Frequently asked questions
Death and invalidity benefits
Can I nominate or change my beneficiaries?
DFRDB scheme rules determine who receives your DFRDB benefit in the event of your death, which means that the DFRDB cannot accept binding beneficiary nominations. Under the DFRDB rules, in the event of your death your benefit will be paid to any eligible spouse and/or eligible children. An eligible spouse is defined as a person who was living in a marital or couple relationship with you at the time of your death, for a continuous period of three years or more. If you were in a relationship for less than three years, the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (Trustee of the DFRDB) may still declare a spouse to be eligible.
If you don’t have eligible beneficiaries at the time of your death, your DFRDB benefit will be paid to your estate. In this case, you can nominate beneficiaries in your will. For more information please refer to the Dependant’s benefits factsheet [PDF 210 KB]
Do I have insurance cover?
Although traditional insurance is not offered through the DFRDB, serving full-time members do receive death and invalidity cover. This cover is provided under the scheme rules and you do not pay insurance premiums or other fees for the cover.
More information can be found under invalidity.
I will be medically discharged, can I withdraw my superannuation?
If you are discharged from the Australian Defence Force as medically unfit for further service and have completed 20 years of service, you will be eligible for a DFRDB benefit.
Any invalidity benefits are designed to help meet your income needs in retirement or resettlement into the civilian workforce. Compensation and repatriation benefits may also be paid to you by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
More information is available under invalidity.
If you are going to be medically discharged and have completed less than 20 years of service, please contact our Customer Information Centre on 1300 001 677 to discuss your options.
Why can’t I view my member statement online?
You will not be able to use Member Services Online to view your member statement if you are:
- a member who is subject to family law split during the financial year ending 30 June 2012, or
- a family law associate of the DFRDB.
You may also have been excluded from receiving a statement if we have received two items of mail ‘Return to Sender’. If you think we may have your incorrect address on file, please call the Customer Information Centre on 1300 001 677 so that we can update your address and request your statement be sent to you.
I think my superannuation salary/rank on my statement is incorrect
Your annual statement shows the details we have on file as of 30 June 2012. If you changed rank after 30 June 2012, this will not be reflected on your statement.
If you want to confirm that we have your correct rank, you can call our Customer Information Centre on 1300 001 677.
Why do I have a negative co-contribution?
We have been directed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to recover co-contributions from members where there has been an overpayment.
If this applies to you, you will notice a negative co-contribution rate reported in your 2011-2012 member statement.
Please call the ATO on 13 10 20 if you have any enquiries
Why did I receive a MilitarySuper statement when I am in the DFRDB?
You are still a DFRDB member. DFRDB contributors can choose to make a range of voluntary contributions or transfers to MilitarySuper. These are known as Ancillary Contributions.
If you have chosen to make Ancillary Contributions, they will be to a MilitarySuper account. You will however become a member of MilitarySuper and any Ancillary benefits will be paid as an additional benefit to your DFRDB benefit.
As a result, you receive a MilitarySuper Ancillary Benefit statement as well as your DFRDB member statement each year.
Pensions (Including pension increases and tax)
What is the new rate for pensioners aged 54 and younger?
The January 2018 CPI increase is 0.8%.
What is the new rate for pensioners aged 55 and older?
The January 2018 CPI increase is 0.8%.
How is my pension increase calculated?
Your age determines the way your pension increase is calculated. If you are 55 or older at the pension indexation date (that is on 1 January or 1 July), your pension will be indexed for the following six months the same way as the Age and Service pensions are indexed.
If you are aged 54 years or younger, your pension will be indexed for the following six months using CPI.
More information, and example calculations can be found on our Pension indexation page.
Why is tax taken from my DFRDB pension?
DFRDB pensions are considered to be taxable income by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and therefore we are obliged to deduct tax from your pension according to the relevant PAYG taxation schedules.
We will deduct any tax concessions you are eligible for automatically each fortnight, unless you have advised us that you wish to claim these concessions on an annual basis through your income tax return.
If you think you should not be paying tax on your pension you will need to apply to the ATO for an assessment. You can do this by completing a PAYG income tax withholding variation (ITWV) form available at ato.gov.au and submitting it to the ATO. Once the ATO has provided you with an assessment, you can forward this information to the DFRDB and we will apply any changes to your tax on the next available payday.
More information can be found in the Taxation offsets for pensions [PDF 334 KB]
I’ve recently turned 60, will this affect my pension?
Once you turn 60 there may be significant tax changes to your DFRDB pension. For more information please refer to the Taxation offsets for pensions [PDF 334 KB]
Will the age pension affect my pension?
