Ombudsman’s Inquiry into DFRDB Commutation

The Ombudsman’s office today (11th December) released a Media Statement on the outcome of his inquiry into DFRDB Commutation. A copy of that Statement and the Ombudsman’s Report is here.

Ministerial Statement – Independent Inquiry Report into DFRDB Scheme

 The Government acknowledges the release of the Commonwealth   Ombudsman’s independent investigation into the Defence Force   Retirement and Death Benefits (DFRDB) scheme.The Government   listened to the concerns of the ex-service community in initiating an independent review of the DFRDB scheme, which focused on the accuracy of information provided about commutation by the Department of Defence (Defence), the Australian Defence Force (ADF) or the scheme administrators, such as the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC).

While the investigation found that some information provided by Defence in the 1980s and 1990s regarding commutation was incorrect, the Ombudsman concluded that the decision to commute was, and still is, the more financially beneficial option.

In reaching this conclusion, the Ombudsman requested separate independent actuarial reports from the Australian Government Actuary and KPMG, considered a range of investment scenarios, which determined that it is highly unlikely any ADF members who commuted through the DFRDB scheme would have incurred a financial loss. For these reasons, the Ombudsman has determined that a specific compensation scheme is not appropriate.

The investigation also found that efforts had been made since 2004 by Defence and CSC to correct the information provided, and this report now reinforces the steps taken to provide clearer information on the decision of commutation.

While the report acknowledges that it is unlikely any members who commuted would be financially worse off, we recognise that the provision of misinformation has caused confusion and distress over many years with some ADF members believing their retirement pay would increase once they reached their notional life expectancy.

If anyone believes they did incur a financial loss they can apply for Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration. Eligibility criteria and information on how to apply is available on Defence’s website.

The Government has no plans to make changes to the DFRDB scheme. Further information, including the report, is available on the Commonwealth Ombudsman website.

RELATED ARTICLES

Defence chief sorry for retirement scheme

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 Australia’s Chief of Defence Angus Campbell has apologised to veterans ripped off by dodgy advice about a retirement benefit scheme.
 General Campbell acknowledged many veterans were misled by Defence.
” We apologise for providing incorrect advice to some (scheme)   members and for the confusion and emotional impact that it may   have caused,” he said in a letter published on Wednesday.
His apology follows an ombudsman’s report into a compulsory Australian Defence Force retirement scheme that began in 1973 and closed to new members in 1991.
ADF members were required to choose between taking a defined pension for life or a lump sum upon retirement, with a lower pension for life.
Most members did – and still do – choose the second option.
Many members were told if they took this option, their pension would subsequently increase to the higher rate once they reached a defined life expectancy age.
“This was false, and created an expectation of a more generous long term outcome than the law provided,” Commonwealth Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe said.
Despite the misleading advice, the ombudsman found it was unlikely any members who took the lump sum and lower pension were financially worse off.
Even so, Veteran’s Affairs Minister Darren Chester has also apologised.
“We recognise that the provision of misinformation has caused confusion and distress over many years,” he said.
“If anyone believes they did incur a financial loss they can apply for compensation.”
The government has no plans to change the scheme.

December 11, 2019 

Comment/Poem – Let’s Roll up Our Sleeves

It is 35 years since the last major dam was built, yet our population has been  increasing at an alarming rate since that time. Despite a history of droughts and flooding rain, our blinkered politicians are most reluctant to spend money on major water infrastructure.  They further reinforce public doubts on their competence when they commit eighty billions dollars plus to procure conventional submarines not ready for service before at least 25 years and given the rapid advances of science and technology it will be as comparing a tank to a three legged horse with lancer.  

Drought stricken farmers are still waiting for financial aid while we spend so much on foreign aid and give to an ever- hungry bulging treasury of the United Nations and Climate Change pirates.  

We have surrendered our intent for the future, time and time again, to minority groups who worship lizards and lung fish.  Two examples where politicians sacrificed our future needs to appease a noisy few were both the proposed Tully-Millstream hydro-electric and the Mary River projects. Both of which by now in times of need, would have been fully operational with abundance of water for irrigation, and providing significant clean energy for power and more effective flood mitigation in both regions.

Be there climate change or not, we need to be more positive and seek common and achievable goals which will enhance our ability to live with nature. We can harvest much more water. We can mitigate flooding.  We can reduce the severity of bush fires. We can provide more protection and refuge from cyclones, We can live with Mother Nature and use its tantrums to our benefit. We can set the example, and provide confidence, not fear, for those generations who will follow us.  

