RARA QLD – eNews 2/2019 April

RARA Queensland’s eNews replaces the previously printed Newsletter “The Spirit”. This is the second quarterly edition.

Enjoy the Read

Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant

To prepare for the launch of the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant, you are now able to apply for all components of the Covenant, including the Veteran Card, lapel pin and oath, on MyService.

The Covenant serves to recognise the unique nature of military service and the contribution of Defence families. For more information about the Covenant visit the DVA website.

I do not have a Veteran Card…
Log on to your MyService Account, select ‘Apply for the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant’ and follow the prompts to apply for your Veteran Card, lapel pin and oath.

I recently applied for the new Veteran Card…
Log in to your MyService account, select ‘Apply for the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant’ and follow the prompts to apply for your lapel pin and oath.

I have an old DVA white or gold card…
Log on to your MyService Account, select ‘Apply for the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant’ and follow the prompts to apply for your lapel pin and oath.
You will receive the new-look Veteran Card when your current card expires.

I am a Reservist, however, I am not eligible for a Veteran Card…
Although you are not eligible for a Veteran Card, you can still receive the lapel pin and oath. To apply, log on to MyService, select ‘Apply for the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant’ and follow the prompts to apply for your lapel pin and oath.

Need help with myGov or using DVA’s online services? Call us!
myGov support line: 13 23 07
DVA General Enquiry Line: 1800 555 254


2019 Budget puts Veterans and their Families First

Australian veterans and their families will continue to see an improvement in support and services with $11.5 billion in funding allocated in the 2019–20 Budget. This funding represents an overall increase of $300 million allocated to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) in 2019-20 compared with 2018-19 to support our veterans and their families.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the 2019–20 Budget was focussed on putting veterans and their families first and would see a continued investment in the transformation of DVA.
“Over the next two years DVA will continue its focus on making it easier and faster for veterans to access the services they need, when and where they need them,” Mr Chester said.
“Veterans and their families will be able to access more services online and we will continue to simplify our phone system, introducing a single contact phone number, 1800 VETERAN.
“We are making sure that every veteran, no matter where they live has better access to DVA by partnering with Department of Human Services to use their extensive network of shop fronts and centres, as well as Mobile Service Centres and agent networks.
“We will also be investing more to make DVA’s online claims site, MyService, more user-friendly, making the claims process easier and faster.
“As the rising cost of living continues to put pressure on a lot of Australians, we have also announced a one-off Energy Assistance Payment that will provide additional support for more than 225,000 veterans and widows who receive support payments. The payment is worth $75 for singles and $125 for couples.
“We are continuing to deliver an extensive respect and recognition package with a veterans’ covenant, nationally recognised veterans’ card, lapel pin and commemorative program of national and international events.”

The Australian Government’s commitment to supporting veterans will strengthen with $24.4 million in funding over four years for a range of programs including:
         – $16.2 million in funding to support grants to organisations who support veterans to deliver innovative programs to support veterans to find meaningful employment
         – $4.2 million to extend the trial of the Provisional Access to Medical Treatment which will continue to provide veterans with access to treatment for specified conditions before claims are approved, getting veterans treatment faster and preventing the risk of further deterioration of their condition
       –  $4.0 million to provide training to volunteers who work with veterans enhancing their capability to recognise mental health risks and to provide intervention and support.

“Helping veterans effectively transition to civilian life is a priority for the government,” Mr Chester said.
“We know that employing a veteran is good for business and the experience and skills they bring to a job can be invaluable. “These grants will help veterans find employment by helping them navigate the range of community and government services available to them.”

Family violence victims who are former spouses or de-facto partners of veterans will also see an increase in support, with $6.2 million in funding allocated in the Budget.
“Funding for the Partner Service Pensions – eligibility alignment measure will ensure former spouses and de-facto partners will be able to continue receiving the partner service pension after their relationship has ended and divorce proceedings finalised, including where it is determined that special domestic circumstances apply,” Mr Chester said.
“This measure is about creating equity for all former partners of veterans, regardless of their marital status.”

Last year the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade completed its inquiry into the use of Quinoline anti-malarial drugs Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force.
“We recognise that this is an ongoing concern for some veterans and the Australian Government is providing $2.1 million so that any concerned veterans can have a comprehensive health check by a general practitioner to identify service-related illness, disease and injury,” Mr Chester said.

