Financial difficulties

KezzaGKezzaG Member Posts: 12
edited December 2018 in General discussion
Hi everyone
I was diagnosed in August with ILC and have only been able to work a handful of days since my diagnosis.  Since I started chemo I've been hospitalised with a blood clot (DVT) in my leg, pneumocystis (PJP) and most recently Clostridium Difficle (C. Diff).  I'v had severe fatigue from the chemo and have been an emotional wreck from this entire experience.
I've been extremely lucky though that my employer has been so supportive and has placed no pressure on me returning to work and is open to me coming in on any day for however long I can just to keep in touch.  They have also generously offered me one months pay ex gratia.  
My issue is that I have now exhausted all of my sick leave and have only a couple of weeks left of my annual leave but am not in a position mentally or health wise to return to work yet.  Foolishly, when I was younger I never opted for income protection on my superannuation so I don't have this to fall back on either. 
I contacted my Super fund to ask how I could access some funds from my super to allow me a couple of more months before I had to return to work.  They advised me that this was dealt with by the ATO with a request for compassionate release of super funds.  I went through this process on line and even called the ATO but unfortunately I don't fit into any of their categories to be able to claim compassionate funds. You have to be unable to pay your medical bills (mine are all up to date), have a terminal illness (Stage 3 BC isn't classed as terminal) or be in mortgage foreclosure (which I'm not, but may end up there soon if I don't return to work).  The ATO directed me back to my Super fund to ask for financial hardship payment. 
My Super fund advised that to claim financial hardship, I had to be receiving Centrelink payments for a minimum of 26 weeks.
This whole process is so frustrating but is also adding to my stress levels and anxiety.  I've worked hard for so many years to make sure I was in a good place with my financial situation but this has just been eroded over the last few months due to BC. I feel like the ATO and Super fund want me to be in complete financial distress before they'll assist but I'm trying to be proactive and avoid getting into that situation. 
Does anyone have any advice or suggestions?  Does anyone know of any other avenues that can be taken to access superannuation?

Comments

  • ZoffielZoffiel Regional VictoriaMember Posts: 2,869
    edited December 2018
    Hi @KezzaG I know exactly how you feel. I was made redundant 6 weeks before my recurrence was diagnosed so couldn't access my income insurance. Because I received a payout, I couldn't get Centrelink benefits for 12 months. About 6 months into that I  did some work for Cancer Australia and they paid me some sitting fees, which I declared, which cut me off benefits for a fortnight then it was another 6 months before I could apply for early release of supper due to financial difficulties.
    Even once I got to that point it was a terrible experience getting them to release some of my money. They kept changing the conditions; saying I had to be in default of my mortgage, which was not true, saying I had to have unpaid bills, not true, misquoting legislation, telling me all sorts of bullshit. I eventually got a pay out, but it took months.

    So, what to do in the interim. Much as you won't want to, you need to go and investigate Centrelink sickness benefits. If your employer agrees your job will still be there when you ''recover' you should be eligible. It's not much, but should mean you will get a healthcare card, they really help with medical costs. Don't try and do it over the phone. Dedicate a day to sitting in their offices.

    One of the first things you should ask for is to see or speak to a Centrelink social worker, ask your breast care nurse for a referral. Specify Centrelink, not the ones attached to the hospital. They can get you into the system better than a drone at a desk, though you will still have to suffer the ritual humiliation of the office.

    Check to see if you have mortgage protection insurance on your loan. Most of the time they will only pay if you are unable to work at all. If you are ahead with your payments, organise to have your weekly payment dropped back (maybe just enough to cover the interest) for a couple of months. That's not renegotiating your loan , so there shouldn't be any fees.

    I lived off my savings for 18 months with no real prospect of getting back into the full time workforce. I'm still only working a couple of days a week. If I factor in lost wages, the whole performance has cost me over $180k in the last two years. It is very, very stressful. Mxx
  • SisterSister Adelaide Hills, SAMember Posts: 4,436
    @zoffiel has given some really good advice .The only thing that I would add is, if at all possible, if you have someone level-headed who can attend with you as a support person and advocate it may be good to enlist them.
  • Brenda5Brenda5 Burrum Heads, QldMember Posts: 2,348
    If possible go back to work even if you can't fully operate up to par. It is far better than negotiating your way around Centerlink. I ended up with PTSD, anxiety and depression and most of it was from Centerlink. I won't have any more to do with them for my own self preservation.
  • Riki_BCNARiki_BCNA Administrator, Staff, Member, Moderator Posts: 271
    Hi @KezzaG I am very sorry to hear about the difficulties you are experiencing getting financial support. The link below is to BCNAs factsheet on practical and financial assistance that you might find helpful. 

    https://www.bcna.org.au/media/4520/bcna-fact-sheet-financial-and-practical-assistance-march-2017.pdf 