Our pensions are not means tested against any other income support payments. If you are receiving a pension from Centrelink or DVA, it may be affected by our pension. Please contact Centrelink or DVA for more information.
What are the changes to the treatment of the pension deductible amount?
From 1 January 2016 the deductible amount from most defined benefit income streams will be capped at 10% for the purposes of the social security income test used by the Department of Human Services (DHS). The deductible amount of a defined benefit income stream is also known as the tax-free component.
These changes will not apply to defined benefit pensions paid through MilitarySuper, the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (DFRDB) Scheme or the Defence Force Retirement Benefits (DFRB) Scheme.
More information about these changes is available from the Department of Human Services at www.humanservices.gov.au using the search term ‘defined benefit’ or by calling 132 300.
When will my pension cease/run out?
Your pension is payable to you for your lifetime. Following your death, a reversionary pension may be paid to an eligible spouse and/or any dependant children.
Centrelink have asked me to complete a ‘Details of Income Stream Product form’ (SA330), can you help me with this?
This form asks us to provide information about your income to assess eligibility for Centrelink benefits.
You can call the Customer Information Centre on 1300 001 777, and we can email, post or fax our response to you.
What happens when I pass away?
When the time comes, your family should ensure we are notified at the earliest opportunity. They should gather important documents such as a Will, birth and marriage certificates and the death certificate
(when it becomes available). They should then complete the benefit application form and submit it with the required identity documents (which are outlined in the form). The form is available from the DFRDB website.
I have recently become a pensioner, but I cannot access my online account.
When you start receiving a pension from us you will need to register for Pensioner Services Online to get access. Simply go to Register Account and provide your Pension Reference Number.
Has a tax change affected my pension amount?
We will automatically apply eligible tax offsets against your pension, unless you wish to claim them in your annual tax return. You can tell us in writing if you don’t want to claim the offsets fortnightly.
The two tax offsets that may be available to you are:
1. A 15% offset which is available on the taxable taxed component of your pension if you:
- have reached preservation age and any part of your pension was from a taxed source. We will automatically apply the offset to your pension when you reach preservation age. Your fortnightly tax will also change to the marginal tax rate, less the 15% offset
- are a reversionary pension recipient (regardless of age), that has a taxed component and your late spouse was under 60. You will receive this 15% offset at any age until you are 60 years old. Once you turn 60, this will become tax-free
- are an invalidity pension recipient. This offset is available to you at any age.
The taxable taxed component becomes tax-free once you turn 60 years of age.
2. A 10% offset which is available on the taxable untaxed component if you are:
- aged 60 or over. We will automatically apply this 10% offset to your fortnightly pension when you turn 60. Your fortnightly tax will also change to the marginal tax rate less the 10% offset.
- a reversionary pension recipient (regardless of age), and your late spouse was over 60.
From 1 July 2017, the tax concessions on your pension will be capped if your total gross defined benefit pensions exceeds $100,000 p.a. For more information please see the Taxation of benefits [PDF 388 KB] factsheet available on dfrdb.gov.au
What is the difference between a power of attorney and a third party authority?
A valid power of attorney allows full and complete access to your records, including being able to update personal details where necessary and request information on your behalf. A third party authority only allows information to be obtained about your account.
I have a power of attorney and want to access/change information.
Once we have received a valid general or enduring power of attorney, you will be able to request information and/or update contact details for the pensioner.
A valid power of attorney must include:
- the pensioner’s full name
- the type of power of attorney, for example for financial matters, health matters, or both
- correct certification: certified on the page/s holding the pensioner’s personal information, or within a range of pages
- the dates of validity, for a general power of attorney.
You can post or email a certified copy of the power of attorney to us.
Third party (including financial advisors)
I am calling on behalf of a member, how can I get information?
If we have verbal or written authority from the member, we can provide a nominated third party with information on their account.
Verbal authority: Before we can release any information we need to perform an identification check on the member and receive verbal authority to speak with the nominated third party. Verbal authority is only valid for that call.
Written authority: The member can provide a written authority, which clearly states the name of the person/s and firm (if applicable) nominated as a third party.
All requests for written authority must be signed by the member and include at least three points of valid identification that we can match to the member’s file.
Each time you (the third party) calls, you will be asked to provide four points of identification.
Examples of identification include:
- full name
- membership or reference number
- date of birth
- current address.
Authorities can be scanned and emailed, faxed, or posted. Our contact details can be found under contact us.
I have Power of Attorney (POA) for a member/pensioner; what do I need to do?
