Opinion: Modernising veterans’ legislation: A path to fair support

27 May 2023

Opinion: Australia’s veterans deserve a support system that matches their sacrifices and reflects the evolving nature of their service. However, the current veterans’ legislation is stuck in the past, complex, and adversarial. It’s time for a change. In this piece, Carl Schiller, national president of the Air Force Association, sheds light on the urgent need for veterans’ legislation reform and applauds the government’s proposed pathway.

Australia’s veteran support system, while better than many others, is outdated, complex, and adversarial. The Air Force Association welcomes the government’s proposed Veterans’ Legislation Reform, aimed at simplifying and harmonising the support system. It’s time to address the fundamental problems and provide equitable support to our veterans.

Outdated legislation and evolving challenges

The current legislation fails to address the diverse operations our defence forces engage in, including peacekeeping and disaster relief. This has created confusion and division within the veteran community. All injuries sustained during service should be treated equally, regardless of the operation. The Air Force Association fully supports the view that a life lost in peacetime is no less significant than a life lost in battle.

Complexity and adversarial processes

The complexity of the current system poses significant challenges for veterans and their families seeking support. Claims often extend over multiple acts, increasing confusion and frustration. Additionally, the adversarial process of seeking claims approval is detrimental to veterans’ well-being. We must simplify and streamline the system to ensure a smoother and more supportive experience for our veterans.

Government’s proposed reform pathway

The government’s proposed reform pathway, centred around harmonising the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) with other legislation, shows promise. MRCA is the most practical choice, given its simplicity and familiarity among advocates and claims processing staff. Implementing this reform is expected to be a short-term process, delivering quicker resolutions for our veterans.

Protecting entitlements and improving support

Under the proposed reforms, existing entitlements will be protected, ensuring no reduction in benefits for veterans. However, there is a need for clarity regarding potential changes and improvements to the MRCA. Transparency and communication are crucial to ensure veterans understand the reform’s impact and benefits.

Supporting the proposed reform pathway

The Air Force Association fully supports the government’s proposed reform pathway. While it falls short of the ideal replacement act, it offers tangible benefits such as streamlined processes and reduced training requirements. We urge the government to expedite the implementation and address any potential gaps in entitlements, ensuring fair and comprehensive support for all veterans.

Reforming veterans’ legislation is essential to provide fair support to those who have served our nation. The proposed reform pathway presents a promising opportunity to simplify the system and ensure equitable treatment of all veterans. By implementing these changes, we can create a more supportive and compassionate environment for our veterans, truly honouring their service and sacrifices.

Carl Schiller is the national president of the Air Force Association.

Source: Defence Connect