The Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board has responded to a story circulating online about a 56-year-old Singaporean’s pursuit to withdraw his CPF savings. The Singaporean, Mr Sim Kay Chuan, has been suffering from health problems since 2014 and underwent heart surgery two years ago.
Even after surgery, Mr Sim’s heart’s left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) was performing at a capacity of 37 per cent – significantly lower than the normal LVEF range of 55 to 70 per cent. This left Mr Sim weak and he is reportedly susceptible to fainting spells even when walking, especially since he is supposed to take medication that lowers his blood pressure.
According to The Online Citizen (TOC) – a local web publication that interviewed Mr Sim – the attending doctor who saw him after his surgery reportedly advised him not to carry any weight that is heavier than 5kg and said that Mr Sim may not able to work for a long time.
Mr Sim told TOC that he is unable to find work due to his poor health. The job applications Mr Sim sent out since his surgery were rejected due to his medical condition and he is also unable to work gig jobs like driving a private hire car due to his fainting spells.
Mr Sim’s wife, a welfare coordinator who brings home a salary of S$1,800, is the family’s sole breadwinner. Mrs Sim toils hard to provide for her family, waking up as early as 5am and spending nine hours at work and an additional three hours travelling to and from work each day. She also showed TOC stacks of pawn tickets and said that she had to pawn her jewellery over the past two years to pay for medical bills and other expenses.
The couple have a daughter but Mr and Mrs Sim told TOC that she has her own expenses and family to look after.
Worried about his family’s financial state, Mr Sim even considered divorce to free his wife from the financial burden she is shouldering but Mrs Sim refused and said that they both should cherish and care for one another.
Having exhausted his savings with medical treatments and medication to lower his blood cholesterol, Mr Sim visited his MP, West Coast GRC’s Patrick Tay, who referred his case to the Social Service Office (SSO).
The SSO sent Mr Sim a letter in May and said that his application for financial assistance was rejected on the basis that his wife was still earning a stable income. It wrote: “after careful consideration, we assessed that your family is able to support its basic living expenses.”
A desperate Mr Sim applied to withdraw his CPF savings to ease his family’s expenses. He wished to withdraw a sum of about S$18,000 that is locked in his retirement account. This sum will be disbursed to him in nine years time, when he turns 65 years old, in monthly payouts that Mr Sim has estimated will amount to S$250 each month.
The CPF Board reportedly rejected his application to withdraw his savings. In a letter sent in August 2019, the CPF Board informed Mr Sim that his doctor at the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) has certified that he is “not physically incapacitated from ever continuing in any employment.”
Sharing that the rejection of his application has made him feel helpless, Mr Sim asked why he cannot use his own savings when he needs it. Asserting that he does not expect the Government to give him a hand-out and that he only wants to use the savings he accumulated throughout his working life, he told TOC:
“I didn’t ask for government welfare. I just want to take out my own money and save myself. I feel so helpless. What happened to the Singapore government?”
Mr Sim added: “I regret going for the surgery. Ended up spending so much money and now becoming a burden for my wife. A couple of my friends who are in similar situation as me, share my thoughts.”
The CPF Board responded to TOC’s story last Saturday (22 Nov) and said that three doctors had certified that Mr Sim is suitable for jobs that do not require physical exertion. The authority said in a Facebook post:
“Mr Sim has applied to withdraw his CPF under medical grounds. His own doctor made 2 separate assessments, and certified that he is not unfit for employment and is suited for jobs that do not require physical exertion.
“In addition, CPFB engaged two other doctors to assess his condition. Both shared the same assessment as Mr Sim’s own doctor that his medical condition did not meet the criteria for withdrawal on medical grounds.”
Revealing that the NHCS will “reach out to Mr Sim regarding his outstanding bills, and application for financial assistance if needed,” the CPF Board said that local community partners are assisting Mr Sim and that it would work with relevant agencies to assist him, as well. -/TISG