With more water infrastructures we will reduce the impact of nature’s tantrums as well as enhancing our natural environment. All of this and more can be achieved if our governments, both State and Federal remove the heavy blinkers, stop procrastinating and set a true course for our people to follow.  

One lesson from history is clear. Our treasured way of life is worth defending, no matter what the cost.  The failure to harness the products of nature’s wrath as well as its generosity could well result in poverty, discontent, disunity and empty pockets within our nation plus a third world category signpost just around the corner. The consequences could well contribute to the demise of our way of life, long before the arrival of very expensive ghost obsolete submarines to defend what used to be.

So stop the procrastination, roll up our sleeves, seize the steel, pour the cement, and toil for a bright and prosperous future.    GM December 2019

Poem – To Be or Not to Be

Mother Nature’s tantrums have always been part of our scene
Dry creeks, thirsty rivers and parched soil often seen
Cruel fires burning life, leaf, bark and dreams to ash are not new
Heavy rains turn dust to mud; rivers flood towns and pastures too 

Each disaster tests our nation’s strength, resilience, spirit and unity 
Mid danger, pain and stress, are brave and caring deeds for all to see
“She’ll be right mate;” “It could be worse;” “I’m OK, check next door”
“Can I help;” “Pass the hat around;” ‘‘Chip into help” and many more  

We must travel with nature’s flow and use its temper to survive the test Never dither or relent to a noisy idle few who claim to know best 
Create plans laced with bags of common sense, more than a few
Fear not obstacles; for unity, confidence and purpose will see us through

We want a Caesar of Caesars with positive intent and clear mission   
No more broken or distorted promises which sour our vision
To ensure resources needed to master rivers, should we dare
A leader to give our nation purpose, be it city, bush or anywhere

Ignore a teenage prophet casting spells from old playhouses far away
For survival, throw aside the UN’s heavy sly cloak and do it our way
Rid ourselves of the unknown, doubts and fears which burden all 
Gather our scattered visions and weld them together, once and for all

To create food for the table from what was barren land to see
Provide oases where past generations never dreamed could be
Tasks will not be easy and the final goal must never alter  
So roll up sleeves, seize the steel, pour the cement, and never falter  
              

     Let future generations prosper from our blood, sweat and tears 
To live with and benefit from tantrums of Nature, each and every year
No more doom and gloom, deeps sighs and shrugs of shoulders
We must be as one, seeking tomorrow, becoming wiser, stronger and bolder
   

                      Hail Caesar

George Mansford © November 2019                            

Open Arms community and peer program expands nationally

SUPPORT for veterans and their families who may be struggling with mental health conditions or at risk of suicide, will be enhanced through the Community and Peer Program which is currently being rolled out across Australia.

VA121 open arms peer advisor group

The program, run by Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling (Open Arms), connects veterans and family members who may be struggling with their mental health, with peers who bring a lived experience of mental health issues and, importantly, of recovery.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester joined existing and newly recruited members of the Open Arms Community and Peer Program in Canberra as part of their week-long induction training.

“The pilot program held in Townsville, had positive results with Open Arms peers breaking down barriers to care, improving relationships with key community groups, and reducing the stigma for veterans around mental health and seeking help,” Mr Chester said.

“Since the First World War, veterans and their families have understood the importance and value of mateship that is instilled during service, placing them in a unique position to support one another. This program harnesses that mateship and ensures veterans can talk to other veterans, and families to other military families, to assist each other with the support of mental health clinicians.

“This is another important part of the support system—improving the holistic mental health and wellbeing outcomes for veterans and their families. The national roll-out is a significant step forward in improving the lives of veterans and their families.”

Twenty-nine peers, in addition to the six peers from the Townsville pilot, are being trained as Mental Health Peer Workers and will be employed at 14 Open Arms locations nationally. Also in attendance for the induction training were representatives from key veteran-run organisations with a passion for supporting veterans’ mental health, including Swiss8, Red Six and Survive to Thrive Nation.

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“You train them to go to war, we train them to come home” – Founder/CEO Dane Christison

Adrian Sutter from Swiss8 said, “The biggest take-out for me from the workshop is they get it. Open Arms seem to understand the current veteran space. They get what is needed to break the barriers with veterans at the moment, and get people coming forward firstly and then getting them the help that they need, if they need it, or just provide someone to talk to. That they understand the space is the biggest thing I’m taking away.”

The Community and Peer Program will provide Open Arms with a skilled workforce of veterans from across all three Australian Defence Force services and family representatives, to augment clinical capability across Australia by mid-2020.

