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Financial hardship/severe financial hardship

In general terms, this is where someone is suffering from serious money difficulties, such as insufficient income to manage their basic living expenses. More detailed descriptions of various financial hardship situations are covered under the following topics:

  • financial hardship provisions under section 52Y of the VEA, for the purpose of the calculating a rate of service pension or income support supplement,
  • financial hardship for the purpose of crisis payment,
  • hardship amount for income stream purposes,
  • hardship assessment of lump sum advance repayments under section 79O of the VEA,
  • financial hardship for special deeming exemptions of 'saved' personal loans and 'frozen' unlisted property trusts,
  • early release of superannuation benefit due to severe financial hardship, and
  • proof of identity at time of pension claims in emergency or hardship situations.



A service pension is an income support payment broadly equivalent to the social security age and disability support pensions. It may be paid once a veteran or partner has reached the nominated age or is incapacitated for work.

ISS is an income support payment that may be paid to eligible war widows and widowers under the VEA and persons receiving wholly dependent partners' compensation under the MRCA, and who satisfy the means tests. It is an indexed rate, increased twice-yearly in March and September in line with changes to the cost of living and/or average wages. Income Support Supplement (ISS) legislation commenced on 20 March 1995. It is a payment created to replace the ceiling rate income support age, carer, wife and disability support pensions, paid to war widows/widowers by Centrelink.



A crisis payment is a one-off non-taxable payment to extend immediate financial assistance to people in severe financial hardship who:

  • are forced to leave their home due to extreme circumstances, such as domestic or family violence or a house fire, or
  • have been subjected to domestic or family violence by a family member and choose to remain in the family home after the perpetrator has left or been removed from the home, or
  • released prisoners released from either goal or psychiatric institutions.



A person may apply to the Commission in writing to be allowed to commute the whole or part of an income stream because of extreme financial hardship. According to s.5JA of the VEA, the Commission may determine an amount as allowable commutation if these conditions are satisfied:

  •       the person's circumstances are exceptional and could not be reasonably foreseen at the time the person purchased the income stream, and
  •       the person has insufficient liquid assets or other assets (excluding the person's principal home) that could be realised to avoid the extreme financial hardship, and
  •       that amount is required to meet unavoidable expenditure.

According to subsection 5J(1) of the VEA, an income stream includes:

  • an income stream arising under arrangements that are regulated by the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993; or
  • an income stream arising under a public sector scheme (within the meaning of that Act); or
  • an income stream arising under a retirement savings account; or
  • an income stream provided as life insurance business by a life company registered under section 21 of the Life Insurance Act 1995; or
  • an income stream provided by a friendly society (within the meaning of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1996); or
  • an income stream designated in writing by the Commission for the purposes of this definition, having regard to the guidelines determined under subsection 5J(1F) of the VEA;

but does not include any of the following:

  • available money;
  • deposit money;
  • a managed investment;
    • an investment in a public unit trust;
    • an investment in an insurance bond;
    • an investment with a friendly society;
    • an investment in a superannuation fund;
    • an investment in an approved deposit fund;
    • an investment in an ATO small superannuation account;
  • a listed security;
  • a loan that has not been repaid in full;
  • an unlisted public security; 
  • gold, silver or platinum bullion; or
  • a payment of compensation in relation to a person's:
    • inability to earn, derive or receive income from remunerative work; or
    • total and permanent disability or incapacity.



Section 5J(1) of the VEA defines a superannuation benefit, in relation to a person, as a benefit arising directly or indirectly from amounts contributed (whether by the person or by any other person) to a superannuation fund in respect of the person.



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