You need to post us a certified copy of the Power of Attorney (POA). To be valid, the POA or an attached cover letter needs to contain at least three points of identification, which can be matched to the member’s file and must show the member’s signature.
Each time you (the Power of Attorney) calls, you will be asked to provide four points of identification.
Examples of identification include:
- full name
- membership or reference number
- date of birth
- current address.
If you wish to make changes to the member’s account, you will need to put your request in writing along with three points of member identification.
Our contact details can be found under Contact us.
Membership, contributions and transfers
If I have not paid contributions for more than 12 months, am I considered a lost member and will my benefits then be transferred to the ATO?
New lost member arrangements that come into effect from 1 July 2013 do not apply to defined benefit schemes such as the DFRDB. As a DFRDB member, you may have a preserved MilitarySuper ancillary benefit. This component of your benefit remains preserved in MilitarySuper until claimed after reaching your preservation age.
However, preserved ancillary benefits cannot be left preserved in MilitarySuper past age 65. Therefore, if you do not claim your benefit when you reach age 65 and ComSuper has not received any money on your behalf for the past 2 years and it has been 5 years since we last had contact from you, then all or part of your benefit may be transferred to the ATO as unclaimed money.
Please make sure the contact details you have provided to us are up to date. This will ensure that you receive regular member statements and other fund updates about your preserved benefit.
How can I change my contribution rate?
As a DFRDB member, you must contribute 5.5% of your fortnightly salary for superannuation purposes. If you wish, you can make additional personal contributions or salary sacrifice to a MilitarySuper Ancillary account on top of your DFRDB contributions.
You can make additional personal contributions directly to ComSuper as a cheque or money order. Each contribution must be accompanied by an Additional personal contributions deposit form [PDF 874 KB]. More information can be found under Contributions.
Salary sacrifice contributions can be arranged by contacting Smart Salary.
How much does Defence contribute?
Defence’s contribution is taken out of consolidated revenue when you claim your benefit. Your final benefit is calculated as a percentage of your annual salary, depending on your years of service.
More information about how your benefit is calculated can be found in the Retirement benefits factsheet [PDF 376 KB].
Is there a limit on how much I can contribute into the fund?
You can contribute as much as you want to a MilitarySuper Ancillary account. However, contributing over the contribution caps will have tax implications.
The cap on concessional contributions is $25,000 for the financial year 2017-18. The following contributions count toward the concessional contributions cap:
- any salary sacrifice contributions
- any superannuation guarantee contributions such as the quarterly SG-OTE top up
- notional defined benefit contributions
The cap on non-concessional contributions is $100,000 per year or $300,000 over three years (provided certain conditions are met). Non-concessional contributions which count towards your cap include:
- member contributions
- additional personal contributions made to MSBS or another fund.
Information about the tax implications of going over the caps can be found on the ATO’s website under Super contributions - too much super can mean extra tax.
Can I transfer/roll my super into the DFRDB?
DFRDB rules do not allow for transfers in of superannuation from another fund. However, while you are a contributing member, you can have your money rolled into a MilitarySuper Ancillary account which is additional to your DFRDB account.
You can do this by completing the Application to pay in a transfer amount form (MAC02) and sending it to your other fund for processing. They may require more information or identification from you before processing the transfer.
Can I roll out my DFRDB benefit?
You cannot withdraw or roll out your DFRDB benefit until you discharge from Defence. However, if you have a MilitarySuper Ancillary Account, you can roll this to another fund at any time, even if you are still serving in the Military.
I have transferred to the reserves, can I still contribute?
Only full-time serving members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) can contribute or receive contributions into the DFRDB on their behalf. Reservists are not considered full-time serving members under DFRDB legislation. Your contributions will recommence if you re-enlist or accept a Continuing Full-Time Service (CFTS) contract from the ADF.
Please note that if you do re-enlist and wish to remain a member of the DFRDB, you must provide a completed D100 form to the DFRDB before you commence employment. If you do not do this, you will become a MilitarySuper member by default, which cannot be reversed.
More information can be found on the resuming ADF full-time service factsheets under Factsheets.
DFRDB rules do not allow for any DFRDB benefits to be accessed early under financial hardship or specified grounds. However, if you have a MilitarySuper Ancillary Account, these benefits may be accessed if you meet the criteria for early release.
More information can be found on the Early access to your superannuation benefits factsheet [PDF 342 KB]
I’ve separated from my partner? What do I need to do?
Super can be split for family law purposes.
For more information please refer to the Family law and splitting super booklet [PDF 720 KB].
