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Financial Hardship

If you run into financial difficulties, there are some situations when you can access part of your superannuation to help meet immediate financial needs. These situations include:

  • severe financial hardship
  • specified compassionate grounds
  • other specified situations.

You will need to provide evidence to support a claim for these reasons. To apply under financial hardship, you will also need to complete an ADF Super Early release - Financial Hardship form. To apply under specified compassionate grounds, you will need to complete an ADF Super Early release - Compassionate Grounds form.

Because the aim of superannuation is to help you save for retirement, Australian government legislation restricts your access to superannuation before retirement.

How much can I receive?

The maximum amount that can be paid to you is $10,000 (before tax). Only one payment can be approved and paid to you in any 12-month period.

Am I eligible?

You can apply to access your super on grounds of severe financial hardship if you:

  • have received Commonwealth income support payments for at least 26 continuous weeks (if you are under age 55), or
  • have received Commonwealth income support payments for 39 continuous weeks (if you are aged 55 plus 39 weeks or over) at the time you lodge your application.

You must also prove that you are in financial hardship. This means you are unable to meet your reasonable and immediate family living expenses. You need to provide evidence of bills or expenses.

You will not be eligible for early access to your super if:

  • you own assets that could reasonably and realistically be sold to meet your expenses. This will be determined by guidelines issued by the Department of Human Services.
  • you have more than $50,000 in assets (excluding your home).

Any assets should be valued at their resale value, not their replacement value. For example, if you sell your car the value is the likely sale price (market value), not the cost to buy a new or similar car.

Which types of payments qualify?

Income support payments must be made by Centrelink or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Eligible payment types include:

  • income support supplements
  • service pensions
  • social security benefits
  • social security pensions.

Payments that are not eligible include Family Allowance, Austudy, and Youth Allowance payments in relation to full-time study.

How are common expenses treated in severe financial hardship claims?

Reason for early release of super

How expense is treated

Personal loans from family and friends


Release will not be granted unless you provide both:

  • a statutory declaration from the person you owe the money to stating the amount of the loan, the reason the loan was given and that it is due and payable immediately, and
  • documentary evidence (e.g. bank statements, bills paid by another person) to substantiate the money was loaned to you.

Credit cards and other loans


Release of enough money (up to $10,000 gross limit) may be granted to reduce an outstanding credit card balance, providing it is the first release of this purpose. 

All information you provide will be assessed for payment, if the trustee (Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation) decides to accept the information submitted.

If there was a previous release for credit cards or other financial institution loans, only the minimum amount outstanding for the monthly payment due at the date you applied for the release can be granted.

Copies of your last three credit card or loan statements must be included with your application. (All information must be assessed, so do not use blackout pens.)

Regular bills


Release for utility expenses such as gas, water and electricity bills will generally be granted if it covers amounts due at the date of your release application and is dated within the past two months. (You must provide copies of your outstanding bills.)

With sufficient documentary evidence, the following expenses will also generally be granted:

  • Rates or body corporate expenses 
  • Motor vehicle registration or insurance 
  • Medical, home and contents and similar insurance premiums.

Motor vehicle purchases and repairs

Release for the purchase of a motor vehicle will only be granted in exceptional circumstances (e.g. you live in a remote area and rely on a vehicle for transport). Release for motor vehicle repairs may be granted if they are to make the vehicle roadworthy. You will need to provide a quote on business letterhead if applying on these grounds. Please also provide a statutory declaration stating why the repair work is essential.

Education expenses


Release for continuing educational expenses for yourself or your immediate family may be granted where these expenses are due and payable in the near future or at the date you apply (please note that you can only be granted one release to pay private school fees). University fees are generally not accepted as these are covered by HECS.

Medical expenses


Releases will only be granted for necessary and outstanding medical bills where documentary evidence is provided. For urgent medical treatment to be undertaken in the near future you should supply an estimate of the cost involved from your medical practitioner, as well as a letter stating the urgency of your medical situation.

Note: For substantial medical costs, contact DHS to authorise the release of super amounts over $10,000.

Mortgage payments


Releases will only be granted to cover minimum outstanding mortgage payments. 

Note: If you are in danger of foreclosure on your mortgage, contact DHS.

Establishing a household


Releases may be granted to cover the cost of establishing a household. All claims will be assessed on a case-by-case basis taking into account the circumstances of the individual. A statutory declaration must be supplied that states the exact items needed and the reason why each item is needed. (Items are limited to essential household items only and cost limits may apply depending on the exact item.) Reasonable priced quotes from a minimum of two retail suppliers must be provided, including a quote from a secondhand dealer. Generally, the delegate would only consider releasing an amount to purchase essential household items on one occasion. You can also provide a letter from your real estate agent or landlord that details the bond and rent you must pay.

General shortfall in living expenses


Releases will not be granted to cover a general shortfall between your income and expenses. (Releases can only be approved to cover specific outstanding expenses.)

Discretionary expenditure


Releases will not be granted to cover the cost of discretionary items such as televisions, music systems, computers, internet access, DVD players, dishwashers or similar.

Compassionate grounds

If you don't qualify on grounds of severe financial hardship, you may be able to apply to the Department of Human Services (DHS) for access to your super on specified compassionate grounds.

The specified compassionate grounds allow you to access superannuation to:

  • pay for medical or dental treatment for you or a dependant, or for transport to the treatment
  • prevent your home from being sold by the lender that holds the mortgage
  • modify your home or vehicle to accommodate your own needs, or the needs of a dependant, for a severe disability
  • pay for palliative care for yourself or a dependant with a terminal medical condition
  • pay for expenses associated with a dependant’s death, funeral or burial.

Information on how to apply is available on the Department of Human Services website.

If DHS approves your application, you then need to submit your approval to ADF Super along with an ADF Super early access to superannuation benefit on compassionate grounds form.

Other grounds for early access to super

As well as financial hardship and specified compassionate grounds, you can access super early if:

  • you are changing jobs and have $200 or less in your super account
  • you are leaving Australia permanently having been a temporary resident
  • you can claim your super under permanent incapacity or terminal illness grounds.

How to apply for early release on financial hardship

To make a claim, you need to complete and submit an ADF Super Early release - Financial Hardship form, together with information to support your claim including:

  • written evidence from either Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs confirming you are receiving an eligible Commonwealth income support payment
  • evidence of financial hardship
  • proof of identification.

Check the form for details of the supporting documentation required.

Your claim will be assessed against relevant guidelines. If approved, ADF Super will then determine how much of your super will be released.

If you have ADF Cover, check whether you are entitled to any invalidity payments.

Contact ADF Cover.