1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/02/2004
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The Repatriation Commission determines services provided to veterans, via the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) (Cwlth). The Commission currently provides services to more than half a million veterans and members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), their partners, veteran widows, widowers and children. The Commission has no staff of its own. The Australian Government Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) provides the administrative machinery through which the Commission operates. The Commission, comprising three full-time members, has the following functions:
The VEA also gives the Commission the power to take necessary actions in connection with the performance of its functions, duties and powers. The responsible minister under the VEA is the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. The minister does not have any powers to direct the Commission beyond the power to approve various actions of the Commission.
Repatriation benefits are provided under the VEA for eligible service that includes:
Under the Papua New Guinea (Members of the Forces Benefits) Act 1957 (Cwlth), Indigenous inhabitants of Papua New Guinea who served in the Australian forces during World War II, and members of the Royal Papuan Constabulary and New Guinea Police Force who also served in that conflict, are eligible for compensation-type benefits.
Members of other Commonwealth countries' forces and allied veterans are generally not eligible for compensation-type benefits from DVA in respect of their service, unless they were domiciled in Australia immediately before their enlistment. However, they may qualify for a DVA income support payment (see the section Income support).
Qualifications for receiving subsidised housing loans, granted under the Defence Service Homes Act, generally depend on service with the ADF in World War I or World War II, or specified service in Korea, Malaya, South-East Asia, Namibia, the Middle East for the Kuwaiti crisis, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, or East Timor, and for service in the Regular Defence forces on or after 7 December 1972, provided the person's first service in the forces was before 15 May 1985. Certain civilians may also be eligible.
More detailed information on repatriation allowances, benefits and services is available from DVA.
The principal objective of the compensation program is to ensure that eligible veterans, their war widows and widowers, and their dependants, have access to appropriate compensation and income support in recognition of the effects of war or defence service.
The main disability benefits provided include a range of disability pensions and the War/Defence Widow(er)s' Pension. Table 7.23 shows the number of pensions at 30 June 2003 and each of the four preceding years.
The Disability Pension compensates persons for incapacity resulting from eligible war, defence or peacekeeping service. General Rate Disability Pensions range from 10% up to and including 100%, depending on the degree of war-caused or service-related incapacity. Higher rates of pension - extreme disablement adjustment, intermediate and special rates - are available. The Intermediate Rate Pension and Special Rate Pension include components designed to recompense the veteran for loss of earnings. A veteran who is blind or who has certain amputations because of war-caused or service-related conditions is granted the Special Rate of pension without any reference to employment.
Compensation is also available to compensate dependants for the death of a spouse or parent as a result of eligible service. The compensation is available as War/Defence Widow(er)s' Pensions, Dependants' Pensions and Orphans' Pensions.
Various ancillary benefits may also be provided, including attendant allowance (paid to carers), clothing allowance, decoration allowance, loss of earnings allowance, recreation transport allowance, vehicle assistance scheme, goods and services tax (GST) exemption on cars and car parts, bereavement payment and funeral benefit.
Dependent children of ADF members who have been killed or severely injured were given access to educational guidance and counselling from the Veterans' Children Education Boards from 1 January 2001. Long Tan bursaries are available for the children of Vietnam veterans. From 1 January 2001 the children of Vietnam veterans are eligible for Veterans' Children Education Scheme (VCES) benefits where the child is diagnosed as having a depressive disorder or if the opinion of an appropriately qualified professional is that the child is vulnerable.
Table 7.24 shows the number of disability pensioners at 30 June 2003 by conflict type. In this table, a person is allocated to the conflict relating to the first disability claim they lodged, regardless of later claims by the person relating to either earlier or later conflicts in which they served.
Table 7.25 shows the number of disability pensions at 30 June 2003 and for the nine preceding years.
The VCES provides financial help, guidance and counselling to certain students up to 25 years of age (tables 7.26 and 7.27). To be eligible a student must be the child of a veteran, an Australian mariner, or a member of the Forces, who is (or has been) in receipt of a Special Rate or Extreme Disablement Adjustment Disability Pension. Children of former prisoners of war, of veterans, or of Australian mariners whose death has been accepted as war-caused, are also eligible. Benefits include education allowances and other forms of assistance appropriate to the particular type and stage of education.
There are three main forms of income support pension paid by DVA:
All income support pensions are subject to income and assets tests except those granted to people who are blind in both eyes.
The Age Service Pension is payable to veterans with qualifying service at 60 years of age. Veterans with qualifying service may be paid the Invalidity Service Pension at any age if they are permanently incapacitated for work. Prior to 1 July 1995, the service pension was paid to female veterans with qualifying service at age 55. The Government introduced changes to the minimum age at which a female veteran can be granted an age service pension. Under the changes the minimum age is to be progressively lifted from 55 to 60 years in six-monthly increments every two years over the period 1995-2013. This means that the qualifying age for female veterans for age service pension at 1 July 2003 is 57 years and six months.
For service during World War I and World War II, qualifying service generally means service in an area and at a time when the veteran incurred danger from hostile enemy forces. Qualifying service for post World War II deployments generally covers service in an operational area while allotted for duty in that area. Members of certain peacekeeping forces whose service is considered to be war-like also have qualifying service.
