DVA – Submissions Sought to Inquiry into Compensation and Rehabilitation for Veterans

SUBMISSIONS for the Productivity Commission inquiry into Compensation and Rehabilitation for Veterans are being encouraged by Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester.

Mr Chester said this is an important opportunity for veterans, the ex-service community and the broader Australian public to contribute to this independent inquiry and have their say on how services and programs are delivered in the future.
“The inquiry is looking at not only the current system of compensation and rehabilitation for veterans but also how to ensure the system is fit for purpose in the future,” Mr Chester said.
“This is an integral part of the Government’s commitment to putting veterans and their families first by ensuring that the system that supports our veterans is the best it can be.
“I know this is an issue which many veterans, families and people within the broader ex-service community are passionate about, so I encourage them to read the issues paper and make a submission.”

The Productivity Commission has asked for initial written submissions to be lodged by 2 July 2018 with further opportunities for the public to provide feedback on the draft report following its anticipated release in December 2018. The Commission is due to report back to Government in mid-2019.

The Productivity Commission is the Government’s independent research and advisory body on a range of issues affecting the welfare of Australians.
To review the terms of reference, read the issues paper or lodge a submission, visit the Productivity Commission website.

Read the issues paper

Expanding Essential Services for Veterans and their Families

VETERANS and their families will have greater access to essential services with Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester introducing the Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Veteran-Centric Reforms No. 2) Bill 2018 (VCR Bill) today.

“The measures introduced today will continue to ensure veterans and their families get the services and support they need,” Mr Chester said.
“As a government we are determined to put veterans and their families first.
“Mental health continues to be a big issue in communities throughout the country and we provide free mental health care to anyone who has served for one day in the Australian Defence Force. 

We will be establishing a new Veteran Suicide Prevention Pilot to deliver intensive and assertive management services to veterans following an attempted suicide or to those at significant risk of suicide.
“This pilot is about linking non-government and government support services to support vulnerable veterans’ and their families and will be offered at nine public and private hospitals in Brisbane.

“We want to encourage and support those studying with a view to getting them back into the workforce. This is why we will remove the reduction in the amount of incapacity payment which normally occurs after 45 weeks for those undertaking approved full-time study as part of their rehabilitation plan. This will mean veterans can focus on their study without having to worry about changes to their financial situation.”

The Bill will also enable the grandchildren of Vietnam veterans to be eligible to receive financial support to further their education through the Long Tan Bursary Scheme.
“We will continue to honour the service and sacrifice of the men and women who served our county in Vietnam by extending this support to their grandchildren,” Mr Chester said.
“Families who have suffered the tragic loss of a partner and who are wholly dependent partners of veterans will have two years to decide how to receive the compensation in periodic payments or as a lump sum, which is an increase from the current six months.
“The loss of a loved one is life changing and an incredible challenging time for any family, this change will remove the pressure to make an immediate decision so that they can make the best choice for their needs.
“This legislation re-affirms the Turnbull Government’s commitment to put veterans and their families at the centre of everything that we do.”

Other measures in the Bill will include allowing claims for compensation under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) to be made orally as well as in writing. This Bill will allow for some of the measures announced in the 2018-19 Budget to be implemented.

DVA Benefits to Families

Two new measures to benefit veterans and their families commenced on 1 May 2018

Veteran Payment
As part of DVA’s commitment to improving access to services for veterans and their families, the new Veteran Payment is now available to eligible individuals and their partners. This payment provides interim financial support to veterans who cannot work or support themselves while they await liability decisions on claims for mental health conditions under either the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) or the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA).

180504 – IS189 – Veteran Payment Overview

180510 – IS190 – How to access Veteran Payment

Extended Family Support Package

The Family Support Package is designed to extend family support under the MRCA for veterans and their families. There are two distinct groups that will benefit from this initiative: eligible veterans and their families, and eligible spouse or partner of deceased veterans. This initiative will provide guidance and financial support to alleviate pressures when needed the most. The time-limited support available include expanded childcare funding, additional counselling services and eligible widow(er)s will be entitled to home help.

180510- MRC52 – Family Support Package for Veterans and their Families

180510- MRC53 – Family Support Package for Widow(er)s

Budget puts Veterans and their Families First

Veterans and their families will continue to come first with $100 million in additional funding provided in the 2018-19 Budget announced on Tuesday.

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This funding is in addition to ongoing funds allocated to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). In 2018-19, this ongoing funding will total $11.2 billion.

download 16Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the additional $100 million investment will help fund the continuing reform process underway at DVA. This transformation will ensure veterans and their families receive the services and support they need.

“The Government is working hard to make sure veterans and their families can access the services they rely on more easily and faster,” Mr Chester said.

“DVA’s transformation is about not only upgrading out-dated computer systems but also looking at improving our service delivery to ensure the best possible outcome for veterans and their families.

“We’re also making sure that veterans can access DVA’s services through digital platforms and investigating new ways to reach out to veterans.”

