Media Release: David Feeney MP, Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence and Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Tuesday 8 September 2015
Labor has raised concerns regarding the consequences of the changes in Schedule 2 of the Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (2015 Budget Measures) Bill 2015 which was debated in the Senate.
Labor asked that this Bill, specifically Schedule 2, be closely assessed by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. Only when threatened with defeat did the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Ronaldson, finally come around to the common sense solution of conducting a Senate Inquiry.
In 2011 the former Labor Government concluded the Campbell Review of Military Compensation Arrangements. The Review made 108 recommendations of which 96 were accepted, including some of the changes proposed in Schedule 2 of the Bill.
While Schedule 2 of the Bill would implement Recommendation 17.1 of the Review for a single appeal path; the proposed amendments ignore Recommendation 17.2 for internal reconsideration by the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC) to be the first step in this review process. Instead, the proposed amendments will remove internal reconsideration by the MRCC from the appeals process altogether.
Schedule 2 would create a single review pathway for original determinations made under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (the MRCA), removing the option for internal reconsideration by the MRCC, and allowing only for review by the Veterans’ Review Board (VRB).
While we remain committed to the single appeal process, it is fundamental to Labor that the compensation system for injured veterans’, including its appeal system, is balanced and fair. The system must also operate without unnecessary delays, because delays exacerbate hardship and suffering.
The appeal rights of injured veterans’ who are refused a claim for compensation by DVA are significantly changed by Schedule 2 of this Bill. There have been genuine questions raised about whether the changes are balanced or fair and Labor is concerned that the consequences of the changes in Schedule 2 have not been properly examined.
The veteran community and the Parliament are entitled to know whether these changes will make the situation better or worse for injured veterans’, and for this reason any changes should be properly examined by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade before we proceed with any changes.
It is appropriate that the Committee review the measures in Schedule 2 to ensure that this legislation will provide the best outcome for our veterans. Labor will consider the recommendations of the Committee when it reports on 25 September 2015.