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.

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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 

Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant

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The Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant serves to recognise and acknowledge the unique nature of military service and the contribution of veterans and their families. The Covenant is supported by the Veteran Card, Lapel Pin and Oath. These provide the opportunity for Australians to identify veterans when they are not in uniform or wearing their medals, and offer respect to them and their family.

Employers, businesses, local community groups and the broader Australian public are able to commit their support for the Covenant. The Covenant provides the framework that enables veterans and their families to better connect with their community.

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Veteran Card
Use your Veteran Card to gain access to treatment for service-related conditions or injuries that DVA has approved, and access to DVA-funded mental health treatment, if required.

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Lapel Pin
The Lapel Pin allows the wider community to acknowledge your service regardless of whether you served in the Navy, Army or Air Force.

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Oath
The Oath is a declaration on behalf of the Australian people recognising the valuable contribution that current and former members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and their families make and have made for our country.

How veterans can apply
Veterans and Reservists can apply for the Covenant, including the Veteran Card, Lapel Pin and Oath, online using MyService. Depending on your type of service, you may be eligible for all, or some, of the Covenant items.

How to support veterans
Employers, businesses, local community groups and the broader Australian public are able to commit their support for the Covenant to recognise and acknowledge the contribution of veterans and their families. 

The Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program was initiated in 2016 to raise awareness of the value and unique experience of veterans. Find out more about how the program assists veterans and employers on the Veterans’ Employment web site

Community Groups
Find out more about community groups and Ex-Service Organisations and their work to support veterans and their families.

READ MORE

Covenant and lapel-pin legislation passed by parliament

Legislation to enact the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant was passed by parliament on 22 October 2019 and has been forwarded through appropriate channels for Royal Assent.

Australian Veterans’ Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Bill 2019 will establish the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant, which provides a formal way for all Australians to show their appreciation to our current and former Australian Defence Force personnel, and to the families who have supported them.

Upon Royal Assent in coming weeks, the Bill will become a separate Act to provide symbolic recognition for all veterans.

It does not change current entitlements.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said the covenant, veteran card and veteran lapel pin would allow the community — including employers, businesses, community groups, veteran or sporting organisations and the general public — the opportunity to recognise the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served our nation.

“The legislation also includes a statement requiring the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to adopt a beneficial approach when interpreting legislation and apply a fair, just and consistent approach to veterans’ claims,” Mr Chester said.

“Arrangements are also being finalised for businesses across Australia to recognise the unique nature of military service by providing benefits through the veteran card, and I encourage any business that would like to learn more about how it can participate to contact the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

“We are committed to putting veterans and their families first and this legislation is part of our ongoing efforts to transform the culture of DVA.”

The Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant is part of a wider recognition package, and enables the oath and lapel pin to be provided to veterans and eligible reservists.

The package also includes the veteran card — a redesign of the existing DVA health cards, which is open to new applicants and will be provided to existing card holders over the coming months.

Mr Chester said those who had already applied for the lapel pin and oath would begin receiving their covenant packs soon and he urged those who have not applied for the covenant to do so online using MyService.

More information on the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant, including how individuals can apply and how businesses and community organisations can register their support, can be found on the DVA website.

Poem “Don’t Sell Australia Out”

When the shearing sheds are silent, and the stock camps fallen quiet,   When the gidgee coals no longer glow across the outback night,
And the bush is forced to hang a sign, ‘gone broke and won’t be back’,
And spirits fear to find a way beyond the beaten track.

When harvesters stand derelict upon the wind-swept plains,
And brave hearts pin their hopes no more on chance of loving rains,
When a hundred outback settlements are ghost towns overnight,
When we’ve lost the drive and heart we had to once more see us right.

When ‘Pioneer’ means a stereo and ‘Digger’ some backhoe,
And the ‘Outback’ is behind the house, there’s nowhere else to go.
And ‘Anzac’ is a biscuit brand and probably foreign owned,
And education really means brainwashed and neatly cloned.

When you have to bake a loaf of bread to make a decent crust,
And our heritage once enshrined in gold is crumbling to dust,
And old folk pay their camping fees on land for which they fought,
And fishing is a great escape, this is until you’re caught.

When you see our kids with Yankee caps and resentment in their eyes,
And the soaring crime and hopeless hearts is no longer a surprise,
When the name of RM Williams is a yuppie clothing brand,
And not a product of our heritage that grew off the land.

When offering a hand makes people think you’ll amputate,
And two dogs meeting in the street is what you call a, ‘Mate’,
When ‘Political Correctness’ has replaced all common sense,
When you’re forced to see it their way, there’s no sitting on the fence.