The 2019–20 Budget also provides:
• $3.5 million in funding to support the 2020 Anzac Day Dawn Service in France as well as for managing security and attendance in both France and Turkey consistent with previous overseas commemorations. The funding includes funds for a scoping study for a commemorative site on the Island of Lemnos, Greece, the former site of an Australian field hospital during the First World War.
• New and amended listings on the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

More information on all of DVA’s 2019–20 Budget measures is available in the DVA Information Sheets here 

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

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.

Veterans accuse Federal Government of ‘ripping off’ thousands from retirement benefits

A Federal Coalition backbencher is lobbying the Government to investigate how much money he believes it owes some older Australian military veterans.

Veterans, including some who served in Korea, Malaya and Vietnam, signed up for compulsory superannuation called the Defence Force Retirement Benefits (DFRDB) scheme between 1948 and 1972.

Upon retirement, those who served more than 20 years could take a commutation, or advance payment, of part of their pension and repay the money with fortnightly deductions based on their life expectancy or actuarial age.

The veterans believed that once they reached age 72, for example, they would have repaid all money owed and their pension payments would immediately return to the full amount.

However they have continued to receive the reduced pension, which has been a bone of contention for them ever since.

A ‘disgusting and abhorrent’ situation

Lew OBrien MP 10760090 3x2 340x227

Federal Member for the Queensland electorate of Wide Bay, Llew O’Brien, recently wrote a strongly worded letter to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs to address the issue.

Mr O’Brien described the situation as “disgusting and abhorrent”. He said he believes the Australian Government will “continue to profit significantly from the underpayments and must make restitution”.

Mr O’Brien did not hide his distaste for the response from the Minister and decided to go public.

“I’ve asked the Minister to do costings on how we can remedy this, what the cost to Government would be to right what is a fundamental wrong, and what the evidence that I’ve seen tells me is an un-Australian type of an act,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said the Minister had so far dismissed all his approaches.

Mr Chester’s office has not responded to interview requests from the ABC about this story.

‘The Government owes me’: veteran

Lieutenant Colonel Smith elected to “commute” $10,000 of his superannuation so he could buy a house.

Harry Smith 10759948 3x2 700x467

He understood his pension would be reduced as he paid back the money but believed once he reached 72 and the “advance” was repaid his fortnightly income would return to the full amount without any deductions.

More than a decade later and the now ages almost 86 he continues to receive the reduced pension because it did not return to the higher amount.

“For 14 years I have been living without that money, so the Government owes me in round figures around $5,000,” Lieutenant Colonel Smith said.

“We paid back a loan and we should have reverted to the original amount and there’s no argument about it.

“I expect the original superannuation payments to revert to their full amount and further that when I die, if I die before my wife, that my widow will get her percentage of my superannuation to which she’s entitled until she dies.”

Read the full ABC article here

Report on the RARA’s 2018 AGM and National Council Meeting

The RAR Association’s AGM and the annual National Council Meeting were conducted in Townsville on 7 and 8 October. All State and Battalion Associations were present. It is interesting to note that the Associations which represent the Battalions no longer on the Order of Battle are generally still strong (2/4 RAR, 4RAR, 5/7RAR, 8 RAR and 9 RAR).

Mike von Berg is the Chair of the National Board and the Directors are Ted Chitham, who is also our hard working secretary, Hori Howard, Pat McIntosh, Trevor Dixon, who is our web master and Phil Thompson who represents our young volunteers. Mike and Phil were re-elected for a further three year term.

It was noted that the RAR Association is highly regarded in national circles. Mike is a member of the Ex Service Organisations Round Table (ESORT) which advises the Federal Government on veterans’ policy. He is also the ESORT’s representative on the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on Mental Health and has recently been appointed to the Strategic Governance Board of the Advocacy Training and Development Program (ATDP) .Phil Thompson represents us on the DVA’s Younger Veterans – Contemporary Needs Forum (YVF) and Clem Russell, our national pensions and compensation advisor, is a member of the DVA Operations Working Party.

Guest speakers were The Hon Darren Chester, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and deputy leader of the House, Major General Mark Kelly, who is the Repatriation Commissioner as well as the Colonel Commandant of the Royal Australian Regiment and Ms Liz Cosson, the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. They updated us on what is occurring at national level within the Government, DVA and the Regiment.

