Other Issues

23 November 2018 - ADVOCACY FORUM.  The DFWA recently conducted an Open Forum in Melbourne. The theme was, “Effective Advocacy and the Australian Defence Community”. Attendees were a cross-section of leaders of veteran’s organisations, individual veterans, and others interested in the future of veteran advocacy. It was well attended and well received.  It was agreed that the veteran organisations (ESOs) are now operating in a changing environment. To be effective and to represent the evolving mix of veterans and their presented issues demands a singular focus on relevance rather than relying on the comfort of history and past practices. If they are to remain organisations of consequence ESOs must be prepared to adapt and focus on the future. This is a challenge many are fearful of contemplating.

See the Forum’s presentations at: https://sites.google.com/dfwaq.org/open-forum-ringwood-nov-18

DHOAS and the FRINGE BENEFITS TAX – A WARNING ! (30 March 2017).   The DFWA recently received advice from a member that DHOAS customers need to be aware of, relating to the Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) changes in relation to Centrelink payments that almost cost the member $22000. Any member that may be affected should of course seek advice from Centrelink and/or your accountant.  His note follows ….

Before I start I want to make it clear that my situation has been fixed and my DHOAS lump sum returned and DHOAS cancelled completely fixing my FBT problem.

Last year in October I read all the information relating to DHOAS and contacted Centrelink in regards to receiving the lump sum and how this would impact my families income from them. I did the calculations for this at 51% to add to my pay. I earn approximately 75K so DHOAS lump sum of $10320 I needed to add 51% to my income that they estimate which would of made it approximately 81k with the DHOAS that I would of been paid for this financial year. This is extremely important in my situation as I have a none verbal intellectually disabled child the reason for part of our Centrelink benefit.

In January the Government changed the FBT amount for Centrelink to approximately 205% or close enough to double. This information took 3 days to work out between the various government departments but finally being confirmed by Defence Tax this then made my income look like 97K meaning I would then be required to pay back almost all of my Centrelink payments for the year $22000 but I would only be holding $11000 that would of been paid to myself form DHOAS for the year. I fear many other families have not seen this trap that happened in January.

This new fringe benefit tax stops families buying houses as they are penalized x 2 for using it or anything else that isn't FBT exempt i.e. Defence health this is another thing that has been taken away from members with families because of this recent change. Unfortunately DHOAS has become completely useless when you have children.

How many families have taken the DHOAS lump sum this financial year and haven't realised the rules have changed and will be getting a large bill from Centrelink come tax time ?

The fix for this issue is to make us fringe benefit tax Exempt. The ADF or at the very least DVA could become a public benevolent institution which according to the Australian Taxation Office is “A public benevolent institution (PBI) is a charity whose main purpose is to relieve poverty, sickness, suffering or disability”.

I recognise that we do not work for a charity however neither are public hospitals and ambulance services and I believe we should also fit into this grey area like public health workers as our titles state Australian Defence Force and Department of Veterans Affairs both provide services to reduce poverty and suffering to all people in need when required.  Please use this information as you see fit and I hope this can also be taken to our future pay battle as families are now worse off with the new rules that I don't think anyone will realise till tax time.  END

PROTECTING VETERANS PRIVACY.  The Media Statement issued on 7 March 2017 by DFWA relates to the tabling in the House of Representatives last Thursday 2 March 2017 of the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Digital Readiness and Other Measures) Bill 2016.  The Bill will allow reforms to go ahead to make the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) much more veteran-centric than has been the case in the past.  Such reforms will significantly improve services to veterans and their families by automating and streamlining its business processes and updating its information and communications resources. 

Varying concern have been expressed about the Bill with the most dominant one being doubts that it adequately protects veterans’ personal records from being released publicly by the Secretary of DVA. The Bill as a whole should at the very least be subjected to an independent Privacy Impact Assessment before it passes the Senate.

MORE ON THE DVA DIGITAL READINESS BILL - (2)The Digital Readiness Bill - with amendments that ensured the privacy of veterans' personal information - was passed last night (27 March) in the Senate.  With thanks again to the good efforts of Peter Thornton, the video highlights of the Senate debate can be found at here

MORE ON THE DVA DIGITAL READINESS BILL - (1)Thanks to the good efforts of DFWA member Peter Thornton, find below a link to the relevant sections of the Senate proceedings from Monday 20 March, of which nearly 2 hours were dedicated to the first reading and statements made by various Senators regarding the Bill. There were some good speeches delivered with a mix of logic and passion, which gives hope that our democracy may not yet be beyond redemption and that Parliamentary oversight of ADF and Veteran Affairs might once again be at the forefront of policy considerations and determinations !  https://youtu.be/LjCLbYCarHk

DEFENCE ANNUAL REPORT 2016.  DFWA has provided the Senate with a submission into its Inquiry. 

2016 CENSUS.  The National President of the DFWA approached the Federal Government citing some privacy and security concerns relating to the ADF members and the 2016 Census. In writing to Minister Tehan, the National President said  "Further to our conversation last night, I wish to flag a real concern for the wellbeing of our ADF personnel and their families.We understand in previous census’s it was not compulsory for people to include personal details such as names and addresses.  We have just found out that for the first time in this year’s census that provision of these detail is compulsory and the ABS will hold records of Australian’s names and addresses for four years rather than the 18 months under the previous arrangements. It is understood before this census names and addresses were only collected to ensure everyone completed the census and then were destroyed. The general public were led to believe that these details would not be used for any other purpose and were not passed on to other agencies but were deleted. Now it would seem they will be stored and we understand made into unique identifiers. Again we understand there have been at least 14 privacy breaches by the ABS since 2013 and this state of affairs renders assurances of data protection by that agency somewhat hollow.  In this age of increasing threats of domestic terrorist activities, our specific concern is for the safety and security of ADF members and their families especially in respect of those with protected identity status. We believe immediate action to protect these individuals from disclosing their personal details must be taken and I ask for your assurance that the Government will act to prevent the ABS from collecting these details at least from this restricted range of personnel in the current census "  END.

Read the response we received from Government here.

OTHER ADF WORKPLACE AND EX-SERVICE ISSUES are not detailed on the website, however many are dealt with in the ESO Issues Paper 23 March 2011, including the following:

  • Integrated People Support System.

  • Pharmaceuticals Co-Payments

  • Independence of the Veteran and Veteran's Families Counseling Service

  • Mental Health Disorders and Rehabilitation

  • Residential Care-Younger Veterans

  • Recognition by DVA of the Role of Partners Who are Carers of Disabled Veterans

  • Veteran Entitlement for the Defence Service Home Loan (DSHL)

  • Requirement to Access Multiple Government Agencies for Support

  • Reform of Appeal System against RMA Decisions

  • National Consistency of Education Curricula.

  • Citizenship for Families Laterally Recruited from Overseas

  • Extension of War Widow Status

For details on these matters see the ESO Issues Paper