Veterans of other Commonwealth and Allied countries may also qualify for a service pension if they served in wars or war-like conflicts in which Australia was involved. Veterans of Commonwealth forces must have served outside the country of enlistment or be entitled to the award of a campaign medal for service within that country. Allied veterans must have served in formally raised forces. The veteran must be an Australian resident with at least 10 years residency. A Partner Service Pension may be provided on the basis that the person is the partner or widow(er) of a veteran with qualifying service.
ISS is paid to war/defence widow(er)s of service pension age (60 for men, currently 57 for women). It may be paid to a widow(er) under Service Pension age if he or she has a dependent child, is caring for a severely handicapped person or is permanently incapacitated for work. The ISS is subject to income and asset testing and the War/Defence Widow(er)s' Pension is counted as income when assessing income support supplement.
The maximum ISS was a frozen amount for many years. However, from 20 September 2002 it was unfrozen and is indexed twice a year by the same percentage as Service Pension.
All recipients of income support payments are eligible for supplementary benefits, provided by the Australian Government, including some medical and hospital treatment, pharmaceutical benefits and the payment of a telephone allowance. They are also entitled to a range of concessions provided by state/territory and local governments. A number of additional supplementary benefits are also available, including Rent Assistance, Remote Area Allowance and Bereavement Payment.
Table 7.28 shows the total number of service pensions as at 30 June 2003, and table 7.29 shows the number of pensions and annual expenditure for the years 1993-94 to 2002-03.
Defence Service Homes (DSH) Scheme
The DSH Scheme provides financial benefits to recognise the contribution of certain men and women who have served Australia in either peacetime or wartime. The benefits include housing loan interest subsidies, comprehensive homeowners insurance cover at competitive rates, and home contents insurance (table 7.30).
The Scheme was established in 1918 as the War Service Homes Scheme. In 1972 its name was changed to the DSH Scheme to recognise the extension of eligibility to those with qualifying peacetime service.
The Australian Government sold the DSH mortgage portfolio to Westpac Banking Corporation, which became the Scheme's lender on 19 December 1988. Under the Agreement between the Australian Government and Westpac, the Australian Government subsidises Westpac for the low-interest loans provided. The subsidy is paid directly to Westpac and represents the difference between the concessional interest rate paid by the borrower and the agreed benchmark interest rate.
Since 1918, the Defence Service Homes Act has made provision for DSH insurance. Building insurance is available to all persons eligible under the Defence Service Homes Act or the VEA. This benefit is also available to those who obtain assistance under the Defence Home Owner Scheme. DSH contents insurance, a comprehensive insurance package underwritten by QBE Mercantile Mutual Ltd, is available to veterans and the service community.
The maximum loan available under the DSH Scheme is $25,000 repayable over 25 years. The maximum interest rate is capped at 6.85% for the term of the loan and veterans are guaranteed an interest rate of 1.5% below market rates.
Military Compensation and Rehabilitation Service (MCRS)
The objective of MCRS is to ensure that current and former members of the ADF, who suffer an injury or disease which is causally related to employment in the ADF, are provided with compensation and rehabilitation benefits and services. The MCRS is responsible for providing benefits through the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cwlth). Table 7.31 summarises activities under the MCRS for 2001-02.
The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act provides compensation cover for injury or disease sustained during peacetime service since 4 January 1949 and operational service since 7 April 1994. Once liability has been accepted for an injury, a range of benefits may or may not apply in an individual case:
Health care treatment is provided to people whose disabilities have been accepted by DVA as service-related, and for pulmonary tuberculosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and malignant neoplasia whether they are service-related or not. Vietnam veterans with anxiety and depression and Gulf War veterans with undiagnosable conditions are also eligible for health care treatment whether the conditions are service-related or not.
In addition, and subject to certain conditions, health care treatment in Australia is provided to certain veterans of Australia's defence forces for all health conditions. Eligible veterans include:
War widow(er)s and certain other dependants of deceased veterans are also entitled to treatment for all conditions.
Younger veterans from post-World War II conflicts have needs additional to those of their older counterparts. These needs are addressed by a range of services which include integrated out-patient, in-patient and support services for the treatment and rehabilitation of veterans with war-related mental health conditions. Intensive in-patient treatment programs are available in each state. Community-based psychological services are provided by the Vietnam Veterans' Counselling Service and individual providers.
From July 2000 additional assistance is available for the Vietnam veteran community through a series of initiatives to support veterans and their families in response to the validated findings of the Vietnam Veterans' Health Study. These include mental health support for veterans, their partners and children, assistance with treatment costs for Vietnam veterans' children with spina bifida, cleft lip/palate, adrenal gland cancer and acute myeloid leukaemia, and preventive health programs for veterans. Children of Vietnam veterans also have increased access to the Veterans’ Children Education Scheme and additional educational support through the Long Tan Bursary Scheme. The role of the Australian Centre for Post-traumatic Mental Health has been expanded to address mental health problems affecting the wider veteran community, and funding is being increased for research into veterans' health issues that may be the result of operational service.