Some significant items were:

  • A veteran is now someone who has served for one day.
  • A White Card medical treatment card for mental health issues is now available to anyone who has had one day’s full-time military service.
  • DVA now has details of all those who have served. This will permit quicker responses to claims.
  • 40 medical conditions have been added to the list which requires no additional evidence during the disability claims process.
  • VVCS will be renamed “Open Arms” which is expected to emphasise that it is open to all.

All Associations presented their reports. The main theme was the need to attract younger veterans to our associations. It was reaffirmed that our policy is that those leaving the service should as a matter of priority join their Battalion Associations, but if there happens not to be an active Association in their home state, they should join the State Association so that they can still continue to be members of the RAR family. It was also confirmed that those Associations which had close links with the serving Battalions were the strongest. This is seen as the best way to get through to those leaving the service. RARA support is available to all who have served in the Regiment and their families.

The Queensland Branch of the RAR National Association which manages the RAR National Memorial Walk, presented their report on the RAR Memorial. The Walk, which is located within Enoggera Barracks, is an outstanding tribute to our fallen. It is maintained by RAR volunteers, the Queensland Branch of our Association and serving units from 7 Brigade . The Walk is well worth a visit to anyone who is in Brisbane but patience is required to gain entry to Enoggera Barracks due to the current security level.

There were many items on the RARA’s NCM agenda including the following:

  • Suicide and self-harm – critical group assessment and assistance.
  • Homeless veterans – solutions.
  • Future of the National Memorial Walk.
  • The future of advocacy including delivery.
  • The Productivity Commission inquiry into DVA.
  • Indexation of pensions and superannuation.
  • Incarcerated veterans. Statistics and support.
  • Defence or partnership hub test for those leaving the ADF.
  • Soldier Recovery Program.
  • Transition of ADF families.
  • Conditions of Service including the Workplace Remuneration Arrangements.
  • The need for a Military Covenant between the Government and the ADF.

Issues which were reported on and  discussed included the following:

  • The status and future of the upgrading service at RCB to warlike service.
  • RAR MIAs from the Korean War.
  • The need for a day to commemorate the service of contemporary  veterans.
  • The award of a medal for those wounded in action.
  • The need for our Associations and members to provide feedback on matters requiring advocacy.
  • The need for Associations to be active in the social media space.
  • Mental Health- transition – suicide – employment.
  • Well-being.
  • Veterans Support Organisations “fostered” by the RARA

With the Federal election not too far away we will be working to put together a short list of key issues which we alone and with The Alliance of Defence Service Organisations (ADSO) will put forward to the major parties. We will engage with our Associations in this task and we will ask that they will join us in putting them before their local candidates.

Just some of the contemporary issues are:

  • The exclusion of  the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (trustees of our military superannuation schemes) from the Royal Commission into misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial services industry.
  • The fact that TPI and Special Rate disability compensation payments have not kept up with the cost of living.
  • Superannuation matters including Fair Indexation for all military superannuation payments, MSBS portability and access to employer benefits, removal of MSBS Maximum Benefit Limits and DFRDB Commutation
  • Mental health and Veterans’ suicide.
  • Transition including employment post military service.
  • Support and care for members and former members of the ADF who were involved in the Quinoline anti-malarial drug ‘trial’

The importance of communications in achieving our strategic directions (outlined in our Road Map) was a major topic for discussion. The key priorities determined were to open up membership to all former and current members of the RAR and their families and to enable a simplified, seamless, digital communications network that will allow us to engage with our members.

The weekend was rounded off by a visit to 1 RAR where we witnessed an imaginative program designed to improve marksmanship and urban warfare tactics.

The 2019 meeting is planned for Adelaide.

 

 

DFRDB e-Petition to the Government – Commutation Anomaly

This petition goes directly to the Parliament.  All servicemen,servicewomen, their spouses widows/widowers, who contributed to the DFRDB scheme are affected by this anomaly, Even our partners will be paying this impost until they die if we predecease them.

 This  is an opportunity for you and your partner to have your say and help correct this anomaly. And if it doesn’t affect you then please help those who are affected by signing the petition

PLEASE SIGN & VERIFY THE PETITION NOW  

THE PETITION
Defence Veterans of Australia, as Commutation recipients of the DFRDB Scheme administered by Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation, petition the House of Representatives to  instate the National Life Expectancy data  point of each affected veteran as the point where full reinstatement of their Commutation obligation is fulfilled: and, to reimburse to each DFRDB veteran, all over-subscribed payments forfeited by direct debit by them, once their original lump sum was repaid in full.