READ MORE

Senate Questions on Notice 9 – RCB Recognition of Service

Senator Brian Burston  (PHONP) presented Questions On Notice re RCB submissions to the Defence Minister, Sen, Marisse Payne on 15th December 2017. The answers from the Department of Defence were provided by Sen. Mathais Cormann (in the Minister’s absence) in the Senate in February 2018

There are ten questions and answers. Each day hereafter we will post one of those questions and the answer  with our response to the answer.

Question 9 – Sen. Burston (PHONP)

Why was Minister Billson’s determination to Grade RCB as “hazardous service” in 2006 not implemented prior to, or after, the change of government in 2007? 

 

Answer 9. Sen. Cormann for Sen. Payne

As a result of a number of representations on 18th September 2007 the them Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence declared that the service of Rifle Company Butterworth should be retrospectively reclassified as either hazardous or non-warlike service.

In 2009 it was found that the instruments had omitted RAAF security personnel. contained incorrect dates, omitted key references and were not registered in the Federal Register of Legislative instruments. In response to the continuing campaign conducted by ex RCB members seeking war-like service, a new review from first principles comprehensively investigated RCB service since inception, locating Government files and documents that were never considered in the 2007 review. 

The 2011 review was not supportive of the classification of RCB services as anything other than peacetime service.

On 21 March 2012 the then Parliamentary Secretary for Defence recommended that the nature of all ADF service at Butterworth should remain as peacetime from 12 August 1966 to the present. A detailed explanation of this decision was provided to the Chairman of the RCB Review Group in a letter dated 19 May 2012. This decision is consistent with the long-standing Government determination that the nature of service of all ADF service at the end of confrontation is peacetime.

RCB Review Group Response to the Answer 9.

RCB Logo SML

The Government response claims that Defence conducted a comprehensive review in 2009 (which it failed to include the RCB Review Group in), claiming to find new material not considered in their 2007 determination.  Why were we not notified and included in that Review?

Unsurprisingly, this led to the same result – non-recommendation of war-like service. The overturning of ex-Minister’s Billson’s decision, because it had not been processed, was a very opportune chance for the government (again on ‘advice’ from Defence), to ‘situate the appreciation’, therefore nullifying a Ministerial decision through an administrative fiat. This latest response to the Question again is another case of stubborn refusal to right a wrong.

Senate Questions on Notice 8 – RCB Recognition of Service

Senator Brian Burston  (PHONP) presented Questions On Notice re RCB submissions to the Defence Minister, Sen, Marisse Payne on 15th December 2017. The answers from the Department of Defence were provided by Sen. Mathais Cormann (in the Minister’s absence) in the Senate in February 2018

There are ten questions and answers. Each day hereafter we will post one of those questions and the answer  with our response to the answer.

Question 8 – Sen. Burston (PHONP)

As the minister responsible for both Service Personnel  AND Veterans’ Affairs, to what extent is he (as opposed to script writing staff) aware of the adverse effect the continued denial of justice is having on RCB veterans when they learn they are represented in Parliament  by an entity that cannot seem to accept overwhelming evidence?

Answer 8. Sen. Cormann for Sen. Payne

The Government appreciates the unique nature of military service and is committed to ensuring that all current and ex-serving ADF members have access to appropriate services.

 

RCB Review Group Response to the Answer 8.

RCB Logo SML

This weak, stock-standard platitude does not answer the question, indicating that RCB veterans just go away and access ‘appropriate support services’, when in fact the Minister should insist on examining the accuracy and honesty of his briefing staff to get to the bottom of the issue. This is a complete deflection by the man in the best position to address the issue at stake.

 

VETAFFAIRS – From The Minister: Putting Veterans First

 

In his first Vetaffairs column since his appointment as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs in March, Darren Chester shares his plans for the portfolio, starting by thanking Vetaffairs readers for their service.

“This portfolio is one that can make a real difference to people’s lives. It’s my job, as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, to make sure that we understand and act on your needs so that we can make that difference.

My approach will be pretty straightforward. I’m your representative to government. I will make sure your voice is heard. I want to know what your concerns are, and I’ll do my best to address them within the Parliamentary process.

“I want to know what’s going on, and what’s working. I want to know what’s not working, and where we can make changes…”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Chester Media Release – Expanding services for veterans and their families in partnership with Australia Post

A program to improve easy access to general information about mental health services, counselling, rehabilitation, and transition and support services for veterans and their families has been launched in Mount Gambier, South Australia and North Lakes in the Moreton Bay area of Queensland as part pilot the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is conducting with Australia Post.

download 16Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the trial is part of the Turnbull Government’s ongoing commitment to put veterans and their families first.

“This pilot, in partnership with Australia Post, is exploring the opportunity for DVA to further expand its reach to veterans and their families by tapping into the extensive network of Australia Post outlets,” Mr Chester said.

“The pilot provides easy access to general information about mental health services, counselling, rehabilitation, and transition and support services to veterans and their families who may not have had prior contact with DVA.

“This expansion to a further two sites will provide more information about the way this service is accessed by veterans and their families in metropolitan and regional areas and will help us assess the benefits of the service further.”

The pilot supplements DVA’s existing face-to-face service delivery network by leveraging the large Australia-wide footprint of Australia Post, it does not replace any existing DVA program or service.

Information is available via the in-store Australia Post kiosk facilities, as well as the Australia Post concierge service, in-store posters, brochures and videos.

A feedback form is available via the in-store iMac in which DVA is seeking ongoing user feedback to continue improving the service. The pilot will be evaluated before its conclusion at the end of June 2018.

18th April 2018

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.

Comment: “Warrior Ethics” – What’s Happened to Them?

The announcement of the appointment of former Maj Gen Liz Cossons AM CSC (retd)  to the position of Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has attracted many unsavoury and unwarranted comments in the Facebook domain which are unacceptable and not what we expect from current or former warriors.

It would appear that some who are referring to mistakes made in the past, are innocent of any failings on their part so all we would say, “give Liz a fair go”. It’s an enormous step for her and she welcomes the support from all of us to make a difference for all veterans from any conflict, peacekeeping or training environment.”

The RARA has had a close working relationship with Liz and can vouch for her competency, capability and commitment, and supports the differences she is trying to make within DVA and beyond.

It’s timely and prudent to once again to post the following article which has had wide distribution as to what is essential in any debate and that’s to play the ball not the person.

What Has Happened to our Warrior Ethics?

I am getting increasingly concerned and disappointed in the foul language, hostile vitriol, playing the man and the woman, instead of the ball with what I see and read on social media. 

In normal circumstances I would simply ignore this nasty and focused attack on the employees of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs but when it not only reflects on them but the many ex members of the veteran community who are working with DVA trying to make a difference for the greater good I find this behaviour and the language directed towards a female employee of the Department abhorrent and cowardly and not what is expected of the warrior class.

Free speech is a given and the airing of complaints is a right when deserving but unfortunately so much of the vitriol is misinformed and incorrect and it would pay for some of these very brave “keyboard warriors” to take a look at themselves and through the access that they all have to seek the truth on some of these areas of complaint.

Everything in life is subject to review and DVA is no different to any other enterprise and is currently going through the most extensive review ever executed in the history of the Department.  There will be major and very beneficial outcomes but one must be cognizant of the fact that DVA is in principle governed by legislation and we have all been on their case to review that confusing and at times destructive legislation. That is happening but perhaps for some not fast enough and that is understandable but a legislation fix is somewhat complicated and in that regard we just need to be patient.

I appreciate that there may be valid reasons why some people are hostile towards DVA but cowardly conduct behind a keyboard, hurling profanities and the foulest language at individuals working within the department is in my view nonproductive, gutless and most importantly a slight on all veterans which is unfair and unwarranted, because there are so many out there who are trying to make a difference either inside “the tent” or outside in their everyday lives.  

If those guilty of this behaviour consider themselves such a hot shot and champion of veterans issues, get inside the tent and present your arguments in a professional and acceptable manner . I am sure you will be listened to but your argument must be based on fact not emotions.   

All I can say to the mud and rock slingers vent your anger certainly where warranted but play the ball not the man or woman. None of them deserve that.  It’s totally against our warrior ethics!

Duty First

Michael von Berg MC OAM
Chairman and National President

DVA Minister – Putting Veterans and their Families First – New Study to Improve Advocacy Services

A MAJOR study to improve advocacy services for veterans and their families has commenced under the leadership of the former Chair of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, Mr Robert Cornall AO.

download 16Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the study was part of the Turnbull Government’s ongoing commitment to put veterans and their families first and delivers on a significant part of the Government’s response to the concerns raised in the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Reference’s committee report: The Constant Battle: Suicide by Veterans.

“Veterans and their families deserve to have easy access to the best services available to them and this study has been established to ensure that happens,” Mr Chester said.

“This study will go a long way to helping our younger veterans and their families navigate the compensation claims and appeals processes and it will address a number of improvements to the current advocacy model which were recommended in the report.

“Mr Cornall has an excellent track record in working with the Defence and legal communities, and I’m confident he’ll bring all his experience to bear on finding new ways to ensure those who’ve served our nation get the best possible advocacy.”

Mr Cornall will talk to younger veterans, female veterans, veterans’ families, ex-service organisations, and the broader Defence community in coming months.

The latest research will be reviewed, veterans’ advocacy services in other countries will be examined, and advocacy models in other areas, such as the legal services, community, and disability sectors will be looked at.

“I hope many individuals and organisations will contribute their experiences and ideas to the study,” Mr Chester said.

Separate to this study, Mr Chester said the recent passage of new veterans’ legislation will also have a big impact on improving the health and wellbeing of those who have served their country.

For more information about the advocacy study, visit  here  or send an email to [email protected].

16 April 2018

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.