Vocational rehabilitation services are available to support those who are leaving the ADF, those at risk of losing employment, and those who wish to return to the workplace. Rehabilitation Allowance may be available to people whose pension entitlement is affected - the intention is that no financial loss should be incurred by individuals taking up paid employment. Safety net arrangements enable a return to former pension status in the event that employment cannot be sustained (this applies to pensioners receiving above general rate levels of Disability Pension or Service Pension through invalidity).
With the transfer of the Repatriation General Hospitals to the states, or their sale to the private sector, hospital care is provided through the Repatriation Private Patient Scheme. The Scheme provides acute hospital care for veterans or war widow(er)s in local facilities. Under the Scheme, a veteran or war widow(er) may be admitted directly to a local public hospital, former repatriation hospital or a contracted private Tier 1 veteran partnering hospital, as a private patient, in a shared ward, with the doctor of his or her choice with no prior financial authorisation necessary. Treating doctors must still contact the Department for prior financial authorisation for admissions to registered psychiatric beds, respite care, cosmetic surgery, other specific treatments nominated in writing from time to time and treatment which does not attract a Medicare Benefits Schedule item number. In addition, because White Cardholders are only eligible for treatment of specific conditions for which the Department has accepted responsibility, approval should still be sought where eligibility is uncertain.
In short, the Repatriation Private Patient Scheme has an order of preference for hospital admissions according to three tiers:
Tier 1 - all public hospitals, all former repatriation hospitals and selected veteran partnering private hospitals in all states.
Tier 2 - contracted private hospitals.
Tier 3 - non-contracted private hospitals.
Financial responsibility for hospital and medical treatment in a public hospital, a former repatriation hospital or a veteran partnering private hospital is accepted by the department with no cost to the patient. Should a veteran require hospital care, the treating doctor would be able to arrange treatment at an appropriate local facility.
On a state-by-state basis the Repatriation Commission sought tenders from private hospitals to be selected as veteran partnering hospitals, which allows the same access as public hospitals and former repatriation hospitals (where no prior financial authorisation is required for admission, once eligibility is established). These hospitals have been selected by the department because they are conveniently located for most veterans, offer a full range of services at competitive rates, and perform consistently to industry-approved standards.
Under arrangements with state governments, entitled persons requiring custodial psychiatric care for a service-related disability are treated at departmental expense in state psychiatric hospitals.
Entitled persons may also be provided with dental treatment through the Local Dental Officer Scheme, which comprised approximately 6,920 local dental officers at 1 June 2003.
Optometrical services, including the provision of spectacles, the services of allied health professionals, and a comprehensive range of aids, appliances and dressings, may be provided to entitled persons.
In addition, entitled persons may be provided with pharmaceuticals through the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Through the Repatriation Transport Scheme entitled persons are eligible to receive transport assistance when travelling to receive approved medical treatment.
DVA also assists the veteran community through the Veteran and Community Grants Scheme, which aims to maintain and improve the independence and quality of life of members of the veteran and ex-service community through activities and/or services that sustain and/or enhance wellbeing. The grants focus on the delivery of funding through in-home and community streams. Veteran and Community Grants provide funding for projects that address the needs of members of the veteran and ex-service communities through a range of support initiatives. These may be through:
Veteran and Community Grants are intended to provide assistance to encourage the development of projects that will become financially viable and self-sufficient. Grant funds are not provided for recurrent or ongoing financial assistance. There are three funding rounds each financial year: in July, October and March.
Following a major review of the delivery of its health services in 1999, the DVA has placed considerable emphasis on health promotion activities. Its five-year strategic plan targets seven key health priorities. As part of its health promotion activities, DVA also produces a range of health promotion resource materials for the veteran community.
The Veterans’ Home Care program provides a range of home support services including personal care, domestic assistance, home and garden maintenance and respite care. Other services, such as delivered meals, are provided under arrangements with state and territory governments. Veterans' Home Care services are available to eligible veterans and war widow(er)s' who are assessed as needing care to remain in their homes.
Veterans' Home Care has a strong preventive focus, and particularly targets veterans and war widow(er)s with low-level care needs. The program delivers savings due to better health outcomes for veterans, reducing avoidable illness, injury and associated health costs. Better health means that veterans spend less time in hospital and need fewer medications and other high cost services. More importantly, they are able to lead fuller, more active lives.
Vietnam Veterans' Counselling Service (VVCS)
The VVCS provides counselling to veterans of all conflicts and their families, as well as working with the ex-service community to promote understanding and acceptance of veterans' problems.
The VVCS is staffed by psychologists and social workers who have specialised knowledge about military service, particularly in Vietnam, and its impact on veterans and their families.
Access to counselling services for rural veterans and their families was greatly improved with the establishment of the Country Outreach Program in 1988, followed soon after by a toll-free 1800 telephone link to all VVCS centres. Recent service enhancement initiatives include the creation of group programs aimed at promoting better health for veterans. Table 7.32 shows use of the VVCS.