Yes, one day you might find yourself an outcast in this land.
Perhaps your heart will tell you then, ‘I should have made a stand’.
Just go and ask the farmers that should remove all doubt,
Then join the swelling ranks who say, ‘Don’t sell Australia out!

Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant – Now Legislated

Advice from Liz Cosson.

“Good Afternoon,

I would like to thank you for your ongoing commitment and support to ensuring veterans and their families receive the recognition and respect they deserve for their service and sacrifice to our country.

I am pleased to let you know that the Government’s Australian Veterans’ Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Bill 2019 has passed Federal Parliament today.

This legislation formally establishes the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant which includes an oath, lapel pin and Veteran Card which are available for veterans and eligible reservists.

With the passing of this legislation we will now start to send out the lapel pins and oath to those who have already registered via mail in the coming weeks.

The new Veteran Card, which is a redesign of the existing DVA health cards, continues to provide access to treatments and benefits and will soon provide access to thousands of offers from businesses across Australia as a part of a new benefits program.

We are expecting to launch the benefits program very soon and will be sending information packs in the mail to Ex-Service Organisations and RSL Sub-branches which includes promotional material and a set of frequently asked questions to help you support veterans to ensure they get the most out of the program.

Veterans and reservists can continue to register for the Covenant online through MyService, by calling DVA on 1800 555 254, or by visiting your local Veterans Access Network office.

For more information about the Covenant, please visit here
Regards Liz,”

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Liz Cosson AM CSC
Secretary
Department of Veterans’ Affairs

The Australian Editorial – When scrutiny becomes enemy of the state

Media’s Right to Know Campaign. When the Government hides the truth from you what are they covering up?

The front pages of every major newspaper were censored this morning as part of Australia’s Right to Know campaign which is calling for greater protections for journalists and access to information.

The coalition of more than a dozen of the nation’s media companies and organisations is campaigning for change to six critical areas of law that has allowed a ‘veil of secrecy’. 

The media coalition has asked the government for the right to contest warrants, exemptions from poorly crafted laws that make journalistic practice an offense, protection for public sector whistle-blowers, fewer secret documents and reform in the Freedom of Information regime. The two fundamental rights are the : RIGHT to KNOW and RIGHT to CONTEST

Here are extracts from the Australian Newspaper Editorial of 22nd October 2019

If you think journalists are the people who control information, you’re in for a big surprise. Never before has the state collected more data on citizens, employed more message merchants to shape the news agenda or constructed a mighty firewall to stop information about its activities reaching the public.

In a democracy, our job is not to be a mere vehicle for the executive or bureaucracy, to use our platforms to carry official statements to a micromanaged populace. That’s what life is like in China and, as controversial as it may sound to some, that’s not the liberal, open, free country Australians want to live in.

We are in the disclosure business. Not because we are gossips, dobbers or scolds but because the task of scrutiny is necessary to make sure the state itself is not above the law.

That line — the law — is changing, often due to difficult and dangerous circumstances. But also because in a territorial game the scrutinised, as a class, always want to do their work on their own terms. Their lives are much easier if they never have to explain why taxpayer money gets wasted, they want to spy on citizens or people are locked up without cause. Ignorance has never been a solid basis for citizenship or a method to get the best out of elected governments. And their bureaucracies  Politicians and officials, whether by accident or design, have constructed a “trust us” apparatus.

But the enemy is not journalism per se. The enemy they’ve constructed is any scrutiny at all — not only do they want to keep our eyes off their actions and inactions, they ultimately don’t want you to know what they are doing.

As a news organisation we do not think we can do as we please: there are constraints of defamation, sub judice and privacy. Yet secrecy is increasingly being declared in matters that do not pose security risks but, rather, the acute embarrassment of the stuff-up or bad idea.

We want to change laws that give the custodians of state power — ministers, the heads of defence forces, security agencies and departments — the ability to do as they please and evade scrutiny. The public wants to know what’s being done in its name and expects us to step up.

Trust in institutions, including media, is falling; part of that is due to poor performance, press infighting and competition, and “gaslighting” by those who want us to stop asking questions. Our work is out in the open, around-the-clock, subject to 360-degree review by critics and competitors. Readers expect us to get to the truth

But what about the state? You can’t sack it. But you can make power better and accountable. That is the essence of our democracy. The news media plays its role when it single-mindedly pursues the truth. We want laws that promote transparency and limit the state’s tools of secrecy and control.

We trust an informed people, not governments, as the ultimate guardians of our freedoms.

