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

RELATED  ARTICLES

Veterans’ Affairs chief promises change

The crisis facing veteran support organisations

Enough inquiries that go nowhere – it’s time for a royal commission into veteran suicide

New Liberal MP vows to fight for veterans

One of Australia’s newest members of parliament has vowed to fight for veterans during his time in politics.

download 2019 07 26T175742.777

The new Liberal MP for the Tasmanian seat of Braddon, Gavin Pearce, reflected on his time in the army during his first speech to parliament, saying too many veterans were taking their own lives.

The former sergeant major said he couldn’t help but feel partially responsible.

“I still agonise with the notion that maybe I should have seen it coming, I should have picked up on the signs, I should have stopped this,” he said on Wednesday.

“I live with those memories every day, and it’s something that I live with every night.”

He praised Prime Minister Scott Morrison for focusing on the mental health of veterans and the wider Australia community, vowing to do his bit to help the diggers.

“I want to make sure they are reconnected to family, to a job and to a new way of life,” he said.

“I want all business owners and all employers, right across the nation, to know that employing a veteran is good for your business.”

Mr Pearce won the Tasmanian seat from Labor’s Justine Keay at the May election, one of two electorates in the Apple Isle the coalition snatched from the opposition.

The former beef farmer thanked the community for their support during the election, and also when his wife passed away from cancer.

“My little boy and I were nurtured by that community, as they gathered around us. I couldn’t have done it without them and they are a wonderful family of farmers.”

Australia’s biggest dairy is in Braddon, he boasted, before saying the local farmers are the nation’s true environmentalists.

“They deal with every challenge before them, but what they shouldn’t have to deal with is extremist protesters invading their farms, endangering their workers, their family and their livelihoods.”

Mr Pearce also said small businesses should have less red tape to deal with, to ensure they can grow and create more jobs.

images 2019 07 26T180445.326

The Tasmanian shared a story involving former governor-general Peter Cosrove, from the pair’s army days.

“I recall General Cosgrove addressing a meeting of staff and senior advisers, which ended up with him banging his hand on the table in exasperation saying, ‘I’m sick of senior people telling me what I can’t do. I need you to start telling me how I can’.

I received that message loud and clear, and think that’s a message that will serve me in good stead as I represent the people of Braddon.”

Veterans’ Affairs chief promises change within the next year

The head of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has vowed to walk away from the job if she can’t improve ex-defence personnel’s experiences with the beleaguered agency within the next year.

Liz Cosson has also promised to change the adversarial culture of the agency, which has been under fire for the bureaucratic and ruthless way it has dealt with veterans for many years.

In the wake of a damning Productivity Commission report, which recommended the department undergo “fundamental reform”, Ms Cosson has asked veterans fed up with the system to give the agency another go.

It comes amidst calls for a royal commission into the rate of suicides among former defence personnel, including Afghanistan veteran Jesse Bird who took his own life after his claim for permanent impairment was rejected.

It also comes after the Commonwealth Ombudsman gave the agency a panning, after it both underpaid a Navy veteran known as “Mr A” more than $500,000 and chased him for $100,000 in debts.

Ms Cosson – who served in the defence force for 30 years – said the agency had made huge changes since both cases, but the Productivity Commission report was a chance to “ramp it up [and] put it on steroids”.

“I acknowledge and I’ve owned up to this, we haven’t made quick decisions. We have not been the best we can be. We have been adversarial. But we are changing. And that’s what I want to send as a message. We are changing and we are listening to the veterans,” Ms Cosson said.

“We want to recreate that trust and reestablish some hope for our veteran community.”

She hit out at negative media coverage, which she believed was “actually hurting our veterans” and making them afraid to turn to the agency for help, and asked people to raise roadblocks with her directly.

“Tell me if we’re still getting it wrong and I will work with you to get it right because I’m in this job for four more years and if I’m still part of the problem in 12 months I will hand over. But I want to get this right,” Ms Cosson said.

