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Hotline – March 2021

In this edition:

DFWAQ Outreach

COVID

COVID has brought significant life and social changes affecting many Australians in the last year. Lockdowns and restrictions on movements have meant many families have not been able to interact and support each other as in the past and many, particularly older people, have suffered social isolation. This doubtless will have affected DFWAQ members and families.

Veteran Issues

With COVID, there have again been uncertainties regarding ANZAC Day commemorations, with a lot of chopping and changing. (More of that elsewhere

in Hotline.)

In the same period, there has been the release of the Brereton Report for the Inspector General of the ADF concerning alleged war crimes followed on by a lot of media attention concerning planned prosecutions and withdrawal of Meritorious Unit Citations and linking all this with continuing calls for a Royal Commission into topics such as Veteran Suicide, Defence, and DVA. Many of our members and families have been directly or indirectly affected by these issues.

The interim National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention has completed the first round of consultations with the veteran community with the intention of a draft report in 12 months and final report six months later. DFWAQ has participated in the consultations. However, the continuing role of the National Commissioner, after these reports are completed, is uncertain since the necessary legislation regarding the Commissioner’s role has not yet passed the Senate.

There has also been movement by the government to address the remaining recommendations from the Productivity Commission Report – A Better Way to Support Veterans. The aim is to present the recommendations in the May Budget statement by the government – so it is expected that a lot of veteran and defence issues will be addressed in the budget.

There is a lot going on affecting our community. There are lots of uncertainties and many questions spring to mind.

Member Wellbeing and Update Chat

OK, what is all this “outreach” and “wellbeing” modern day lingo mean?

I have hesitated to use these terms but accept the need to adapt as language adapts. Please note that Win Fowles, Qld VP Sunshine Coast, has interesting thoughts on “Words from Wonderland” in Camaraderie Mar 2021.

DFWAQ are going to “outreach”, that is, phone our members, and check on their wellbeing – that is, ask how you are going, and if appropriate, identify if we can be of assistance, and then, if wanted, initiate any follow-up action to help. In doing so, if you have time, we will be seeking your views regarding current ADF and veteran issues and any concerns that you may have and anything where you think DFWAQ should try to do something about. Apart from those issues mentioned previously, you may have had thoughts on other matters, and this could be an opportunity to find out more, such as:

  • Availability of support from DVA, Aged Care or the National Disability Insurance Scheme for: Home Help; and Occupational Health Aids (e.g. door entrance ramps and installation of mobility rails)
  • Some veterans are entitled to help with Funeral Expenses.
  • With One Click, getting your Computer to read Camaraderie and Hotline to you.
  • Indexation increases to superannuation pensions (DFRB, DFRDB and MSBS.)
  • Gold Cards for service Widows and Widowers.
  • How to arrange a Poppy Service.
  • Enduring Powers of Attorney and Advanced Health Directives for all ages.
  • What DFWA are doing about improving veteran services.

Perhaps you would like some specific information covered in Camaraderie or HOTLINE, or perhaps we should use larger printing. Anything that comes to mind.

We will also be checking that that your preferred contact details are current so we can update our records.

Of course, you may prefer not to be contacted all. If you would prefer not to be called, or prefer to be contacted by other means, please let us know by

  • mailing the completed “Computer Database Update Form” on the back of HOTLINE; or
    • email a scanned copy of the completed Form; or
    • by phoning our new phone number (07) 2102 9879 and leave a message

Be sure to leave your name.

Alternatively, when you get a call or email, just let us know you would prefer not to chat. We will not be offended.

Gold Card Holder and COVID

Some Gold Card members do not hold a Medicare Card. There are reports that this group of Gold Card members are having problems accessing COVID vaccination certificates.

Please contact us if you are having this problem to see if we can be of assistance.

Our contact details are by phone (on our new number) 07 2102 9879 or by email at qldbranch@dfwa.org.au

Our Team

Our team doing this phone-around are all volunteers.

  • Sharyn Hughes, our long serving Admin Officer who keeps the office going and the Committee members on their toes.
  • Deb Keir, our former Secretary, and current Communications Officer (and Hotline Editor).
  • Dr Susan Gray, a new volunteer, fresh from completing her PhD from the School of Pharmacy at University of Queensland. (Congratulations and welcome aboard.)

We expect to start this in the latter part of March, and it will take a few months, so do not be surprised if you get a phone call from us.

Productivity Commission Recommendations

There were 69 recommendations made in the Productivity Commission Report on “A Better Way to Support Veterans” released in July 2019. Government response to the report has been slow.

It has been a drawn-out process getting any movement on these recommendations.

