Is Accessing Super Early for Plastic Surgery Ever Possible?

You may have heard about people accessing super early for plastic surgery. Those aren’t rumors. In fact, it is possible to access your super early so that you can pay for certain cosmetic medical procedures.

But wait! There is a catch.

Keep reading to find out whether or not you qualify for early super release for tummy tuck or breast reduction surgery. This guide also tells you exactly how to apply so you get approved, along with links to the forms you will need.

What is superannuation?

Superannuation funds (also called “super”) are a protected asset that is meant to fund your retirement. Generally, you can access the funds when you reach preservation age.

However, there are some circumstances that allow you to access your super funds early. From severe financial hardship to certain medical conditions, there are many reasons you may need to dip into your super early.

Can you use your superannuation for body contouring surgery?

The short answer is yes, under some circumstances. For certain cosmetic conditions that cause you chronic physical pain and discomfort AND that aren’t commonly treated within the public system, you may be eligible. You must also not have any other way to pay for the surgery.

Important things to know about accessing your super

The following is general information about accessing your super, along with reasons that you can access it early.

When can I access my super?

Under normal circumstances, you can access your super when:

  • you are age 65 (even if you aren’t retired); or
  • when you reach retirement age (also known as “preservation age”) and retire; or
  • when you reach preservation age and continue working under transition to retirement rules.

Note: Your preservation age depends on your birth date. It is usually when you reach between 55 to 60 years of age.

Can I access my super early?

Yes, it is possible, though specific conditions must be met. There are limited circumstances. It is generally used for certain medical conditions and/or severe financial hardship. You may be eligible for early release of super for medical procedures such as body contouring and breast reduction if you meet the criteria.

6 reasons that you can access your super early

Life takes many turns. Sometimes, situations arise that require you to dip into your retirement money early. There are many reasons you may need to access your super before reaching retirement age.

Here are the six scenarios that qualify you for early release of superannuation:

  • Severe financial hardship (apply to your superfund)
  • Compassionate grounds (apply to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on behalf of yourself, your partner or a dependent
  • Terminal medical conditions (apply to your super fund)
  • Temporary or permanent incapacitation (apply to your super fund);
  • There is less than $200 in your superfund (again, apply to your super);
  • You are a temporary resident that is leaving Australia permanently (apply to your super fund).

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Compassionate release of superannuation for plastic surgery

For body contouring, we are looking at compassionate early release of super since you need access to the superfund early due to chronic pain. Again, this can be for yourself, your partner or a dependent.

The #1 rule to know before accessing your super early for plastic surgery

For body contouring surgery, this is the most important fact you must know:

There must be acute medical or chronic pain AND medical treatment is not readily available via the public health system, thus requiring a specialist such as a cosmetic surgeon.

To gain access to your super on compassionate grounds, you must also demonstrate that you don’t have the financial ability to pay for the surgery any other way than using your superannuation.

What kind of cosmetic surgery can I get with early release of super?

These following are the most common conditions that make you eligible for accessing super early for plastic surgery:

Post-pregnancy tummy tuck

For non-post weight loss (tummy tucks (aka you don’t have item number), you can access your super early if there is chronic pain or discomfort caused by loose, hanging skin folds that remain after pregnancy. Itching skin, chafing and rashes often develop in the folds. This can be painful. Many women that had a c-section birth, for example, seek cosmetic surgery to remove the skin folds and put an end to their discomfort.

Some women also suffer from abdominal muscle separation, a common side effect of pregnancy. During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles stretch to accommodate your expanding tummy. Often, this leaves the ab muscles torn or stretched.

For some women, the condition is purely cosmetic, leaving a tummy bulge after giving birth. For others, it causes chronic lower back and belly pain, among other problems such as incontinence. This may mean you can gain access your superfund early.

Breast implant problems

If there is a medical need to remove breast implants, you may be able to access your super early.

Capsular contracture is a possible side effect of breast implants. The body reacts to the implant by forming a capsule around it. This is completely normal. However, patients with implants run into a problem if the capsule tightens, leading to painful, hard breasts after implants.

Sometimes, this occurs because the implant is leaking. Silicone implants leak slowly and can affect the capsule.

Regardless of the reason, you can usually access your super early for certain breast implant problems if ATO and your superfund approve.

Women that need a breast reduction

Women with large breasts often experience chronic back pain from heavy breasts as well as shoulder pain. Back pain from large breasts can interfere with your daily life. For this reason, you may be able to get relief with a breast reduction using your superfund money.

What about major weight loss tummy tucks?

This is the main reason patients use their superfund early for plastic surgery. This is the most common scenario that causes people to access their super early for plastic surgery. Ideally, you will have a Medicare item number. This is your best case scenario to get approval for early release of your super.

Loose skin after weight loss is a common concern after shedding major kilos. When obese patients lose weight from weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery), the fat may be gone but excess loose, hanging belly skin remains.