Fees and charges
What fees and charges do I pay?
As a member of the DFRDB, you do not pay any administration fees or member transaction costs. These costs are covered by Defence.
There is an investment management fee known as an indirect cost ratio (ICR) applied to each member’s invested funds. As a DFRDB member, only your MilitarySuper Ancillary account (if applicable) is invested.
The ICR reflects the ratio of all investment management expenses as a proportion of the fund’s total assets. This amount is not deducted from your account but is an approximation of your share of investment management expenses which have been deducted over the year before unit prices have been declared.
The ICR for each investment strategy is updated on the MilitarySuper website. More information can be found under investment and performance.
Where can I find the DFRDB rules?
The rules governing the DFRDB can be found under legislation.
For recipients aged under 55
My deceased spouse was over 55. Why did I only receive indexation based on CPI?
Indexation is based on your age, not the age of the original recipient. As the recipient of a DFRB/DFRDB pension you will be eligible for the 55-plus percentage increase on the first indexation date (either 1 January or 1 July) after you turn 55.
My deceased parent was over 55. Why did I only receive indexation based on CPI?
Indexation is based on your age, not the age of the original recipient. Children’s pensions will be indexed by CPI for the period that the pension is payable.
Why don’t recipients under 55 get the higher indexation?
The Government decided to change the indexation arrangements for pensions paid to DFRB/DFRDB pensioners aged 55 and over because age 55 is the age from which many Australians can begin to access a superannuation pension benefit.
For recipients aged 55 or over
How is my pension indexed?
Your pension is indexed in the same way as the Service Pension or the Age Pension. It is increased by the greater of positive movements in the CPI or the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (LCI) measured against a floor percentage of male total average weekly earnings (MTAWE).
I thought my pension was going to go up to 27.7% of MTAWE like the floor on the Age Pension
The Government committed to indexing your DFRB/DFRDB pension in the same way as the Service Pension or the Age Pension. However, it was not the intent that a minimum pension value would be introduced.
I am in MilitarySuper. Why is my pension only indexed by CPI?
The Government committed to changing indexation arrangements for DFRB/DFRDB pension for pensioners age 55 and over (that is, in the same way as Age and Service Pensions are indexed). There are currently no plans to change the indexation arrangements for other schemes. Any changes to the other schemes is a matter for the Government.
I turn 55 in the middle of an indexation period (eg in September). Will I get partial indexation at the higher rate?
No. Your pension will continue to be indexed by CPI until the next indexation period when you will be age 55 or over. There is no pro-rata indexation when a person turns 55 between indexation dates (either 1 January or 1 July).
My age pension/DVA pension went up by x%, why did my DFRDB/DFRB pension go up by a different amount if they are indexed in the same way?
Although your DFRB/DFRDB pension is indexed in the same way as the Service Pension or Age Pension, they are indexed at different times and use CPI and the pensioner and beneficiary living cost indices for different quarters (Age Pensions are indexed in March).
This means the CPI/LCI and MTAWE rates may differ (sometimes they will be more, sometimes the same and sometimes less.
My deceased spouse was over 55. Why did I only receive indexation based on CPI? [for a spouse under 55 or child]
Indexation is based on your age, not the age of the original recipient. As a recipient of a DFRB/DFRDB pension you will be eligible for the 55-plus percentage increase on the first indexation date (either 1 January or 1 July) after you turn 55.
My deceased parent was over 55. Why did I only receive indexation based on CPI? [for a child under 55]
Indexation is based on your age, not the age of the original recipient. children’s pensions will be indexed by CPI for the period that the pension is payable.
I am a DFRDB member who claimed pension and has re-entered the ADF as a contributory member. How is the value of my ceased DFRDB pension updated?
Your pension will be recalculated once your discharge from the ADF. Following the recalculation, your new pension amount may be adjusted on the first payday in January and July, in accordance to indexation rules applicable to your age.
I am a DFRDB member who claimed pension and has re-entered the ADF as a non-contributory member. How is the vlaue of my DFRDB pension updated?
Your pension payments will continue without disruption.
I am divorced from my ex-spouse who is a DFRDB member. Does the rate of indexation of my pension depend on my age or that of my ex-spouse?
The different rate of indexation will apply when you turn 55. It is not affected by the age of your ex-spouse. This reflects the Family Law idea of a 'clean break'.
What effect will the new indexation arrangements have on my Service/Age Pension?
You will need to contact the Department of Veteran’s Affairs on 133 254 or the Department of Human Services on 132 300 to discuss the impacts with them.