‘I have known utter despair’: Thousands of veterans on wrong level of benefit, say advocates

Thousands of defence force veterans are likely on the wrong level of benefit or are missing out on injury payments they are entitled to due to the complexity and difficulty of dealing with the claims system, according to leading lawyers and advocates.

As the federal government prepares to respond to a damning Productivity Commission report into the $13 billion-a-year compensation system, veterans and those assisting them with claims have raised concerns about vastly different payments for similar or identical injuries, depending on which Act they apply under.

Currently, depending on injury and the timing of their service veterans can be compensated under the Veterans Entitlement Act, The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act. Different levels of compensation also apply depending whether their injury occurred during war or war-like service.Thousands of defence force veterans are likely on the wrong level of benefit or are missing out on injury payments they are entitled to due to the complexity and difficulty of dealing with the claims system, according to leading lawyers and advocates.

READ MORE of this Canberra Times article dated 10 August 2019

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ADF Retirees Association – DFRDB Update – June 2019

The Australian Defence Force Retirees Association (ADFRA) acts on behalf of Defence Force retirees and their military superannuation grievances.

Related Article: 50,000 veterans fired up over pension ‘shortfall’ The Australian 28th June 2019

Hi All, We assume that most of you are aware that the Commonwealth Ombudsman decided to commence an investigation into the administration of the DFRDB scheme with respect to commutation.

Today (27 June 2019), we as in Herb and Roz Ellerbock (our driver), Christian Bennett and I met with the Ombudsman’s investigation team.

Unfortunately, the Ombudsman himself, Mr Michael Manthorpe PSM, was called to Adelaide on short notice by the Attorney General, but the whole investigation team, including its team leader Paul Pfitzner attended the meeting.

Herb delivered this very powerful and compelling presentation (click to open – allow a bit of time for it to load). Some of the visual effects are lost in this PDF version but the content is clear enough.

Those who still believe that Commutation Payback is the most important concern that we should be addressing should take a close look at this presentation.
Our meeting was scheduled for one hour and lasted one hour and forty-five minutes. Some of the matters raised in Herb’s presentation were clearly outside of the stated scope of the investigation but at no point did the investigation team give us any impression that any of the matters we raised were out of bounds.
Many of you completed the questionnaire and submitted other relevant details of your circumstances.

Paul Pfitzner advised that by close of submissions they expect to have received some 3,000 completed questionnaires, the analysis of which would be a significant task, requiring the employment of 2 or 3 additional staff. Their aim is to provide an outcome as quickly as possible but under no circumstances would that be at the expense of thoroughness.

Paul committed to providing updates, as and when they could, containing advice that was not of a prejudicial or preemptive nature.

Thank you again if you made the effort of completing the questionnaire or making a submission. The sheer diversity of content already say much about how well we were advised.
Again, if you are not already a member then please go to our
web site and register. We will represent your concerns. If you are already a member, please encourage others to join.

Regards,

Herb Ellerbock & Jim Hislop

DFRDB Commutation -Ombudsman investigation

On 25 March 2019 the Minister for Veterans Affairs announced an Independent Inquiry into the Administration of the DFRDB scheme to be undertaken by the Ombudsman.

On 25 May 2019 the Ombudsman announced its “own motion’ or internal investigation limited to the accuracy of information provided to DFRDB scheme members by scheme administrators, particularly in relation to commutation. The Ombudsman must be guided by what is in the legislation only. The Ombudsman has since then called for submissions from scheme members in relation to commutation – remember this is the limit of its investigation. 

 The scope of the investigation is limited to the accuracy of information provided by scheme administrators and relevant departments to DFRDB scheme members in relation to commutation.
The Ombudsman is accepting submissions from members of the DFRDB scheme about the information they were provided about commutation. You or your organisation are invited to provide a submission. The form for you to do so, is available electronically here on our website at ombudsman.gov.au/dfrdb

Specific details about the investigation, including information about making a submission, can be found at ombudsman.gov.au/dfrdb.

If you want to speak with a member of the DFRDB Investigation Team please contact the team by email [email protected] and a member of the team will contact you. Please let the team know if you would like to meet with us in as part of this investigation, and we will be in contact to find a suitable time.

Note that the closing date for submissions is 30 June 2019. 

ADSO encourages scheme members to respond to the Ombudsman’s Questionnaire. Do not be dissuaded by the limited space on the form but make a separate submission if necessary. Be constructive and considered in your responses.