She also urged people to get in touch with her if they’d had a bad experience with a particular delegate.

“It’s not about blame, it’s not about sacking, it’s about helping that frontline person get reskilled,” she said.

“I just want them to tell me if they’re having a bad experience because there’s so many good staff out there who are being dragged into [the claim] ‘no one cares in DVA’.”

“We have not been the best we can be. We have been adversarial.”

While the Productivity Commission retreated from its earlier recommendation for the department to be abolished entirely, it wants two of the three military compensation acts – the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (MRCA) and Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation [Defence-related Claims] Act (DRCA) – to be harmonised, with the oldest scheme – the Veterans’ Entitlements Act – to be phased down.

Ms Cosson said it would likely take years – and a fair bit of courage – to reform the complex and distinct schemes.

“There are going to have to be trade-offs and what’s happened over time is that we haven’t wanted to trade off anything and I think it’s time now to build a new piece of legislation that’s fit for today but fit for the next 100 years,” she said.

“We can either just keep Band-Aiding little bits or we all have the courage to say we need to take this forward, not only the courage of government but the courage of our veterans’ community to all come together now.

“The more we divide ourselves and just cherrypick things, we’re not going to deliver the real reform we’re crying out for.”

The commission also recommended there be a single pathway for all reviews, regardless of which scheme the veteran is claiming under.

As it stands, if an internal review of the decision is unsuccessful, claims made under MRCA and VEA go to the Veterans’ Review Board, while some VEA decisions and most DRCA claims go before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The department has spent more than $14 million in the last two financial years on external law firms related to appeals though the AAT, but Ms Cosson said some of the money spent on external law firms was on advice unrelated to appeals.

“For example we wanted to be able to provide assistance dogs for our veterans who have mental health conditions and a diagnosis of PTSD. I needed to make sure I could do that so I needed to get legal advice,” she said.

She also said only a fraction of cases went to the administrative appeals tribunal – 1.5 per cent last financial year.

But she acknowledged the toll the appeals process took.

“Yes there are examples where we have not been good in dealing with our veterans and families,” Ms Cosson said.

“We haven’t shown empathy, we have been adversarial. That was part of our culture but in the last three years, things have changed.”

Veterans can email Department of Veterans’ Affairs Liz Cosson at [email protected]
If this story has raised issues for you, you can contact:

Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling – 1800 011 046
beyondblue – 1300 224 636
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800

The Canberra Times – 19 July 2019

Share your DVA experience
The Canberra Times wants to hear from veterans experiencing issues dealing with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Share your story below (in the table within the article) or email us at [email protected] . We will never share your information or disclose your identity without your permission.

Phillip Thompson OAM MP – Address to 46th Parliament

It is a tremendous honour to stand before the 46th Parliament as a representative for the people of Herbert—Townsville—to speak for the first time in this chamber. I would like to start by acknowledging our current and former Defence Force members, our brothers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice on operations in service to this nation and our many veterans who have succumbed to their war within back here on home soil.

I stand before you humbled and proud to be the elected member through a democratic process that I love and have defended. The people of Herbert have put their faith in me, and I’m determined not to let them down. That is my one-year-old baby girl, Astin. And I am happy she is making noise, because that’s why we are in this place: because we want a better Australia for our future generations.

This responsibility and honour is the same sense of duty I felt as an infantry soldier in the Australian Defence Force. My core values are protecting the Australian way of life, freedom of speech, family and reward for effort—values that I do my best to live by every day.

The powerful electorate of Herbert—the heart of Townsville—is 941 square kilometres which incorporates the iconic Mount Stuart and Castle Hill and takes in the beautiful Magnetic Island. Any local will tell you it’s a hidden gem we’re lucky to have on our doorstep. An iconic part of Herbert is the Aboriginal community located on Great Palm Island. Palm Island is home to the traditional owners the Manbarra people and Bwgcolman people and their descendants. I would like to acknowledge those people in this place today. It is my commitment to ensure that Palm Island, which is a part of the electorate of Herbert, will have a strong voice here in Canberra.