The Government have already announced that they rejected Recommendations 16.4 and 16.5 that proposed limitations on future eligibility for the Gold Card and restrict extensions of the Gold Card to new groups. Since then, the government has introduced budget measures for:

  • 6 recommendations in Budget FY20-21
  • claimed implementation of 8 recommendations, and
  • were progressing or had plans for a further 9 recommendations

Outstanding Decisions

There are still 44 recommendations under consideration or awaiting government decision. It is expected that the bulk of these will be addressed in the Budget announcements for FY 21-22 in May this year.

Many of the outstanding recommendations were in the “too hard” basket but have now been moved to the “hard” basket with the DVA proposing ways ahead to deal with these. Many of the recommendations are inter-related and must be addressed together. Recommendations have been grouped into six “Themes”.

Theme 1 – A Possible Administration Act

The aim is to reduce the complexity of dealing with three separate Acts:

1. Veterans Entitlement Act (VEA),

2. Defence Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (DRCA) and

3. Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (MRCA).

The intent is to cover:

  • A single claims approach – meaning that regardless of which Act(s) the claimant came under, they could make a single claim, potentially covering a range of conditions.
  • Harmonisation of the processes relating to processing of claims, including lodging claims electronically, who may make claims on behalf of veterans and deemed claims if appropriate. For example, a deemed claim for a war widow pension where a special rate veteran has passed away and has nominated his widow – this would cut out need for the widow to make a claim as it would happen automatically.
  • Harmonisation of the processes relating to decision-making about claims, including timeframes, the documentary evidence required, the date of effect of decisions, electronic decision-making (if appropriate) and notice of decisions. These are all different at present.
  • A single review pathway – ensuring that the review pathway for compensation/disability claims was consistent, regardless of which Act governs the claim.
  • Information-gathering provisions, including requirements to provide information or undergo medical examinations.
  • Achieve harmonisation of a lot of back-office bureaucratic processes supporting the services delivered under the three Acts.

Theme 2 – Reducing the current three act model into a two-scheme model. (Albeit knitted together by an Administration Act)

  • Scheme 1, the current Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) with some modifications to align benefits and processes with others; and
  • Scheme 2, a modified Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) which incorporates the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA).

Theme 3 – Simplify the MRCA

A key area is the “service differential”. This is best explained by an example. Compensation for an ADF member injured in relatively safe operational area such as a supply area in Kuwait (warlike service) is managed differently than an ADF member injured rescuing people from an aircraft crash on an exercise (Non warlike). A Permanent Impairment payment for the Kuwait injury could be 80% higher ($100,000) than for the injury caused in rescuing people in the non-operational area aircraft crash. Also, the standard of proof that the injury was service caused is lower for the Kuwait injury than for the aircraft crash injury. The changes aim to provide same compensation for the same injury and the same lower standard of proof (reasonable hypothesis) for both. (Hence the articles regarding operational and non-operational service in recent Camaraderie issues.)

Theme 4 – Harmonise Legislation Across Different Acts.

In the three previous themes, the overall approach was to simplify overall administration and address some of the big issues as to why there are differences and come to a resolution. This theme seeks to review and get rid of the many individual differences. It is here that many trade-offs are necessary if the overall aim of simplification of and equity in treatment of all veterans is to be achieved. It will involve concessions on both sides.

There are numerous differences, e.g.:

  • Funeral Benefits. VEA – up to $2000.00. MRCA – Up to $12,491.46. Different conditions apply.
  • Children’s Income Support Bonus is paid to VEA and MRCA orphans etc but not for DRCA.
  • Remove and make a one-time payout for some smaller benefits currently paid to a small number of recipients.

Theme 5 – Interactions of DVA Compensation and Military Superannuation.

Veterans medically discharged from the ADF on Class A and Class B Invalidity Benefit payments have their MRCA Incapacity Payments offset (reduced dollar for dollar) against their Invalidity payments. Several recommendations have been made aimed at integrating these payments. While there are merits in some proposals, a big issue is that DVA Incapacity payments are essentially the equivalent of worker compensation and the CSC invalidity benefits are like insurance taken out by civilians with their superannuation scheme and cover death and disability. We shall watch this area closely to ensure ADF members are not disadvantaged compared with other Australians.

Theme 6 – Governance and Structure.

This concerns recommendations relating to establishment of a Veteran Services Commission to run the rehabilitation and compensation system with DVA retained as a strategic policy advisor on the overall veterans’ support system. The DVA plans in this area seem to cast doubts on practicality of the recommendations and suggest different approaches on some of the recommendations. Personally, I think it is doubtful that any significant change will occur to current bureaucratic empire structures.

