Early release of superannuation: guidance for medical and dental practitioners and specialists
How to provide supporting evidence for applications for an early release of superannuation on compassionate grounds.
Criteria for compassionate grounds
The criteria for compassionate grounds when applying for the early release of superannuation, are set out in regulation 6.19A(1) of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Regulations 1994. We are responsible for assessing applications for early release of superannuation on specific compassionate grounds, including:
- medical or dental treatment for the applicant or a dependant
- transport for medical or dental treatment for the applicant or a dependant
- modification to the applicant’s home or vehicle to accommodate a severe disability for the applicant or a dependant
- palliative care for a terminal illness for the applicant or a dependant
Applicants must not be able to meet the costs by other means, for example, savings. The application will require supporting evidence.
Early release of superannuation for medical treatment
We can consider applications to meet the cost of medical treatment that is not readily available through the public health system: for example, medical procedures, appointments or medication. Regulation 6.19A(3)(a) requires the applicant give us written statements from two registered medical practitioners, 1 must be a specialist, which certify that the medical treatment is necessary to:
- treat a life-threatening illness or injury
- alleviate acute or chronic pain, or
- alleviate an acute or chronic mental disturbance
Medical treatment includes dental treatment. In these cases, certification must be provided by either two dental practitioners, 1 must be a specialist, or a general practitioner (GP) and a dental specialist.
A registered medical or dental practitioner must have passed the required examinations or graduated from an accredited course and be registered by the relevant state registration board to practice. In most cases, one of the medical or dental practitioners who provides a supporting letter will be the applicant's, or their dependant's GP or dentist.
A registered medical or dental specialist is a medical practitioner or dentist who has had further medical training, holds further qualifications, and is a fellow of a specialist medical college or is registered in their state as a specialist. A consultant physician is considered a specialist under the legislation. Any specialist giving an opinion should be specialised in the area in which they are giving that opinion. Consultant physicians should clearly state their areas of specialisation in the certification.
Regulation 6.19A(3)(b) requires the medical or dental practitioner to certify that the treatment is not readily available through the public health system. While medical treatment may be available through the public health system, the issue is whether it is readily available to the applicant or their dependant. The requirement is satisfied:
- if treatment is available in a public hospital, but only after a very long waiting period, for which the applicant or their dependant cannot wait, or
- a surgeon requires the applicant go to a private hospital beyond their means or they do not have private health insurance
You must certify that the treatment is both necessary and not readily available in the public health system.
Allied health professionals (including physiotherapists, psychologists, chiropractors and occupational therapists) are not considered medical practitioners under the legislation. Allied health professionals can supply additional evidence along with that provided by a GP or a specialist for example, confirmation that a patient is being treated for a particular condition, but this evidence cannot be used as certification.
Using the term life threatening
The term life threatening should only be used where you determine that without recommended treatment, it is likely that within 12 months the patient:
- will die, or
- will suffer an irreversible degeneration of a condition that, if left untreated, would result in premature death
A generic classification such as a potentially life-threatening illness is generally not sufficient to meet this requirement. There must be a clear and direct link between the current state of the illness or injury and the threat to the patient’s life.
Using the terms acute and chronic
Acute refers to the rapid onset or progress of a condition and suggests that the condition has progressed to a stage where there is some urgency for treatment.
Chronic refers to a condition having an indefinite duration or less rapid change. The condition may have been stable for some time or be characterised by periods of relapse or remission. It would usually refer to a condition of at least three months’ duration.
Certification using non-specific terms such as chronic medical condition is generally not sufficient to meet this requirement.
We can consider early release of superannuation to meet costs associated with transport to access medical treatment, such as:
- public transport
- vehicle repairs
- vehicle running costs, or
- purchase of a reliable second-hand vehicle
In addition to meeting the certification requirements for medical treatment, a treating registered medical practitioner or specialist must also certify:
- that transport is required to access medical treatment
- the frequency of the required medical treatment
- the location of the medical appointments
- the length of time the treatment is expected to be required
Report for medical practitioners and specialists
Medical practitioners need to complete a Report for medical practitioners and specialists. This information will help us determine if a customer is eligible to access their superannuation early.
Modifications to a home or motor vehicle
We can consider early release of superannuation to assist an applicant or their dependant to modify the applicant's home or vehicle if they have special needs arising from severe disability. For example:
- installing ramps
- widening doorways
- installing hand controls
In some cases, we may also consider early release of superannuation to purchase aids such as wheelchairs, hearing aids or dentures.
An application on this ground must be supported by a letter from a medical practitioner, which confirms:
- the existence of the severe disability
- the special needs it may give rise to
- the utility of the proposed modifications
Palliative care can be described as the specialised care of people who are dying. A person receiving palliative care will most likely have an active, progressive and far-advanced disease, with little or no prospect of cure.
We can consider early release of superannuation to assist an applicant or their dependant with the cost of palliative care. Examples include:
- reasonable costs of accommodation in a hospice
- employment of a palliative care nurse
- purchase of necessary medications
An application should be supported by a medical certificate that states that the person is terminally ill and requires palliative care.
Another ground exists for the early release of superannuation benefits on the basis of terminal illness. This is administered by an individual’s superannuation fund, not by us.
For more information on the early release of superannuation, please call or email us. If your patient does not speak English and needs help from us, they can call the Translating and Interpreting Service