Early release of superannuation information for health professionals

Information for medical and dental practitioners on providing 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 2 registered medical practitioners, 1 must be a specialist, which certify that the medical treatment is necessary to:

  1. treat a life-threatening illness or injury
  2. alleviate acute or chronic pain, or
  3. alleviate an acute or chronic mental disturbance

Medical treatment includes dental treatment. In these cases, certification must be provided by either 2 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.

Medical transport

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 Early Release of Superannuation on Specified Compassionate Grounds Report by Medical or Dental Practitioner and/or Specialist form (MO017). 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

The letter should also confirm that the cost of any modifications or aids required will not be met through the public health system, government program or nongovernment organisation.

Palliative care

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.

Terminal illness

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.

More information

For more information on the early release of superannuation, please call us. If your patient does not speak English and needs help from us, they can call the Interpreter and Translation Services.

Page last updated: 1 March 2016

This information was printed Monday 20 February 2017 from humanservices.gov.au/health-professionals/subjects/early-release-superannuation-information-health-professionals It may not include all of the relevant information on this topic. Please consider any relevant site notices at humanservices.gov.au/siteinformation when using this material.