Palm Island is close to my heart—the birthplace of my mother-in-law, Florence Burns. Flo; my wife, Jenna; and my beautiful daughter, Astin, are all Aboriginal women who are here in the gallery today. As I stand and look at these three remarkable humans, I have no doubt that, as three generations of Aboriginal women, their rights have improved dramatically over the decades. But we must not forget there is still a lot of work to be done in recognising and valuing our First Nations people and their culture. I’m honoured to be a member of the House Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs and I’ll be working to make a meaningful and positive contribution.

I’ve had some extremely proud moments in my life, which include being the youngest member of this House of the 46th Parliament of Australia, being the 2018 Queensland Young Australian of the Year and serving our wonderful nation as an infantry soldier. However, no title or award compares or comes close to my greatest achievement: being called Dad. Whilst I acknowledge I will spend time away from my family to be in this House, it is because of the strength and support of my wife and my family that I stand before you representing the people of Herbert.

Herbert is, in my view, the best electorate in this nation. It has a heart like no other. We have the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef—the world’s largest coral reef system—on our doorstep. I stand proudly in this House today as a member of a government which is making record investment in ensuring this incredible natural wonder remains healthy for generations to come.

Herbert also has both copper and zinc refineries, a strong fishing industry and a strong desire to grow its tourism offering. The port of Townsville is northern Australia’s largest general cargo and container port, and a direct transport link to many important global markets. The port is Australia’s leading exporter of zinc, lead, sugar, fertiliser and molasses. With upgrades and new builds underway, trade is expected to treble over the next 30 years. I commend the CEO, Ranee Crosby, on her incredible efforts in driving the success of the port over many years.

Townsville is proudly home to James Cook University, which is placed No. 1 in the world for marine biology, and is ranked in the top two per cent of universities in the Academic Ranking of World Universities. Other leading institutions include the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and our educational learning centres such as Reef HQ and the Museum of Tropical Queensland.

Townsville is also the largest garrison city. I’d like to acknowledge the Royal Australian Air Force’s presence at Garbutt and, of course—a place I know well—Lavarack Barracks. Townsville became my home in 2006 when I was posted to the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. I deployed to East Timor in 2007, and in 2009, at the age of 21, I deployed to Afghanistan.

Whilst deployed to Afghanistan, on 18 July 2009 a warrior was killed in action. His name is Ben Ranaudo, and I honour him in this House. My good friend Paul Warren lost his leg in the same blast, and, I honour his service and sacrifice in this House today. It’s a day I’ll never forget. It was a sickening feeling, hearing over the radio that an improvised explosive device had detonated and that an Australian was killed and another was critically wounded. After we sent our brother home via ramp ceremony in Tarin Kowt, we kept Ben in our hearts and Paul’s recovery in our thoughts, but it was back to the patrol base, because our deployment was far from over.

Improvised explosive devices were the weapon of choice used by insurgents. We had many near misses, and only on limited occasions did we get to do our role: seek out and close with the enemy. On 19 October 2009, my life changed forever. Whilst on a combined Australian and Afghan National Army dismounted patrol, I was wounded in action by an improvised explosive device. As a result of the blast, I sustained severe injuries and was medically evacuated back to Australia. As well as the obvious physical injuries from the blast, I also suffered a traumatic brain injury and several other life-changing conditions.

On deployment to Afghanistan, I’ve had friends be killed in action, lose limbs and be critically injured. Many have also suffered from lifelong psychological invisible wounds from their deployment. I, like many others, went through a very dark and terrible place after war. My post-traumatic growth came from the strength of my wife, Jenna, who encouraged me to find meaningful engagement, which was then followed by employment. Having meaning and accountability changed how I thought and acted and gave purpose to a life which at that point had been written off.

