How sick woman can access funds: CPF Board

The CPF Board said the appeal by the single mother to withdraw her CPF on medical grounds will be re-assessed once her doctor is able to certify that she meets the medical criteria.

SINGAPORE - A single mother who sought to access her Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings on medical grounds may reapply to do so once her doctor has certified that she meets the medical criteria, said the CPF Board on Thursday (Dec 19).

The board was seeking to clarify a report on sociopolitical website The Online Citizen, which said that the board had rejected the woman's request to withdraw funds from her CPF to allow her to "choose to seek treatment or use the funds for my daughter's education".

The board said in a Facebook post that it had been unable to contact the woman, who turned 46 on Thursday and was referred to as Ms Soo by The Online Citizen, until she had returned from an overseas trip.

Ms Soo told The Straits Times she was diagnosed with lupus in 2011 and has suffered from photo-sensitivity, and chronic pain and fatigue, making it difficult for her to work.

In the Facebook post, the board said the woman was admitted to the National University Hospital (NUH) in 2011 for her condition.

"NUH advised her repeatedly that further investigations were necessary for a proper diagnosis. (She) rejected medical advice and insisted on being discharged. NUH tried to arrange for follow-up appointments but was unsuccessful."

The board added that since last month, Ms Soo has been visiting Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH).

"On evaluation of her circumstances, KTPH's medical social worker informed (her) that all her medical expenses at KTPH will be fully covered using MediFund."

It has since informed Ms Soo that her appeal to withdraw her CPF on medical grounds will be re-assessed once her doctor is able to certify that she meets the medical criteria.

Ms Soo said she applied for financial assistance at the Social Services Office (SSO) Yishun in August but was denied as she had sufficient savings in her bank account.

"Ideally all I want is a job I can do because it'll help my financial situation. I don't want my daughter going to school and starving herself because she's worried about expenses," she said.

She appealed to her MP and wrote a letter on Nov 15 to President Halimah Yacob to get access to her CPF money. She believes she has close to $100,000 in CPF savings from her work as a legal secretary before she fell ill.

A spokesman for the President's Office said they had received the letter and asked the relevant government agencies to look into it.

The CPF Board's post on Thursday said financial aid had been given to Ms Soo's daughter, a student at Singapore Polytechnic.

"She receives government bursaries which cover her annual course fees fully and some of her living expenses. If she pursues an undergraduate education in a publicly funded university in future, she will also be eligible for a range of financial assistance schemes," it said.

Ms Soo re-applied for financial assistance with the SSO on Wednesday. Noting her request was being reviewed, the CPF Board said: "The SSO will ensure she has the means to cope with daily expenses and has also offered to link her up with a Family Service Centre for emotional support."

The board also said HDB has been advising Ms Soo on right-sizing her four-room flat in Yishun or renting out spare bedrooms while grassroots volunteers have offered support.

Correction note: In an earlier version of this article, the amount of savings Ms Soo had in the bank in August was reported incorrectly. We are sorry for the error.

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