ADSO Comment. Somewhat perplexing is that, contrary to the Minister’s statement that the ESO community will be consulted about the inquiry’s Terms of Reference, no such consultation has eventuated. Also perplexing is that, while the Ombudsman doesn’t say so in his letters, the Ombudsman’s website states under the Overview that:

“We are undertaking an own motion investigation into the administration of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (DFRDB) scheme, specifically the issue of commutation.”

Perhaps the ‘own motion investigation’ needs clarification because it certainly does not fit the original plan to conduct the DFRDB inquiry under the guidance of Terms of Reference. 

In the meantime, ADSO through DFWA has written to the Ombudsman seeking clarification of the extent of its investigation and are developing draft Terms of Reference (ToRs) for the Independent Inquiry that will be put to the Minister at the earliest opportunity.

Media Statement – ADSO Policy Objectives 2019-2022

The Alliance of Defence Service Organisation (ADSO) welcomes the opportunity to announce its core Policy Objectives as a timely reminder to those seeking election to the 46th Parliament of Australia that the veterans’ community, speaking largely with a single voice, continues to seek redress of a series of key grievances, many of which have been outstanding for far too long.

Some issues have been the subjects of unfulfilled promises, not the least of which includes the inability to provide Australia’s most disabled Veterans and their families with an adequate standard of living.

kel

In commenting on the Objectives and encouraging all sides of politics to find legislative ways to redress each issue in turn, ADSO’s National Spokesman, Kel Ryan, wished to acknowledge that the Government, with the Opposition’s support, had taken action on a long-held key Objective, namely to legislate an Australian Military (Veterans) Covenant that gives formal recognition to the Unique Nature of Military Service. The Covenant has passed in the House of Representatives. Senators in the next parliament will have the honour of debating the important Bill and giving effect to it in law.

ADSO also wishes to support the outstanding initiatives that established ‘The Oasis Townsville’, a long-held aspiration of the Townsville ESO Community to have a single hub to which all veterans and their families could go, to be then referred out to the services available from the other ESOs in the area. The ‘Oasis’ is a model concept that could in whole, or in part, be replicated in other parts of Australia. ADSO wishes to congratulate all involved.
The Oasis is reflective of the collaboration that is possible between Ex-Service Organisations to help each other to achieve outcomes for a common cause; to have a shared focus on supporting serving and ex-serving members of the Australian Defence Force; to make the lives of these men, women and their families better, healthier, happier and more rewarding.
16th April 2019

ADSO comprises:
The Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA), Naval Association of Australia (NAA), RAAF Association (RAAFA), Royal Australian Regiment Corporation (RARC), Australian Special Air Service Association (ASASA), the Australian Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex-Service Men and Women (TPI Fed), the Fleet Air Arm Association of Australia (FAAAA), Partners of Veterans Association of Australia (PVA), Royal Australian Armoured Corps Corporation (RAACC), the National Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association Australia (NMBVAA), Defence Reserves Association (DRA), Australian Gulf War Veterans Association, Australian Commando Association (ACA), the War Widows Guild of Australia (WWG), Military Police Association Australia (MPAA), the Australian Army Apprentices Association (AAAA), the Women Veterans Network Australia (WVNA) and the Combat Support Association (CSA).

Federal Election 2019 – ADSO Policy Objectives

We’re back and ready for action.
At Election time the Government, all Parties and Pollies are accountable to the Australian people for their past performance and we veterans individually assess the impact of their election policies on our Family and the Nation’s future prosperity. The lead up to the Election is the time when Interest Groups such as ADSO have the best opportunity to be heard and listened to and to influence the Parties’ Veterans’ policies.

The Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia’s motto “Honour the dead but fight like hell for the Living”, truly reflects Australia’s paramount national interests in relation to military service: honouring the dead by commemorating their service and caring for the well-being of veterans and their families.
The Nation’s Promise to veterans as stated by PM Billy Hughes in 1917: “We say to them – ‘You go and fight, and when you come back we will look after your welfare’ ….we have entered into a bargain with the soldier, and we must keep it!”, is a non-discretionary obligation.
That commitment, which led to the national obligation to maintain for veterans and their families care and a reasonable standard of living, has been broken in certain areas by successive Governments.