Not all the brothers I served with came out the other side. Today is the anniversary of when I buried a close friend who died by suicide. His name was Jesse Bird, and I honour him in this place today. I have buried too many of my mates, mothers have buried too many of their sons, wives have buried too many of their husbands and fathers, and a nation has buried too many of its veterans. Mental illness and suicide prevention is our responsibility; we are all responsible. Suicide is not just a veteran issue and not just a Defence Force issue; it’s a societal problem. We can and must do more. There is nothing more precious than life and living your life well. With difficult topics, there can be an ‘out of mind, out of sight’ mentality. I will ensure that in this place we will never forget that there is always more we can do to help.

As I stand before you, I confess: I’m no saint. I’ve made mistakes and done and said things in my past that I’m not proud of. The harsh lessons that I’ve learnt from those dark times equip me to better serve the people of Herbert.

I’m the eldest of three children raised by a single mother, who shaped the man I am today. I acknowledge and thank her in this House today. We did it tough growing up, which cemented my ethos that with hard work and determination we can achieve great things. This has echoed with my siblings—my sister, Stephanie Thompson, a nurse, and my brother, Timothy Thompson, a property consultant. We worked hard and fought for everything we achieved. I hope to be a role model for people who didn’t have the best shoes growing up, who watched other families go on holidays, who learnt the hard way that we’re not all born equal, not all the same. But it’s my belief that with hard work, determination and a fighting spirit we can have equal opportunity. ‘A fair go for those who have a go’ couldn’t be a more relevant statement to how we were raised. I work every day to be a better man than I was yesterday, and it is a spirit which I vow to bring with me to this place each and every day as I give the people of Herbert a voice.

Earlier this year, Townsville suffered a devastating natural disaster—a flood event like no other. Tens of thousands of people have been impacted. The night the text warnings started to come in about the release of water from the dam was truly terrifying. No-one knew what to expect, and there really was a feeling for many people that the world we knew was coming to an end. Whole suburbs went under water. Many people are still displaced. Others are living in damaged homes and are trying to battle on. Through the devastation I saw our community come together—the military, emergency services and hundreds of people on boats rescuing others from their flood engulfed streets; shopping centres doubling as recovery centres; and normal, everyday people opening up their homes to strangers who had lost everything. Tragic stories of people who had lost everything were quickly followed by selfless acts of the community supporting one another. Our tragedy has brought our community closer than ever. The resilience of our region is remarkable. The number of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to help others will never be forgotten. It makes me so proud to say I’m from Townsville.

Our city has done it tough, and we need to be at the forefront of projects and economic drivers. But we are a proud bunch: we don’t want a handout; we want a hand up. I want to see the Herbert electorate prosper again, to be a region where there is opportunity and reward for effort and a city in which we can have great confidence in the future. Water security, affordable electricity and job creation are critical pieces of the economic puzzle and must be treated as such. Small and medium businesses are the engine room of the local economy, and I want Townsville businesses to have confidence to take risk, be rewarded and drive our local economy for years to come. Herbert has high unemployment, a topic often thrown around like a political football. The time is now, when we make strong leadership decisions and back projects that will create jobs for years to come.

I’m proud to say I back the resource sector. I’m from a part of the country where coal isn’t a dirty word and we support opening up the Galilee Basin and welcome the jobs that will come with it. Our community will not be told what projects we can support, what jobs we can have and what industries we can work in by people lacking any sort of local knowledge and understanding.

I believe Townsville has the potential to be Australia’s northern defence deep-maintenance, sustainment and logistics hub. There is enormous untapped potential in our region. Townsville is the key economic hub for Northern Australia and an industry powerhouse. Backing projects like the Townsville port widening project and the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative, which create job opportunities and stimulate economic growth is what I will do every day.

Tourism has been on the backburner for far too long in Townsville. That’s why I backed the Museum of Underwater Art, which is the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. We’re also funding a zip-line down Castle Hill and providing a NAIF loan for the upgrade of the Townsville airport, which will see more flights to Townsville and more people travelling to the beautiful north to experience the magnificent wonders of our region.