Open Arms (formerly VVCS) is Australia’s leading provider of high quality mental health, counselling and support services for Australian veterans and their families, as well as some reservists and peacekeepers. To find out more about the services offered, call 1800 011 046 or visit Open Arms.

1 December 2019

Open Arms — Veterans and Families Counselling provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au

Vale – Mrs Olwyn Green OAM

The Regiment is saddened by the news of Mrs Olwyn Green passing. She is the widow of LTCOL Charlie Green DSO (CO 3 RAR) who died of wounds in Korea on 1 November 1950.

Olwyn maintained a keen and loving interest in and support for the troops of 3 RAR “Old Faithful” and their families.

There will be a commemorative service held in Sydney on 20 January at the Art Gallery of NSW from 4.00 pm to 6.00 pm. It is an open invitation from her family, and public are requested to RSVP to her daughter Anthea by email [email protected].

A notification of her death is at the link here: https://tributes.smh.com.au/obituaries/108444/edna-olwyn-green-oam/

Lt Col Charlie Green is memorialised at The Royal Australian Regiment’s National Memorial Walk at Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera Brisbane

Open Tender for Psychiatric Assistance Dogs for Veterans

Chester

MORE veterans seeking to manage their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will benefit with the expansion of the Government’s psychiatric assistance dog program.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said following the successful launch of the program in September there had been increased interest from the ex-service community and organisations passionate about supporting veterans’ mental health.
“Veterans have told me about the benefits of an assistance dog in managing their mental health in a positive way — this is real action that responds to the needs of veterans,” Mr Chester said.
These dogs are matched with veterans and are trained to notice signs of distress and perform specific actions to ease the symptoms of PTSD. For example, waking their handler experiencing a night terror or nuzzling their handler to distract them.
“By expanding the panel of providers, more veterans will be able to access a psychiatric assistance dog to assist them in managing their PTSD, reduce isolation and give the veteran a chance to improve their mental health and wellbeing.
“I encourage those organisations who train assistance dogs and who are passionate about supporting veterans’ mental health to review the open tender and submit an application.”

Founder and Director of Training of Smart Pups Patricia McAlister said she has been working with and training dogs since she was 10 years old and after seeing the difference an assistance dog makes, she has made it her mission to train more of them.
“Since being announced as one of the first two providers of psychiatric assistance dogs I have interviewed a number of veterans who are delighted and excited about Smart Pups working with them to provide a dog that will suit their unique needs,” Ms McAlister said.

“Veterans and their families give so much for our country and I am proud that Smart Pups is able to support them, and their families, by providing them with a dog that will have a profound effect on their everyday lives.”

Interested providers should have access to qualified and registered mental health professionals with experience in working with individuals with PTSD and who can advise on all aspects of partnering veterans with psychiatric assistance dogs. For more information on the requirements and guidelines of the open tender or to apply, providers are encouraged to visit the AusTender website.

Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling, provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or
visit www.OpenArms.gov.au

Veterans currently seeking treatment for PTSD are encouraged to speak to their mental health professional in regards to gaining access to a psychiatric assistance dog, or for more information visit the DVA website.

DVA Media Release Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Opinion – Veterans have poorer mental health than Australians overall. We could be serving them better

Veterans are at higher risk of mental illness than the rest of the Australian population. Many of them are seeking help, but the way care is provided to this group must consider their unique needs. Opinion by Nicole Sadler, University of Melbourne

A career in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), or the armed forces in any country, can be rewarding, but also demanding. Challenges include the rigorous training, frequent moves, and maintaining social connections.

Beyond this, military personnel may be exposed to trauma during combat, peace-keeping missions, border protection, disaster and humanitarian relief, and training accidents.

They may be confronted not only with threats to their own lives or safety, but also with the suffering or death of others, which can have a significant emotional and psychological impact.

So it’s not surprising we see higher rates of mental illness among veterans compared to the overall Australian population.

The rates of suicide are also concerning, particularly among younger veterans. Between 2001 and 2016, 373 Australian veterans took their lives. Male veterans under 30 had a suicide rate more than twice the national average for men the same age. These figures have led to considerable community concern, including calls for a royal commission into veteran suicide.

READ MORE

A Royal Commission into Veterans’ Suicide ?

The RAR Association supports any genuine initiative, to reduce veterans’ suicide.

Suicide is a national tragedy and not just in the veterans space: it occurs within the whole Australian community where there would not be one reader of this post who has not been touched in some way through a suicide event.

Suicide is a national issue, a national challenge and one that must be and is being tackled as a national problem by the Federal Department of Health with its many specific programs including veterans and their families programs, such as Operation Compass being trialed in Townsville and other locations.