There appears to be no DVA desire to change.

DFWA Involvement

Details of progress to date on each recommendation are published on the DFWA website under the News Feed tab – Productivity Commission Report – Recommendation Implementation Tracker.

While DFWA will monitor progress on each recommendation, there are continuing areas of concern where DVA may make changes and claim a recommendation has been implemented, but from a veteran’s view, the changes have been inadequate. We lack the resources to dig down to the depth required.

DFWA have representatives on three working groups which are “consulted” on changes being made. The working groups are Advocacy, Legislative Reform and Multi-Acts. Meetings have occurred.

Federal Court Ruling – Tax Office Mistake

You may have been paying Too Much Tax.

If you are receiving or have received in the past, a Class A or B Invalidity pension from DFRDB or MSBS and the first pension payment you received started on or after 20 September 2007, then most likely you have been paying too much tax. These payments should have been treated as a superannuation lump sums and not a superannuation income stream. The tax is considerably less. You should be entitled to a refund of past overpaid tax dating back to when your payments commenced.

If your Class A or B payments started before 20 September 2007 then you have probably been taxed correctly.

This does not affect any payments from DVA.

See Camaraderie for the main article on this. Full details are on the DFWA website in the News Update.

If you think you may be affected, it is recommended that you seek the advice of an accountant. When speaking to your accountant, you should check they are aware of recent Tax Office announcements on this.

This may also affect deceased estates of veterans. The Executors of such estates should be informed.

Anzac Day 2021

At one stage it looked like ANZAC Day 2021 was to be a “no -marcher” throughout the state again – except for a Clayton’s march around the Ekka with Banners and 4 Banner holders each, 430 spectators in the stands and some RAAFies leading the parade because it is the 100th anniversary of the formation of the RAAF.

Country areas, with no real COVID threats, were to have the same restrictions as the SE corner.

All very strange considering crowds of at sports events, protest marches and music festivals.

Following a petition by Mr Stephen Andrew, MP for Sarina, and some lobbying by the RSL and other ESOs, the Premier announced on February 23 that dawn services, marches and public commemoration will return to “normal” on April 25, 2021. Planning is now underway to develop a COVID-Safe Plans for marches through the streets of Brisbane and other areas.

In regional areas, RSL sub-branches take the lead in planning ANZAC Day services and marches for their communities.

The ANZAC Day Dawn Service in Brisbane is run by the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee, formed on 10 January 1916, and which commemorated the first ANZAC Day the same year. It also runs the ANZAC Day Student Service held on Thursday 22 April this year.

The Brisbane Parade is run by the ANZAC Day Parade Brisbane (ADPB) Committee with support from citizen volunteers, the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee and, since 1928, RSL SE District has provided the Secretariat for the ADPB.

RSL Qld will continue to support the very popular “Light up the Dawn” personal driveway commemorations at 0600 on ANZAC Day.

Re-launch of DFWA-SA

Lee Bowes, President of DFWA-SA, announced the re-launch of the Branch on February 25, 2021 at their Annual General Meeting.

For two (2) years, the DFWA-SA team has worked to formulate a way forward for the Branch to be more relevant to younger members. Their new motto is NOW, NEXT, AND BEYOND. A brief overview of the changes includes:

  • We are changing our culture by introducing younger men and women into leadership roles.
  • Being more relevant to Women, Partners and Families
  • Inviting minorities like Indigenous and Diverse groups to be part of us
  • Developing relationships with leaders in the Business Community to assist and advise us and the veteran community. A particular thanks to PKF and Adelaide Workers Homes.
  • Created a Women’s, Partners and Family group to understand their specific needs and advocate for change. This is headed by Sila Halligan, a veteran, wife, mother and DFWA Team member.
  • Developed a strong working relations ship with Flinders University and the “Open Door” Centre for Veterans Transition and Research. This is led by A Professor Ben Wadham, a Sociologist, Criminologist, and a veteran. Ben is also a DFWA Team member.
  • Transition for both ADF and veterans is a major issue. We are fortunate to have a working relationship with Jamie Getgood the former HR Manager and creator of the successful GMH Holden Transition program.Together we are developing a model to maximise skills and experience of transitioning veterans into the civilian community.

Vale – Michael Bryce

DFWAQ was saddened to hear of the passing of Michael, a former Patron-in Chief of DFWA. In retirement with his wife Dame Quintin, Michael continued his interest in veteran and DFWAQ activities and attended all our briefing sessions. An Obituary is in the Camaraderie March 2021 edition.