The veteran space has certainly been active over the past few months. Here is a run down of the important issues.
Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide
Since the last time I wrote to you, there has been a significant change in the Government’s approach to the issue of veteran suicide. On 19 April 2021, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.
The Royal Commission is expected to examine the systemic issues and any common themes and past deaths by suicide of Australian Defence Force members and veterans and the experience of members and veterans who may continue to be at risk of suicide.
This includes all aspects of service in the Australian Defence Force and the experience of those transitioning; the availability and quality of health and support services; pre-service and post-service issues for members and veterans; members’ and veterans’ social and family contexts, such as family breakdown, as well as housing and employment issues for members and veterans.
DFWA welcomes this announcement. As a key veteran organisation, we will work with and assist the Royal Commission where we are able to, so that just, positive, and enduring outcomes are achieved through the process.
DFWA made a submission to the terms of reference public consultation process, which you can read, here.
We will be providing regular updates as the Royal Commission is established and proceeds.
Productivity Commission Report Recommendations
In the past, we had expressed a concern that a Royal Commission may delay the implementation of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations. Unfortunately, this concern has materialised.
Of the 69 recommendations in the report:
- 2 were rejected.
- 12 have been implemented.
- 21 are progressing.
- 34 are pending further consideration.
DVA highlights that the 34 recommendations pending further consideration primarily related to structural and legislative reform. These outstanding matters will now be finalised at the completion of the Royal Commission.
While we understand that general rationale, many of those recommendations—if implemented—would improve the lives of many veterans and their families. We will continue to press government to implement those recommendations which are unlikely to be substantially modified by the Royal Commission.
DVA and Defence will continue to progress the 21 administrative recommendations. We will continue to monitor and keep you informed. View our recommendation tracker, here.
Senate Inquiry Into Accuracy of Information Provided to DFRDB Members
Recently, the Senate established an Inquiry into the accuracy of information provided to DFRDB members. The inquiry was initiated by the ALP and independents in the Senate, and is being conducted by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, which is due to report by 24 June 2021.
DFWA—after detailed consideration—focused its submission on what we believe to be achievable in the present political and bureaucratic environment: that the majority of DFRDB pensioners will live well beyond the life expectancy legislated for in 1973. The act reflects the 1960-62 Bureau of Statistics life tables. In the intervening years, life expectancy has risen by over ten years!
The reduction in their super pension because they commuted, was based on the lower life expectancies of 1962. In simple terms, this results in a bigger reduction in pension than if the longer life expectancies of more recent years were used, and this effect of this continues as life expectancies increase.
The reduction in pension was supposed to be based on the life expectancy of the member at date of discharge. We object strongly to the use of out-of-date life tables in super pension calculations. This is at the centre of the DFWA case.
You can read our written submission, here.
Many of you will have read Bert Hoebee’s excellent article about the dissatisfaction of veterans dealing with compensable hearing loss, published in the November 2020 edition of Camaraderie. If you haven’t, you can read it, here.
Since the article was published, we have received feedback from members and other veterans that improving access to hearing services is an issue worthy of advancing. Hearing loss is a significant occupational hazard for ADF members, and given the nature of service, that is unlikely to change.
We are seeking your feedback about your experience accessing hearing services, and your thoughts on the direction we should take. Let us know via our feedback form, here.
Be sure to check out the follow up article, in the next issue of Camaraderie.
DFWA advocates to government on a range of issues that affect all cohorts of veterans. We do this on a on a very tight budget. While we do get some small grants for pensions and welfare support, this is mainly at the branch level. Our main sources of income are through annual membership fees and donations.
Please consider donating to DFWA, so we can continue to advocate on behalf of veterans. All donations greater than $2 are tax deductible.
You can donate by credit/debit card on our website, here.
Your help is appreciated!
DFRDB and Military Super Invalidity Benefits
During the May 2021 National Executive meeting, the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC) ADF liaison officer briefed us on how they are implementing the taxation changes, following the Federal Court decision in Commissioner of Taxation v Douglas. You can read about the brief to the National Executive, and the questions we asked, here.
The Douglas decision relates to how invalidity benefits are treated for tax purposes and it affects around 16,000 veterans. You can read more about it, here.
Medicare Benefits Schedule Changes
I recently wrote to the Secretary of DVA about the upcoming changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule, due to come into effect on 1 July 2021.
Many will know that DVA Gold and White card funding arrangements mirror the funding under Medicare. Members have expressed their concern that the changes may have a negative impact on DVA funded medical treatment.
DVA have issued some advice on this matter, which you can access here. DVA are advising there will be no reduction in treatment funding, although they do note that the changes will flow through.
If your medical treatment is negatively impacted by the changes, please get in touch and let us know through our feedback form, here.
Kel Ryan, President DFWA