The DFRDB Authority failed to disclose to veterans the whole-of-life impost of a Lump Sum Commutation   on superannuation payments reduced by a factor, based on redundant Notional Life Expectancy  data and an individual’s Service data. Limited disclosure of the whole-of-life deductions was made by DFRDB,  37 years after the Scheme was launched, but never to members so affected.
Direct debit by DFRDB has been incremented and escalated over time, to a level where the original lump sum has been reimbursed multiple times. This effectively means that veterans are subsidising their own benefits.
There was no definition of the term ‘commutation’ within the legislation or in any document provided by DFRDB to superannuants, until its disclosure advised above. The direct debits were shown in the legislation and the DFRDB’s Administrative Manual to be a finite amount, not an escalating continuum .
On advice from DFRDB Administration all superannuants understood Commutation as an advance of Benefits to be reimbursed to DFRDB by fortnightly debits over a finite period and at a finite rate. How deluded Veterans were through DFRDB’s failure to disclose their interpretation of the Legislation, before the fact, thereby committing Veterans to an ever increasing, spiraling, life-term DEBT-SENTENCE.

 

PM’s Media Release – Recognising and Respecting our Veterans

Veterans and their families are at the centre of a fresh package of initiatives from our Government to recognise their vital role and service to Australia.
We understand the home front is just as important as the front line.
Our Government will develop an Australian Veterans’ Covenant that will be enacted in legislation so the nation can recognise the unique nature of military service and support veterans and their families.
Like the United Kingdom Armed Forces Covenant, the Australian Veterans’ Covenant is for the Australian community to recognise the service and sacrifice of the men and women who commit to defend the nation, and pledge their commitment to support veterans and their families.
As part of this Veterans’ Covenant, a new Australian Veterans’ Card and an Australian Veterans’ Lapel Pin will make it easier for all Australians to recognise and respect the unique contribution that veterans have made to Australia and for our veterans to reconnect with others who have served.
As we have seen throughout the Invictus Games and in the lead up to the Centenary of Armistice, Australians want to acknowledge and show respect for our veterans who have given so much in their service.
Businesses, government and community organisations can also play their part in recognising and respecting those who have served. The card and the pin can help these organisations identify veterans when they aren’t wearing their uniform or medals, so they can offer discounts and extra support.
The new Card and Lapel Pin will for the first time enable everyone across the nation to recognise and acknowledge the unique nature of military service and support the more than 300,000 veterans in Australia and their families.

The Prime Minister will be writing to businesses and communities to urge them to recognise the service of our veterans.
In addition to the record $11.2 billion annual support our government delivers for veterans and their families, we will invest $11.1 million in these measures to deliver a national approach to recognise veterans and will further consult defence and veterans communities in coming weeks.
We will also deliver $6.7 million to develop the SoldierOn Fussell House accommodation facility to be co-located at the Concord Repatriation Hospital in Sydney that the NSW Berejiklian Government is investing more than $340 million to rebuild. This includes the National Centre for Veterans Health – an Australian first, state of the art centre for specialised health care for veterans.
Named for Lieutenant Michael Fussell who was serving with the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan when he was killed in action by an Improvised Explosive Device detonation, the facility will house up to 40 veterans and their families at a time and will especially benefit those from regional and rural areas when veterans are getting treatment.
Our Government will also invest $7.6 million for the Kookaburra Kids Defence Program to boost their targeted support to children of ex-serving defence force members who are experiencing mental health issues due to their service.
The Kookaburra Kids Defence Program was first supported by our government with a $2.1 million injection in a pilot program in NSW, the ACT, Queensland and the NT for 569 children, and this extra investment will see the program expand into Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia for 1,750 children.
As a country we can always do more to recognise and back in our veterans. Our government is committed to setting Australia up to support the veterans of today and tomorrow.

THE HON SCOTT MORRISON MP, PRIME MINISTER
THE HON DARREN CHESTER MP, MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS; MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL; MINISTER ASSISTING THE PRIME MINISTER FOR THE CENTENARY OF ANZAC
JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT
Saturday, 27 October 2018