READ THE FULL EDITORIAL

Warrior Poet – To Dare or Not to Dare

History tells us of cheering crowds on the day we became as one
A proud flag signalling that the pulse beat of a new nation had begun Coloured bunting in joyful city streets where blokes tossed hats so high
In the outback, drovers, shearers, farmers and swagmen drank pubs dry 

Then time for all, young and old, to roll up sleeves and seek tomorrow
A secure happy nation for all generations which would follow
As time went by; despite nature’s tantrums and depression and war 
Always the smiles and unity, never faltering to ask why or what for

At footy you could boo at the opposition; it was part of the Aussie way
As was the applause for winners and losers at the end of the day
Speech included “politicians are up that creek in a barbed wire boat”
Or someone who disagreed could yell “shove a sock down ya throat”

A generation dared to build the Harbor Bridge for all to see
The Snowy River scheme made the world gape at what could be
Blood, sweat and tears linked East and West with a railway line
Bridges, dams, new towns, Holden cars, wool, oil, and world class wine 

The Opera House became another new landmark because we did dare
Such vision with grit and purpose swept our nation, no matter where
Today, our once lucky country has empty pockets and heavy national debt Vision and purpose packed their bags, and in growing darkness, have left

Greens so often lay minefields on our route leading into tomorrow
Meekness is common, so compromises abound and no true path to follow Political promises are made, no matter the lies, always with fingers crossed Soon or late there is betrayal, and more dreams for our nation are lost

Canberra bragged of food to ease world famine and misery often seen
Sadly, empty words and poor excuses have replaced what could have been Often we’ve spoken of fire, drought and flooding rains our nation must master
Yet no new dams for three decades plus, and no more it seems forever after
We talk of unity but carry three flags and still speak of them and us
Our country is at the crossroads; we must find our way or miss the bus

George Mansford ©September 2019

Comment – Surviving Recent Friendly Fire

Friendly Fire
What has been very disappointing and demoralizing in recent times are the emails, social media posts and the broader media attacks upon DVA, the ESORT and the ADSO.

Especially are the attacks on individuals and ESO leaders for not being supportive of the broad veteran communities. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When these attacks get personal, lesser mortals might choose to walk away from it all but considering how far we have all come for the better we have no option “than to stay the course”.

Nothing is perfect in life and DVA is no different, but the improvements initiated over the last four years, through the Veteran Centric Reform program, are encouraging, but there is still a long way to go.

DVA, with the ESORT and others, are engaged and are working through the Productivity Commission Report and the Cornell Advocacy Report.

There is no doubt that the ESO community is being listened to in so many different areas, including families. There is a more holistic and workable approach in the case management of veterans and their families.

Unique Opportunity
The veteran community has a once in a lifetime opportunity to reset the agenda for veteran care into the future.

Presently there is increasing pressure on the DVA and the Government to consider and then implement much of what the Productivity Commission has recommended. This takes time. Yes, it is frustrating and slow grinding work. The pressure on the individuals who toil within DVA for the betterment of veteran care is relentless. This coupled with the constant pot shots from those outside the tent is having a demoralizing effect on all who work within the organisation. This is unfair! They should be allowed the opportunity to focus on the task of veteran care and not be forced to continually duck ill-considered friendly fire and, some, not so friendly.

Client Satisfaction
Interestingly, a client satisfaction survey conducted by an outside organisation has found that there is an 81% overall client satisfaction rating of DVA. When this is broken down demographically by age, the satisfaction rating of those 65 years and over is 89%; 45 years to 64 years, 72%; and under 45 years only 58%.

The last group is obviously the younger veteran. This poor 58% is precipitated by the complexities, duplicities and confusion across the three Acts.

DVA, with overt pressure from ESO leadership, is presently reviewing these three pieces of legislation to harmonise them as either one or two Acts. This will alleviate the issues, the time and the decision-making controversy that causes such angst for the younger veteran community.

ESORT and ADSO
The ESORT and the ADSO is supportive of DVA during this difficult period of implementing some of the recommendations of the PC and all we ask of the ex-service community is to give us all a fair go.

There are no cars, blazers or cigars for the work the members of the ESORT or ADSO do in these roles. It is all on a pro bono basis to try to make a difference in the best interests of veterans and their families.

Some criticisms of us may be justified at times due to poor communications, most are totally unfair and unacceptable. This when individuals are personal in their attacks and not backed by fact or constructive involvement in the area of veterans’ issues and veteran care.

10 September 2019

Kel Ryan 
National Spokesman 
Alliance of Defence Service Organisation 
Mobile: (0418) 759 120 

Michael von Berg
National President
RAR Corporation
Mobile: (0411) 870 055

RCB Update 4/2019 – Action Changes Things

Facts from the Aust and Malaysian Governments’ records prove that RCB’s operational deployment (1970-1989) to protect the RAAF assets at Air Base Butterworth against the communist terrorists threat during Malaysia’s Counter Insurgency War (1968-1989) was warlike.

READ MORE

‘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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