Veterans’ suicide has been a real concern that was exposed in the seminal 2017 Senate Inquiry into suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel.  Its 24 recommendations were accepted by the Government’s Report – The Constant Battle – Suicide by Veterans  and those recommended actions are now in place or being implemented by the Departments of Defence and Veterans Affairs.

The RAR Association believes we should assess the success of those programs before another study is undertaken.

Duty First

Michael von Berg MC OAM
President

Book – In the Footsteps of Road Runners:

The life and times of the members of DELTA Company, 4 RAR/NZ.From training in Townsville to the end of it’s tour of Vietnam, 1972.

The latest book by Bob Meehan OAM, D Company 4 RAR has just been released. Although named after the motto of Bob’s favourite company in the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (RAR), The Road Runners, it is in general, a story of Bob’s Army career his postings and experiences both in 4 RAR and in other units and of course his service in South Vietnam with D Company, 4 RAR. It is also about the Australian Regular Army it’s ethos, it’s history, it’s weapons and equipment, it’s pride and it’s war time experiences.

Coffee table book, US – A4 size, satin finished paper, large font for easy reading. 500+pages, 350+ b/w photos, 126.304 words, weighs 1.75 kilos

PRICE.$45.00 plus $10 postage (Australia) Banking details–

Commbank
Robert John Meehan,
BSB 064489
Acc 10096107

Once monies are deposited, email me with your address and if you want it signed

[email protected]

Mental Health Australia – News

CEO’s Update

The Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health will hand down its Final Report on 23 May 2020, and at this draft stage the message we are hearing from both the PC, and Government, is that we – the sector – can still help shape and influence the Final Report.

Yes, the Productivity Commission’s Draft Report provides a valuable, up to date statement on the significant economic costs of mental illness. It properly places the experience of mental illness in a broader social context and we commend the PC for reviewing impacts of social determinants of mental health including housing, justice, education and employment. They rightly acknowledge the lack of a national vision for mental health and further acknowledge we do not have the governance structures necessary to support national collaboration in this area.

At this stage of the process, exactly 190 days until the Final Report is presented to Government, the grand vision for systemic mental health reform we were all hoping for is not yet clear.

So what do we do next? Having spoken with Commissioner Stephen King and the Minister’s office this week about our concerns, we know the public hearings starting today in Canberra (and concluding in Launceston on 9 December) are vital to helping improve this report. Our team appeared at the Canberra hearing this morning and presented much of what I have said here.

Melanie Cantwell
Acting CEO

Towards Zero forum – Suicide prevention

A landmark forum in Canberra this week has moved Australia a step closer to a coordinated, national approach to suicide prevention. The forum brought together people from diverse community organisations, the health and government sectors, and people with lived experience. Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, attended the forum, and said everyone provided valuable insights and ideas that will help the Government respond to the issue.

Read more 

$500,000 for Men’s Sheds across Australia

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, says the Morrison Government is continuing to support the Men’s Shed movement with this week’s announcement of successful grant recipients under the National Shed Development Programme. In the latest round, 135 Men’s Sheds across Australia will share in $500,000 in grants that will help buy tools and equipment, maintain infrastructure, coordinate training and host community activities about men’s health issues. Read more

RARA FIRE SUPPORT

The current bush fires throughout Australia, in particular the current and it would appear the continuing devastation in Queensland and New South Wales in particular is a national tragedy.

We the RARA National Association are here to support in whatever way we can within our limited resources.  Many of our individual members are involved with those fighting the fires and in support to welfare organisations while others and their families may be in the fire path.

The important issue at this stage is for our members, the Battalion and State Associations to reach out to their RARA family to see if there is anyone that has been caught in this, to see if they are OK and most importantly, they are personally safe.

The Regiment has a strong bond and reputation in never leaving anybody behind and perhaps in this case a euphemism, it is what and who we are so I would ask all to not only check with our membership but any corps or service or members of the general public.

For those living in or near the fire areas keep yourself informed of the current situation by any means, radio, TV or website:

Some of the horrific scenes we have seen on the TV and Facebook posts from those in the line of fire are frightening and our thoughts are with those that have suffered.   We are best when we have a common enemy, and when we do we perform magnificently. The common enemy in this case is the fires. Let’s all pitch in to see what we can do to help those in need.

We thank all the Emergency Service personnel and volunteers at the front line in fighting  the fires and behind them all those welfare organisations and communities providing support services to those in need. 

Duty First

Michael von Berg, RARA National President