A strong north means a strong nation, and to have a strong north we must get back to nation-building projects that have clear long-term economic value. The coalition support of the Hells Gate Dam is a no-brainer. The large-scale agricultural development will have long-term benefits for our farmers, our exports and our industry more broadly.

To the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison: I thank you for your leadership, guidance and a helpful ear during the campaign. I also thank Mrs Morrison, who spent considerable time with my wife and daughter. We both appreciated it. I have had a lot of support from colleagues but extensive support from the Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, and the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Matt Canavan. I appreciate the time they have invested in me. I would like to thank the LNP and its members, who have shown great faith in me.

On a more personal note, I have tremendous people in my life. First and foremost is the mother of my beautiful daughter, Jenna Thompson. She is a woman who, at the age of 21, nursed me back to health and literally saved my life. Jenna, you are an incredible woman who I love and adore and you are the driving force behind any success I have. My one-year-old daughter, Astin, can brighten up the most challenging days. Her first word was ‘Dad’, a moment that still brings a tear to my eye. Her laugh, cheeky smile and beautiful personality are what I look forward to at the end of a long day. Having my daughter here today fills my heart with pride and love.

On my campaign manager and close friend, Casie Scott, I would not be standing in this place without her help and guidance. Casie is a truly remarkable, selfless person. During a political campaign, there’s often a saying that every campaign needs a ‘blank’. In my case, everyone needs a Michael Brennan, an Anthony Meixner, a Dino da Bella, a Laura Sinclair and a Marie McMullen. These volunteers gave up hours upon hours of their time to help letterbox, doorknock, fundraise, man stalls, set up, pack down and just be involved. Our grassroots volunteers are why we were successful in Herbert. Regardless of what colour shirt you wear, everyone in this House is lucky to have people who are passionate enough about the future of our nation that they stump up for us time and time again.

I have had so much support through our country from all walks of life but especially from the defence and veteran community, and I cannot thank them enough. As a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, I’ll continue to put a spotlight on veterans’ issues in the hope of driving better outcomes.

In closing, my focus is to represent the people of Herbert with passion and integrity. I make this pledge to the people of Townsville: I will be your voice in Canberra every single day of the week. I will choose you, the people of Townsville, first. That means people before politics. I will back projects that create jobs and economic drivers for our region to ensure we have a bright and prosperous future for our children. I will listen to you, the people of Townsville, and will work hard to find solutions to your problems. I will never think I’m above you, the people who have put their faith and trust in me and given me the great privilege of standing in this House today. Integrity is everything, and I promise I will not forget that. Thank you.

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

ABC News – Veterans put ‘through a lot of hoops’ in bid to claim compensation, minister says

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has been “too adversarial” when it comes to handling the compensation claims of former defence personnel, Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester says.

Key points:

  • Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester says his department “has been guilty of being too adversarial” over compensation claims
  • Mr Chester said the culture in the department has been improving
  • He said he would act upon a recommendation to from a cross-party group on veterans’ mental health issues

Mr Chester made the comments to 7.30 after holding a summit in Canberra about veterans’ mental health on Wednesday.

The department has been criticised by veterans, their families and even the Productivity Commission, which said in a draft report that the compensation claim process for veterans was not fit for purpose.

One mother of a veteran who committed suicide started a petition on Change.org, which received more than 220,000 signatures. As part of the petition, she called for a royal commission into the rate of suicide among veterans and accuses the DVA of treating veterans poorly when they make compensation claims.

“I believe in the past that the DVA has been guilty of being too adversarial in terms of whether it’s protecting the public purse or putting veterans through a lot of hoops,” Mr Chester told 7.30.

He said the culture in large organisations was difficult to change but that the DVA was making progress.

“The changing culture now is around taking a more beneficial approach to the veteran or their family in terms of providing those support measures. So I think there has been improvement, I think there’s real progress here,” he said.

“The feedback I’ve received from the key ex-service organisations in about [the] 15 months I’ve been in the role is that they are seeing improvements, and they want to see us keep working with them to bed down even further improvements in the future.

