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Where to find support

Superannuation and benefits

If you have superannuation and/or insurance policies, you may be able to access your benefits or make a claim. You can do this even if you aren’t at retirement age.

Early access to superannuation

Generally, you cannot access your superannuation benefits until you have reached preservation age and retired, or you have reached the age of 65. However, you can apply to access your superannuation under specific compassionate grounds, such as:

  • Pay for medical or dental treatment for yourself or a dependent or pay for transport to the treatment
  • Prevent your home from being sold by the lender that holds the mortgage
  • Modify your home or vehicle to make it easier for you to manage everyday activities and be as independent as possible
  • Pay for palliative care for yourself or a dependent with a terminal medical condition
  • Pay for expenses associated with a dependent’s death, funeral or burial.

Contact the Federal Department of Human Services on 1300 131 060 for more information on accessing superannuation under compassionate grounds.

Early release of superannuation on the grounds of terminal illness

Under Australian law, people with a terminal illness and a life expectancy of less than two years are able to get early access to their lump sum benefits from their superannuation fund tax-free.

You will be required to have two medical specialists involved in your care complete forms that specify your life expectancy as less than two years. This is only an estimate on their behalf. You will not be required to repay the money, and there is no penalty, if you live longer than two years.

There are also no rules on how you can spend the money. You may need it for your medical care, but you can use it however you like, for example to pay off your mortgage, pay school fees for your children, or take your family on a holiday.

It was difficult at first. My super fund would not provide accurate information but I got some advice and pushed through the barriers and was finally able to access my super which made a huge difference to my quality of life.
I used my superannuation to pay for a wonderful family holiday. Mentally and physically it was the best thing we could have done. It is the best medicine. I would love to think that everyone with this disease could do that.

The decision to withdraw superannuation must be done carefully as it could result in losing your insurance benefits attached to your superannuation policy. This includes life insurance and disability insurances. If you receive a Centrelink payment, you should also discuss the impact of this with Centrelink.

For more information, download or order BCNA's Superannuation and insurance payments for people with a terminal illness fact sheet

Insurance benefits attached to superannuation

Disability benefits

I received a Total and Temporary Disability benefit through my super fund (75% of my normal salary) which supported me during a gradual return to work after I was first diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

Your superannuation policy may include insurance disability benefits that can cover you if you are no longer able to work. There are two types of benefits:

  1. Total and Permanent Disability cover (TPD) - this provides you with a lump sum insurance benefit if you are totally and permanently ‘disabled’. Although definitions of TPD differ between insurers, the most common definition is that you cannot return to any form of work because of your injury or illness, taking into account your age, education and experience.
  2. Total and Temporary Disability cover (TTD) - this is where you are deemed temporarily unable to return to work and your disability is not likely to be permanent. TTD benefits can also be called Income Protection or Salary Continuance depending on your policy. TTD benefits can provide you with a monthly payment for up to two years and longer in some cases.
    There is often a waiting period before these payments commence.

Life insurance

Death Benefit payments under superannuation insurance policies can often be accessed by people who are terminally ill when they withdraw their superannuation account balance, rather than after the person has passed away.

You can find out more about insurances that may be attached to superannuation policies by reading our superannuation fact sheet.

If you are unsure what insurance is attached to your policy you should consider getting independent financial advice. The Cancer Council Pro Bono Program may also be able to assist you. You can find out more about this service by calling 13 11 20.

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