ADSO – A REMINDER
ADSO is an active representative voice for our Australian Defence Family to the Australian Parliament and the Australian people. We advocate to Governments for the well-being of our Defence Family and protection of its service entitlements. We are a non-partisan Alliance of most major ex-service organisations. We lobby the Government, its appropriate Ministers and political parties to achieve our objectives. 
Our Canberra lobby team has direct access to the DVA Minister through quarterly meetings with him and staff on topical issues and importantly we are represented by eight of ADSO’s members on DVA’s National Consultative Framework and its constituent forums (ESO Round Table (ESORT)National Aged and Community Care Forum (NACCF)Operational Working Party (OWP) and Younger Veterans — Contemporary Needs Forum (YVF). It is a formal consultative structure designed to facilitate effective communication between the veteran and ex-service community, the Repatriation and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commissions, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). It gives us the opportunity to highlight DVA policy and process problems and seek remedies. Have a look at what they discuss at their quarterly meetings.
And we respond to all Government inquiries related to veterans’ issues with researched submissions and attend related public hearings and inquiries to address them.
Major submissions in the past few years have been:
• 2019 – The Productivity Commission Inquiry into DVA – ADSO Submission March 2019 and ADSO Submission July 2018.
• 2016 – Senate Inquiry into Veterans Suicides – ADSO Submission dated 7 Oct 2016; supplementary submission dated 11 Oct 2016.

ADSO intends to become an Incorporated entity this year to give it greater strength, governance and opportunities.

ADSO’s MAJOR POLICY OBJECTIVES – 2019 Election and Beyond

Download ADSO Policy Objectives PDF

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 They will be released by our national spokesperson Kel Ryan in Townsville tomorrow Tue 16th April 2019.

WE NEED YOUR HELP – HERE’S HOW
To be successful we need your support. Even though these objectives may have no benefit to you personally NOW, they do to others of our Defence Family such as the:
• 235,000 military superannuants administered by the Government protected Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC);
• 110,000 MSBS members who have preserved benefits that are poorly indexed and not receivable until their notional retiring age and not portable to another complying Superannuation Fund;
• DFRDB Superannuants who commuted;
•  Widows whose reversionary payment is unfair;
• 27,000 TPIs whose disability payments have been severely eroded;
• 90,000 veterans whose disability payments have been eroded, and
• 290,000 DVA clients.
We hope that being part of our Family you will be supportive in whatever way you can.

Regardless of the election result we will be promoting our issues to all the newly elected MPs/Senators through our Advocates in Canberra and our Action Groups in the electorates by offering our support to brief them on veterans’ matters.

There is no doubt that using direct action tactics especially with social media is effective in promoting our issues. Please share our activities with your family and friends on Facebook, twitter or other social media.

Join Us. If you have not yet joined us, then please  subscribe to receive our free Updates and/or volunteer to join your local electorate Action Group Team or become an Advisor. As an Advisor you can assist us with your experience and expertise in a particular Campaign policy objective, such as arketing,public relations, media, investigative journalism, superannuation, legal, health, information services and technology, accounting, financial planning, sales, etc.

Add On. If you already subscribe to receive our Updates, then please consider increasing your involvement by volunteering to join your local electorate Action Group Team or becoming an Advisor.

Stay InformedKeep up to date with the Fair Go Campaign

Donating to Fund the Campaign

We are all unpaid volunteers and are motivated by the need to protect and care for our Defence Family. We fund our Campaign solely by donations from our supporters. If you can, please make a donation. Every donation, no matter how small, will make a big impact on our ability to get our message into the community. It will help pay for our promotions and promotional material (posters, Fact Sheet handouts etc), professional advice and administrative expenses. We are fortunate that many of our supporters provide their professional advice free. Thanks for your donation.

THANK YOU AUSTRALIA FOR YOUR SUPPORT IN PROTECTING THE PROTECTORS
UNITED WE SUCCEED, DIVIDED WE FAIL


Ted Chitham & Alf Jaugietis
Co-Directors ADSO Fair Go Campaign
15 April 2019

Opinion – RCB Commutation Stop the veterans’ pension rip-off

“Veterans who have suffered years of underpayment from their Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme (DFRDB) deserve much better. Many have put their lives on the line in times of conflict, but while the government glorifies troops as it sends them to war, it too often treats veterans of those wars with contempt in the bureaucratic way it deals with their financial and medical needs.

