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.
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.