Dear Members, Veterans and Friends,
DFWA holds true to its brief of being an independent voice for all Australian veterans, and their families. Most of the issues we advocate for are not headline-grabbers, but they are, none-the-less, important to many in the community.
I’d like to thank all those readers who gave us feedback about access to hearing services. There are a range of views and experiences, and we are using those to help develop our position. We need to have a good understanding of exactly what the problem is, and what the veteran community’s legitimate expectation for improvement and outcomes are.
As always, if you have any comments, suggestions or wish to share your experiences accessing veteran services, please let us know through our feedback form.
Senate Inquiry into Accuracy of Information Provided to DFRDB Members
Readers will recall 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 was conducted by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee.
DFWA made written and oral submissions to the inquiry, within the terms of reference. Our submissions focused on the use of 1960-62 life tables for calculating the reduction in pension due to commutation. Life expectancy has risen by over ten years since 1973. We object strongly to the use of out-of-date life tables in super pension calculations.
The Committee tabled its report in early July 2021.
The Committee made two recommendations. The full recommendations are in the report, but to summarise them:
- Improving members’ understanding of super schemes, through education for ADF recruits and officer cadets, dedicated website, and providing better information to members about their contributions and pensions payable.
- Assisting members to make claims under the Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration (CDDA) Scheme, including paying preparation and legal costs where a claim or appeal is successful, and not seeking costs for unsuccessful appeals pursued via the AAT or Federal Court.
These recommendations are, to say the least, underwhelming. To put it another way, they are the recommendations you make, when you don’t want to make a recommendation.
It was unlikely the committee would make a finding or recommendation contrary to those made by the Ombudsman. However, the terms of reference were broader than just the issue of misinformation about the nature of commutation. We believe that the Committee has missed an opportunity to highlight the ongoing injustices of both outdated life tables in DFRDB pension calculations and of not applying fair indexation to those DFRDB and Military Super pensions still not fairly indexed. We will continue to pursue these issues.
Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide
On 8th July 2021, the Governor-General issued letters patent which formally established the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. Three Commissioners were appointed:
- Mr Nick Kaldas APM (Chair)
- The Hon. James Douglas QC
- Dr Peggy Brown AO
All three are well respected, eminent, and independent Commissioners, who will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience across the domains of investigations, the judiciary, and mental health. You can read their biographies here.
The Commission is to produce an interim report by 11 August 2022 and a final report by 15 June 2023.
DFWA will be making submissions to the Commission, and we encourage individuals to do the same. We will keep you updated.
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.
Capability of the Australian Public Service – Senate Hearings
On 20 July 2021, I appeared before the Finance and Public Administration References Committee inquiry into the current capability of the Australian Public Service, on behalf of DFWA.
My appearance originated from a Commonwealth Public Service Union submission regarding the seemingly unsatisfactory outcomes from an over reliance on DVA employing contract staff.
DFWA views the staffing issue as central to addressing the increasing workload faced by DVA because of the changed notion of a veteran, the general issuance of the White Card across the same veteran community, and the consequent dramatic increase in the number of injury compensation and related claims for support.
It is a wicked problem.
While DFWA supports the contention by the CPSU regarding staffing levels and the employment of casual staff, we are concerned with the quality of training the APS staff and their empathy with veterans whose service spans over 80 years of service in the ADF.
DFWA is of the view that the training and qualifications of DVA APS staff must be compatible with that now being demanded of Advocates in the veterans’ organisations. It is our view that claims processing will only be improved with a well trained and stable APS workforce. This demands less reliance on short term contract staff that require constant supervision.
Afghanistan Inquiry Reform Plan
The Chief of Defence Force and Secretary of the Department of Defence have jointly released the Afghanistan Inquiry Reform Plan. The purpose of the reform (as extracted from the plan):
The purpose of the Afghanistan Inquiry Reform Plan (the Reform Plan) is: to set out the Defence strategy for responding to the Afghanistan Inquiry and to establish the Afghanistan Inquiry Reform Program (the Reform Program) to coordinate and drive our efforts; to address the profound command, leadership and behavioural failures detailed in the Afghanistan Inquiry; and to implement, across the breadth of our institution, the leadership, training, education and other reforms necessary to ensure that Australian military personnel always act in accordance with the law, Defence values, and the expectations of our profession and of the Australian people.
New Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel
On 2 July 2021, the Hon. Andrew Gee MP was sworn in as the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and the Minister for Defence Personnel.
Minister Gee has held previous roles as the Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister from 25 January 2019 to 6 February 2020, and Minister for Decentralisation and Education and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment from 6 February 2020 to 2 July 2021.
Minister Gee is the Member for Calare in New South Wales and was first elected to Federal Parliament in 2016 and re-elected in 2019. Prior to entering federal Parliament, Mr Gee was a Member of the NSW Parliament.
DFWA welcomes Minister Gee to the Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel portfolios, and we look forward to his enthusiastic engagement with the ex-service community.
We would also like to thank the Hon. Darren Chester MP for his service as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel.
The latest Camaraderie is available online, now. Be sure to check it out. If you would like to contribute an article or if you’re a business who would like to advertise in a magazine with national coverage into the veteran community, please get in touch!
Once again, thank you all for your continued support.
Kel Ryan, President DFWA