    The Department of Human Services has a financial advice service on 132 300 and as @Zoffiel suggests it may be worthwhile to ring and make appointment to work through any options available. The  Cancer Council also can provide financial advice on 13 11 20. 
  • jennyssjennyss Western NSWMember Posts: 635
    Dear @KezzaG
    Yes, $ worries are very frustrating and stressful on top of everything else! No advice to add, just

    from jennyss in Western NSW
  • AnnskiAnnski Blue Mountains, NSWMember Posts: 108
    What a terrible situation to be in @KezzaG. Nobody should have to go through all this stress on top of what they are dealing with from their illness and treatment. Yes, it seems to be the case that you have to be desperate before "they" will release what is in fact your own money. Who makes these decisions? I think there are three ways to deal with this, one to go very public about it, one to keep your job but stop your income so they have to give you compassionate access, and the other to find a private person, family or friend, to help out.

    1. You could go  back to the ATO and appeal to someone higher up than whoever you have been speaking to on the phone - and it has to be in writing. Nothing anyone says on the phone has the weight of a written statement. Send an email or letter with brief details. All you are asking for is compassionate release of funds approval for a limited amount like two or three months income equivalent. Send the same email/letter to someone high up in your Super fund AND with a copy to your local member of Parliament and one to the Minister for Health as well. You can get  names/addresses from online records. If you get the brush-off, or no response at all, call one of the media outlets, Channel 7 or 9. This is a very good time for querying the way our institutions DON'T serve us well.

    2.  If that doesn't appeal, you could ask your employer to give you a few months leave without pay. Then, with no income, but still with a job, you could tell the bank this and ask them to send a letter stating that you are now in mortgage foreclosure. This does not look good on your credit record though. 

    3. To avoid all this, maybe you might have a family member or friend who could loan you the money you need to keep going without all this hassle? If you are working you will be able to pay them back eventually.  A private arrangement keeps you out of the bureaucratic nightmare. Almost everyone on this network seems to have been able to go back to work in spite of what they have gone through. Their resilience and determination is amazing! It sounds as though you will be the same. Good on you. Stick up for yourself, you will get there eventually. Good luck and let us know how things turn out.
  • SarnicadSarnicad MelbourneMember Posts: 318
    @KezzaG unfortunately the rules around super and early release are strict. They are strict to protect us from ourselves and unscrupulous advisers and I have to say in 20+ years of public practice this is justified. Frustrating for you but totally justified. 

    There are probably two things you should consider - negotiate every bill and talk to the bank before it becomes dire and prioritise ie make mortgage payments ahead of medical bills. If your medical bills are outstanding you will met the criteria for release. 

    The great unknown in this this is if you will return to work. If you are out of leave would you qualify for sickness benefits?  @Zoffiel suggestion of a Centrelink financial counsellor/ social worker is very valid and a great place to start. A Centrelink benefit could bring a healthcare card and the discounts that brings are invaluable. 
  • FlaneuseFlaneuse BrisbaneMember Posts: 869
    @KezzaG Ghastly situation you're in. @Zoffiel 's suggestions are superb. I would add - go to your local federal member's electorate office (they'll probably be closing for the Xmas break soon, so quickly or find out when they open again after Xmas) and ask them if they can help negotiate on your behalf. An experienced, mature-aged (preferably woman) electorate officer with channels to govt departments is pure gold.
  • ZoffielZoffiel Regional VictoriaMember Posts: 2,869
    Another suggestion that has been rendered is the Cancer Council. They can help with financial advice and some one off payments.
    Awful to have to constantly leverage off the shitful state you are in because you are in it. I loathe taking anything I peceive as charity regardless of how deserving I am or how freely it is offered. It's yet another indignity, but needs must. Unfortunately. Mxx
  • FlaneuseFlaneuse BrisbaneMember Posts: 869
    @KezzaG What state/ city are you in? In Brisbane there's a BC charity called "Be Uplifted" which raises money just for support. They gave me a hamper of goodies - creams, etc. and offered to pay any unpaid bills. I'll support them when I'm able to in the future, but I'm not out of the woods yet.
  • arpiearpie Mid North Coast, NSWMember Posts: 3,233
    edited December 2018
    That's a real shocker, @KezzaG .... it is bad enough going thru what we have without additional stress in not being able to access our own money!  :(    It just seems to be a never ending circle, all going back to "NO"!

    Some great suggestions already tendered by the ladies ..... I hope you get some resolution soon.

    I was getting overwhelmed with Out of Pocket expenses whilst having my Rads - and the social worker there arranged for a one off payment of a utility bill thru the Cancer Council (Rates, power, water etc) to the value of $500 (which coincided with a $500 bill for my breast pathology that wasn't covered by medicare or NIB - god only knows why!) ... so was very relieved to accept that payment.

    All the best, and thinking of you  xx
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