“The DVA has to win back the trust of Australian veterans and their families and the service community more generally.”

Cross-party group to be set up

Darren Chester addresses the veterans summit in Canberra

PHOTO: Darren Chester addresses the veterans summit in Canberra. (ABC News)

Mr Chester said he would act upon a recommendation from the summit to contact MPs from all parties with military experience to form a group that will look at veterans’ mental health issues.

When it comes to a royal commission, Mr Chester said “all options are on the table”.

“But what I’ve been saying also quite clearly is, in about four or five days’ time the Productivity Commission is going to give me a report, which it has been working on for the past year,” he said.

“I understand it’s a 1,000-page report, looking at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and making sure it’s fit for purpose for the next 100 years.

“That needs to be worked through as well.”

Discovering ‘why these people have been doing nothing’

Jesse Bird posing in army camouflage with gun

PHOTO: Jesse Bird’s claim was rejected by DVA. (Supplied: Karen Bird)

In 2017, 7.30 reported on the case of Jesse Bird, a veteran of the Afghanistan conflict who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Bird took his own life after his claim for permanent impairment was rejected by the DVA.

He died at the age of 32 with just $5.20 in his bank account.

Mr Bird’s stepfather John told 7.30 his file shows his pleas for help were not taken seriously.

“He had his rejection papers prominently displayed along with a lot of other paperwork that he’d had to endure with the DVA,” he told 7.30 in 2017.

Mr Bird’s mother Karen Bird said her son had been pushed into a corner and could not see any other way out.

“He was my first-born son and I don’t have him anymore,” Ms Bird said.

Since Mr Bird’s death there have been major changes inside the DVA and the Government is spending $230 million a year on veteran mental health.

John McNeill, a volunteer who devotes his time to helping veterans navigate the complex claim system, wants a royal commission because of the failings he saw first-hand with Mr Bird’s case.

“The same story has been said over and over and over again about what needs to change. Now it hasn’t,” he said.

“So I believe the royal commission would find out why these people that have been entrusted to be the voice of the veteran community are sitting back and doing nothing to help until the spotlight is shone on them.”

Hundreds of suicides

Warrior's Return collates statistics on suicides by veterans

PHOTO: Warrior’s Return collates statistics on suicides by veterans. (ABC News)

An official estimate records more than 370 suicides involving current or former defence personnel since 2001, with one volunteer group called Warriors Return keeping its own figures on suicide by veterans across the country.

Their research shows there have been 16 suicides this year alone, with 48 last year, 86 in 2017 and 80 in 2016.

But Brian Briggs, a military compensation lawyer with Slater and Gordon, argues against a royal commission.

He believes the money could be better spent fixing problems which are well known.

“I think the money would be more wisely spent elsewhere in providing services to the veterans and to the veteran community, not on having numerous lawyers appearing before the royal commission and spending $80 to $100 million, which is only going to lead to further delays,” he said.

“We already know what the issues are, what they need to do is get things happening and happening fast and happening now.

“All this money that’s being put in, what are the results? That’s where we need to sit back and see what is producing results and what isn’t working — and what isn’t working should be shut down.”

RELATED STORY: Man warned Veterans’ Affairs he could become suicide statistic days before death

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If you or anyone you know needs help:

ABC News – 27th June 2019

ABC TV 7.30 Report – Duty of Care

Calls for royal commission over the rate of veteran suicides

There are growing calls for a royal commission into the rate of suicide among military veterans. An official estimate is there have been more than 370 suicides involving current or former defence personnel since 2001. Despite ongoing reforms, the Department of Veterans Affairs is under fire over how it treats compensation claims and the toll it takes on those who have served our country.

Watch the video report here

Wed 26 Jun 2019, 8:45pm

Minister for Veterans Affairs talks about today’s summit on mental health

Minister for Veterans Affairs, Darren Chester, held a summit to discuss the problem of mental health issues among veterans.

Watch the video report here

Wed 26 Jun 2019 8.45 pm