two medical practitioners (including one a specialist in the area of illness) certify that the treatment is necessary to
- treat a life-threatening illness or injury; and/or
- alleviate acute or chronic physical pain; and/or
- alleviate an acute or chronic mental condition
Note: The treatment must not be readily available through the public health system, and must not be covered by private health insurance or by workers’ compensation. You must apply for early super access on compassionate grounds via Centrelink (Department of Human Services), but check with your super fund before applying, to ensure that the super fund rules permit early access for this reason.
For more information on compassionate grounds see SuperGuide article Accessing super early on ‘compassionate grounds’.
Severe financial hardship
Another option available to an individual receiving Commonwealth income support payments is to apply for early access of super benefits due to ‘severe financial hardship’. For more information, see SuperGuide article Can I access my super early due to financial hardship?
For a list (and related articles) on the main ways to access super benefits see SuperGuide article Accessing super early: 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits.