Ombudsman’s Inquiry into DFRDB Commutation

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

Ministerial Statement – Independent Inquiry Report into DFRDB Scheme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RELATED ARTICLES

Defence chief sorry for retirement scheme

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

December 11, 2019 

Open Tender for Psychiatric Assistance Dogs for Veterans

Chester

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

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

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

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

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

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

DVA Media Release Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Supporting Veterans’ Families This Legacy Week

SUPPORTING VETERANS’ FAMILIES THIS LEGACY WEEK

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TOMORROW marks the start of Legacy Week, the annual national appeal to support the families of veterans who have given their life or health for this country.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester will join Legacy Australia in officially launching this year’s Legacy Week at the Australian War Memorial and lay a wreath to acknowledge all families and reflect on the important role they play.

 “Tomorrow I have the privilege of representing the Australian   Government at the Australian War Memorial to help launch this very   important fundraising week for Legacy Australia,” Mr Chester said.
 “Families play a crucial part in supporting veterans, especially in challenging times, and they face their own unique challenges as a result of this,” Mr Chester said.
“It is important we all do our bit to help organisations like Legacy which is committed to looking after these families.
“Every year since 1942, Legacy volunteers across Australia fundraise for the families of veterans who have sacrificed so much during their service.
“The money raised will go towards helping the families of service personnel whose strength and resilience play a key part in offering support for veterans.
“I encourage everyone to support Legacy Week and buy a badge, and to think about how we can come together in our own community and support veterans and their families.”
Legacy Week will help around 60,000 beneficiaries through funding essential services and help provide educational resources to children. Legacy Week 2019 runs from Sunday, 1 September to Saturday, 7 September, with Badge Day on Friday, 6 September.
31 August 2019

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

Need for Constructive Dialogue and Not ill-considered and inaccurate criticism of DVA

The RARA supports DFWA’s concern at the recent ill-considered and often inaccurate criticism of DVA by some in the media and on social media platforms.

Commentary borders at times on crass enthusiasm for a story and less about the care of veterans. DVA and its staff in recent years has performed remarkably well in coming to grips with the many and varied challenges they are facing.

Whether it is veteran suicide, which is surely a national problem, veteran homelessness, the transition of individuals from the ADF to civilian life, the availability of psychological support, veteran employment or the myriad of other services it provides the leadership and staff of DVA are responding positively.

READ DFWA’s Media Statement here

Medical Evidence – Statement, TPs and Background

Statement from Liz Cosson AM CSC Secretary Department of Veterans’ Affairs 

Liz Cossons

“In response to today’s media reporting claiming DVA is outsourcing its compensation claim process, I offer the following statement, attached talking points and background to why we have placed a forward notice on the AusTender site. This is a public site.

Contrary to media reports, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is not and will not be outsourcing the decision-making process for veterans’ claims.

The proposed tender, details of which are available on the AusTender website, addresses a number of recommendations including the need to assist veterans who submit claims by securing medical evidence in a way that assists in getting faster decisions.

These recommendations have come from:

• Senate Inquiry – The Constant Battle: Suicide by Veteran

• 2017-18 Australian National Audit Office – Efficiency of Veterans Service Delivery

  • The 2019 Productivity Commission report.

Through the proposed tender, DVA is seeking to identify a more efficient and effective way to gather this medical evidence, in order to facilitate the timely determination of compensation and rehabilitation claims. In some circumstances, DVA may need to approach a medico-legal provider for an assessment and report. This may occur if:
• the veteran does not have a treating doctor, or where there is insufficient or conflicting information
• the treating doctor cannot or will not provide the required evidence or cannot provide it in a timely manner
• a subsequent report still does not meet the diagnostic criteria
• a report is deficient in some aspect and a report from a further medical professional is required for the purpose specified in the referral.

This department is committed to putting veterans and their families first, including by changing the processes within DVA to drive more effective and timely claims processing, greater support through the claims process, and more positive outcomes for our veterans and their families.

The forward notice of the proposed tender, published on 29 July 2019, requests interested parties complete a survey and provide a range of information including, but not limited to, information about their organisation, their approach to the tender, and what information they would need from DVA to complete the tender.”

NATION PAUSES TO REMEMBER THE KOREAN WAR ARMISTICE

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TOMORROW (27th July) marks 66 years since the Korean War Armistice was signed, ending three years of war in Korea.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester is encouraging all Australians to pause and remember those who served in the Korean War and the post-armistice period.

“Of the 18,000 Australian personnel who served, Australia suffered some 1,500 casualties, including more than 350 who lost their lives and 30 who were taken prisoner,” Mr Chester said.

“Of the more than 150 nurses who served in Japan nursing Korean War casualties, more than 50 also served in Korea.

“The signing of the armistice was held in 1953, however Australia maintained a presence in Korea as part of the multi-national peacekeeping force until 1957.

“Our soldiers, sailors and airmen fought long and hard for South Korea’s freedom. The conditions were hazardous and the effort of moving over mountains and valleys was exhausting.”

Within the first few days of the war, then Prime Minister Robert Menzies committed ships of the Royal Australian Navy to the Korean War. These were soon joined by units of the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Army.

“Despite the fact that Australia was still recovering from the Second World War, our military personnel joined the United Nations effort in Korea in a unified show of support,” Mr Chester said.

“These men and women fought to defend the Korean peninsula – many of whom never returned home. (43 Australian servicemen remain missing in action)

“Today, Australia says thank you for your service.”

For more information on the history of the Korean War, visit the Anzac Portal www.anzacportal.dva.gov.au/history/conflicts/korean-war.

Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 82414546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au 

Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit Statement – Darren Chester

“Thank you for your attendance here today (26th June 2019).
You’re here because you have expert knowledge in mental health, suicide prevention and the potential impacts of military service on individuals and their families.

Today’s an opportunity to take stock of where we are regarding mental wellbeing of veterans and serving ADF personnel… and where we want to be in the future.

This is your chance to help set the veterans’ mental health agenda for this term of the Morrison Government.

It’s an opportunity for a full and frank discussion about what is working, what isn’t working, our knowledge or research gaps… and what else we can be doing together to improve mental wellbeing.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that mental health will be a core focus of this government and he has already announced several initiatives aimed at suicide prevention and mental wellbeing in the wider community.
Every suicide is a tragedy, especially for families and loved ones left behind.
It is a sad and complex issue which costs Australia more than 3000 people each year and of particular concern to us, here today, is the estimated 30 veterans who take their own life each year.


When it comes to veteran suicide, the only acceptable number for me is zero – the only acceptable number for the Australian people is zero.
As a government we are determined to put veterans and their families first.
I’m working with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Australian Defence Force leaders, ex-service organisations, medical professionals and the community to improve mental health outcomes for veterans and their families.


We are spending more than $230 million per year to improve veteran mental health and we are working with Defence to improve resilience among serving members.
There have been a number of significant inquiries, research and reports which have led to significant changes and the key question today is, what else can we do that will make a practical difference?

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

VETERANS’ MENTAL HEALTH SUMMIT TO INFORM GOVERNMENT’S STRATEGY

Tomorrow’s Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit will bring together key stakeholders at Parliament House to improve services and support to those who have served in the Australian Defence Force.

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The Summit, to be chaired by Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel, Darren Chester, will focus on extra steps that can be taken to improve veterans’ mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention.

“As a Federal Government, we are determined to put veterans and their families first, which is why I’m convening the Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit this Wednesday,” Mr Chester said.

“It’s an opportunity to take stock of current programs and assess what else can be done to improve mental wellbeing of veterans.

“While we have already expanded access to free counselling, and introduced new payments to ensure veterans submitting mental health claims have financial support while their claims are being considered, it’s important to constantly assess the Government’s strategy.”

Experts will be brought together to consider the current range of services, programs and pilots offered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), and to give advice about the strengths of current settings, where gaps could be addressed, and to inform the Government’s forward plan and strategy.

The Summit will be the first stage of a structured engagement with ex-service organisations, veterans, families and service providers, over the coming months and will be a great opportunity for stakeholders to continue working with the Federal Government on veteran matters of great importance.

“I will also be working through the Government’s approach to veteran’s mental health and well-being with my Federal Ministerial colleagues,” Mr Chester said.

“State and Territory Governments also have a vital role to play and mental health will be a focus at the Veterans Ministers Council meeting in August.

“The Prime Minister has made it clear that mental health will be a core focus of this government and he has already announced several initiatives aimed at suicide prevention and mental wellbeing in the wider community.

“It is a sad and complex issue which costs Australia more than 3000 people each year and when it comes to veteran suicide, the only acceptable number for me is zero – the only acceptable number for the Australian people is zero.

“We need to keep working together to improve mental wellbeing and prevent suicide throughout Australia.”

Free and confidential help is available through Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Help is available 24/7 by calling 1800 011 046.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

DFWA Media Statement – Faceless Bureaucrats Change the Law to Beat Wounded Veterans in Court

Veterans medically discharged, including all those with mental health wounds and at risk of self-harm, can receive an Invalidity Benefit from their superannuation scheme.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) taxes these variable payments as ordinary income rather than at the lower rates that can be applied to superannuation fund disability benefits.

Since 2015, Veterans have been trying to get the ATO to justify their position and advise what law they are using to treat their invalidity payments this way. The ATO has used every dodgy practice in the book to avoid answering the question.

In 2018, Veterans had the Administrative Appeals Tribunal consider this matter. On 1 June, the ATO’s case developed a “fatal flaw” so they requested an adjournment to “consult” with their bureaucratic masters. Although Justice Logan agreed to the adjournment, he expressed concern that the ATO might try to change the law to fix their case before the Hearing resumed.

On 7 December, two days before the Hearing resumed, changes to the law, backdated to 2007, were made to fix the shoddy ATO argument. In other words, the rules and the goalposts were changed at half-time by the faceless bureaucrats. But this is not a game! The men and women of the ADF are trained to obey the rules, even if it means they might die.

Politicians should not let faceless bureaucrats change the law to beat wounded veterans in court and no Australian should be at risk of having the law changed and backdated in the middle of their court case.

This should not happen to any citizen. Veterans have fought for democracy and the rule of law and call on all Australians to join the fight against this blatant injustice! There will be limited time after the election for the Senate or the House of Representatives to pass a Disallowance Motion negating the retrospective changes affecting the case being heard.

Read more on this matter, including what you can do, on the DFWA website here  or contact the DFWA spokesperson John on 02 5104 3106 or [email protected] .

7th May 2019

DFWA Media Statement – Recognition that ADF Members Deserve Support during and after their Service

The Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA) welcomes the Labor Opposition’s commitment announced today in a joint Media Alert of wide-ranging support to both the nation’s current serving ADF members and to those who once served, importantly, including their families.

DFWA welcomes the Opposition’s commitments on several fronts.

The first being the retention of a specific Department of Veterans Affairs. This alone gives credibility to the notion of a ‘veteran centric’ department focused on the issues of veteran and their families.

Second is the commitment to adequately resource the Association to enhance its ability to properly represent serving ADF members in a professional manner particularly at Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal hearings. Such recognition of its role in representing serving personnel has been long sought from successive governments without success.

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Finally in commenting on Labor’s ‘Employment Package’ and its ‘National Families Engagement and Support Strategy’, the National President of DFWA, Kel Ryan, stated that he was particularly pleased that ‘Oasis Townsville’, a long-held aspiration of the Townsville veterans community to have a single hub to which all veterans and their families could go, would be appropriately funded.

The ‘Oasis’ is a model concept that could in whole, or in part, be readily replicated in other parts of Australia. The concept is reflective of the collaboration that is possible between Ex-Service Organisations to not only help each other to achieve outcomes for a common cause but to have a shared focus on supporting serving and ex-serving members of the ADF by making the lives of these men, women and their families better, healthier, happier and more rewarding.

9th May 2019

Contacts
Executive Director:
Alf Jaugietis (0438) 282 284 www.dfwa.org.au
National President:
Kel Ryan (0418) 759 120

DFWA – Voice of the Defence Community