The Citizens Electoral Council made this clear in its Australian Alert Service magazine on 27 February. So far both the Coalition government and Labor have dismissed the veterans’ genuine grievances—but now, under pressure, on 25 March the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester announced the government will commission an independent inquiry into the DFRDB.

A previous compulsory superannuation scheme, the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Scheme (DFRB) operated between 1948 and 1972 and had an option to take a commutation (an early lump sum) after 20 years of service. Veterans who chose this option accepted a reduced pension to repay the value of the commutation, with the repayment amount based on their life expectancy or actuarial age. For instance, if their life expectancy was 30 more years, their annual pension was reduced by the amount of their lump sum divided by 30 years. But many veterans are living well past that actuarial age and are still receiving the reduced pension, even though in many cases the original lump sum has been reimbursed multiple times. Additionally, the Notional Life Expectancy tables used to calculate the reduced pension were based on outdated 1962 figures. In effect they’re penalised for reaching a ripe old age. It just doesn’t pass the pub test!

Veterans were compulsorily transferred to the new DFRDB from its inception in 1972. 

After suffering years of reduced pensions, veterans are now demanding justice, including by petitioning the Parliament. Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester dismissed Principal Petitioner, Mr Ken Stone (Petition No. EN0745) in parliament on 18 February, saying “the Government does not support the view that pension recipients have been denied eligible benefits”.
Maybe Chester should have remembered he was dealing with veterans who, unlike him, have been to war, because they were not deterred.

In a letter to Lucy Wicks MP, Chair of the Standing Committee on Petitions, Mr Stone—a retired Wing Commander—didn’t mince his words: “From my detailed response to the Minister’s assertions, I am sure that you and your committee will see through the duplicitous and deceitful reply the Minister (or his minions) has provided to my Parliamentary Petition, that makes a sham of the Petition process.” 
Veteran Jim Nicholls explained to the CEC: “We are not seeking ‘the portion we commuted be restored’; this is about getting the pension restored to its rightful amount once the commutation has been repaid.”
The Labor Party’s position is no better, with MPs writing to veterans insisting that if they commuted funds decades ago, they should stay on a reduced pension indefinitely. They claim this was the “intention” of the DFRB commutation arrangement.
But Mr Stone has presented a document to the CEC which knocks Minister Chester’s and Labor’s claims on the head. The relevant document is the RAAF Personnel Information Handbook (4th Edition) dated October 1988. This handbook was issued to RAAF members new and old, and covered most aspects of RAAF life.
Under the heading “The Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme”, it states: “When you receive retired pay (i.e. pension) you will have the right to commute. This means that you are able to borrow an amount equal to several times your retired pay at the time of your discharge and repay that amount over your normal life expectancy.”
This clearly shows that the lump sum was a loan that was to be repaid by calculating a fixed repayment at discharge, based on life expectancy with no mention of CPI adjustments or whole-of-life repayment expectations. So, irrespective of what publications may have existed within the Department about it being a life-long repayment, this is what RAAF personnel were actually told in the 1980s.

The Australian government has exploited our defence personnel for too long. It is all too happy to send them into senseless and even illegal foreign wars at the whims of British and American geopolitical demands. The government funnels billions of dollars to profit arms companies—the Joint Strike Fighters alone are expected to cost taxpayers $17 billion. But when it comes to the welfare of the veterans who have been prepared to put their lives on the line for their nation, they are treated with contempt. The government’s policy betrays that its patriotism is self-serving and fake. This policy must end, and the government must stop ripping off veterans.”

Craig Isherwood‚ National Secretary
Citizens Electoral Council of Australia- Media Release Friday, 29 March 2019

Opinion – Now’s the time to fix benefits

The iniquities in military pensions and superannuation payments has been the subject of intense lobbying for some time by those affected. The response from governments of all persuasions has been rejection, justified with obtuse argument prepared by indifferent bureaucrats.

So imagine everyone’s surprise when two days before payments were due this week, Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester announced: “The Government will commission an independent inquiry into the administration of the DFRDB commutation arrangements.”

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Chester’s DFRDB initiative is too little, too late and smacks of political opportunism, if not desperation. Veterans understand nothing can be achieved six weeks before a federal election.

Darren, here’s a cunning plan.

READ MORE

Ross Eastgate
28th March 2019

DFWA – Independent Inquiry into DFRDB Commutation Arrangements Welcomed

The Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA) and ADSO welcomes the Government’s announcement yesterday that it would finally commission an independent inquiry into the commutation arrangements of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (DFRDB) superannuation scheme.

In commenting on the announcement, the National President of DFWA, Kel Ryan, stated that he particularly welcomed the Government emphasising the importance of open and transparent discussion around veteran concerns, and that it would consult with the ex-service community about the Terms of Reference for the inquiry.

As for the commutation arrangements, Kel Ryan stated that DFWA and the veterans community as a whole had long sought redress of varying grievances relating to DFRDB, not the least of which included the continued application in 2019 of out-of-date 1962 life tables for calculating both commutation entitlements and fortnightly superannuation payments made to veterans subject to the DFRDB scheme.

Hopefully, the proposed inquiry will uncover the serious financial injustices that those out-dated life tables have caused to DFRDB superannuants. Life expectancies have markedly increased from the time since the DFRDB scheme was introduced in 1973. Those increases have meant that the amount of permanent pension reduction calculated using old tables is far higher than they should be if current tables applied.

The Defence Force Welfare Association, along with its partners in the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations, will be making written submissions to the inquiry and looks forward to actively participating in drafting the Terms of Reference.
26th March 2019

DFWA – Voice of the Defence Community

Media Alert
It is believed that the ABC TV’s 7.30 pm Report on Wednesday 27th March 2019 will include an article on the subject DFRDB Commutation

Comment. If you or your spouse have or had a DFRDB superannuation pension, particularly if you commuted, this inquiry will be worth watching. The ToR will be interesting. An adjustment to pensions based on the correct life expectancy at the time of a DFRDB member’s separation from the ADF should be achievable. In most cases, the adjustment would be modest but would recognise and redress the fundamental flaw in the original 1973 DFRDB Act’s use of outdated and biased life expectancy tables, which seriously disadvantage all DFRDB superannuation pension recipients who chose to commute (some 98% of all DFRDB super pensioners).

Opinion – SUPER WAR HEATING UP

There are many issues that have the wider defence community considering how they might vote in the coming federal election.
High on the list is military superannuation, particularly those who were compulsorily subscribed to what ultimately became the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme (DFRDB).

Disgruntled veterans are not stupid, so by comparing multiple responses know their grievances are not being reasonably considered, despite carefully crafted submissions based on new compelling evidence.
They may not riot, but have pencils and will vote.

READ MORE

Aged care inquiry to hear war widows overcharged for nursing home fees

Royal commission into aged care quality and safety. War Widows Guild says compensation payment pension should not be treated as assessable income.

War widows could be spending tens of thousands of dollars more in nursing home fees compared with veterans because of bureaucratic red tape that treats their pensions differently in income tests.

Meg Green download 10

 The War Widows Guild national president, Meg Green, intends to   raise the discrepancy in a submission to the royal commission into   the aged-care sector.

 Scott Morrison established the commission last year in response to   cases of neglect, abuse and negligence in nursing homes across   the country.

Green said a war widow’s compensation payment pension was treated as assessable income for the purposes of accessing aged care or home care services. But a veteran’s totally and permanently incapacitated pension was exempt.

“This means a war widow, on less income but the same assets as a veteran, may need to pay in excess of $500 more per fortnight in an aged-care facility,” Green said.

That means an extra $13,000 a year, or $65,000 if a war widow is in a nursing home for five years.

Green’s own mother, Paullette Gardiner, 95, is a war widow in a nursing home on the New South Wales central coast and pays $1,500 a fortnight in means-tested daily care fees.

Her late husband, Ronald, served in the air force in the Middle East in the second world war. Gardiner also served in the air force as a morse code telegraphist based in Australia.

“Had her war widows compensation payment not been calculated, she would have been paying less,” Green said.

She said it did not appear equitable or logical that the veteran’s compensation for his injury or loss was exempt and the widow’s compensation for her loss was not.

“You could argue [war widows] have suffered just as much because obviously veterans are affected by their war service and you have to deal with that as the wife … and put up with those effects,” she said. “They have done their duty to this nation as well.”

Some veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder after military service, which can lead to alcoholism and domestic violence.

Green has already brought the fee discrepancy issue to the attention of a separate Productivity Commission inquiry and the veterans’ affairs minister.

The guild and its state branches have 8,000 war widow members and Green estimates there are 59,000 war widows in Australia across all age groups.