The problem is not just cosmetic for many patients. Loose skin may cause chronic discomfort, itching and skin rashes in skin folds that make everyday life unpleasant. After losing all that weight, it can be a real downer.

A tummy tuck gives post-weight loss patients a new lease on life by removing loose tummy skin. It is freeing to say goodbye to painful, itchy skin folds and painful rashes for good!

There must be ongoing pain or discomfort to qualify for elective surgery using your super

You won’t get the super for purely cosmetic reasons. For example, early access for a super facelift just to help you look younger and more attractive is not going to happen.

There must be persistent discomfort or pain that is a side effect of a cosmetic concern to qualify for body contouring surgery using your superfund. While cosmetic surgery can certainly make you look better, the main reason for getting surgery must be to get relief from long term pain or discomfort.

Applying for super early release

It is a two-step application process to get approved for compassionate release of super for cosmetic surgery.

Important Note: You must apply for early release of super before getting the surgery. You cannot use your superfund to pay for a surgery that already happened. You must get approved before getting the procedure done.

Step 1: ATO early release of super

You must get two medical reports before applying for compassionate release of super with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

The first form must be completed by your GP, and another must be completed by a registered medical specialist (like Dr. Beldholm) who will confirm the GP’s recommendation. This is called your ‘evidence’ when you apply.

The form for both doctors is available on your MyGov account. From the ATO online services page, select ‘Super’ — ‘Manage’ — ‘Compassionate Release of Super’. Here is a link to the ATO early release of super compassionate grounds form.

The specialist surgeon must also provide a price quote before you apply. That way, the government knows how much money is needed from the fund to use toward surgery. This is very important.

Once you have seen both doctors and had the forms completed, you can start the application process by logging into your MyGov account.

When patients come to see Dr. Bernard Beldholm, FRACS, we aim to make it easy. Filling out paperwork can be overwhelming for patients. We can fill out and submit the necessary paperwork on your behalf.

The ATO will reply with a statement when they reach a decision. How long does it take to get a response for early release of super from ATO? The answer is, it depends. It usually takes 2 to 4 weeks on average.

If the ATO approves the application, you will receive a ‘yes’ letter in your MyGov inbox. The ATO will also send along the approval to your super fund.

Step 2: Applying to your superfund

Now that you have been approved by the government, you are halfway done. Next, you need to get approval from your superfund. Take the ‘yes’ letter you received from ATO and submit it to your superfund for approval. The superfund will also have you fill out more paperwork. Yes, it’s a lot of paperwork, but it will be worth it in the end.

Note that not every superfund will allow you to take your super out early. It varies by superfund. Keep in mind it is possible to transfer your super to another health fund if your current superfund does not approve the request. MLC is a good one, for example.

Each superfund has their own rules and paperwork. The compassionate release of super form is normally available on the superfund’s website. Go to the superfund’s website to apply. Approval can take about 2 to 3 months. Once approved, you may proceed with scheduling the surgery.

Pros and cons of accessing my super early

Using super to pay for surgery comes with financial consequences. Before applying, it is wise to weigh your options to see if it is worth it to get relief for your ongoing pain or discomfort.

Pros

For many patients, the answer is yes. Despite the financial repercussions of withdrawing super for surgery, body contouring can make a huge improvement to patients’ quality of life.

For people dealing with chronic pain due to a cosmetic issue such as constant discomfort and chafing due to loose skin on the tummy after weight loss or breast capsular contracture, for example, it is a welcome solution to their problem.

Not only can you look forward to a pain-free future, you also have the added benefits that come with cosmetic surgery, such as gaining confidence and improved body image.

If you are approved you will not have the financial burden of paying for body contouring surgery out of pocket if you can’t afford it. Typically, health insurance does not cover cosmetic surgery. Surgery costs can be high, so this is a big relief for patients that need the surgery due to chronic pain that don’t have other means to pay for surgery.

Note: To find out the current tummy tuck costs in Australia, click here.

Cons

There are financial consequences for early release of super. It is important to see a financial advisor before making the decision. For example, you will lose an asset that’s protected from bankruptcy and creditors by using your super early. Using all of your super may mean you lose insurance benefits, such as TPD. Of course, you will also have less money available when you retire. For some people, early release of super may even result in paying more child support. There are also tax repercussions from the ATO.

Free financial counseling is available. If you are in NSW, can find a local financial counselor here. If you live elsewhere in Australia, please visit the National Debt Helpline’s Find a Financial Counsellor Tool. Another option is calling the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

Stay up to date

The information in this article is accurate as of the date of this posting. Please understand that the rules change from time to time. It is important to go to ATO and your superfund’s websites to see if there are any new rules before applying.

Accessing super early for plastic surgery is possible

By taking advantage of compassionate release of super, eligible patients can get cosmetic surgery. There may be a lot of paperwork and some financial drawbacks, but for many patients, the improved quality of life makes it all worth it.