Dear members and friends,
Since the last newsletter, Australia has elected a new Government. Although many were dismayed that Defence personnel and veterans’ issues had very little focus during the election campaign, we should not take the positive view that change will often bring new opportunities.
Our general approach to advocacy remains to work constructively with the Government, the Opposition, and the cross bench, to advance the welfare and interests of the Defence and Veteran community.
I am meeting with the new Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel, The Hon. Matt Keogh MP, in early August. The meeting is an opportunity to outline the DFWA positions on several key policy areas.
I would like to say a big thank all of those who generously donated during our recent donation drive. We have a tight budget, and every penny helps! It really is appreciated.
Finally, a plug for DFWA. We are an independent voice for veterans of the ADF and their families. We are focussed on the development of considered policy, adept at commenting on the myriad of proposals, papers and statements that come from government and the bureaucracy that impact on the veteran family. It is a constant task but a rewarding one. A challenge that those with the ability to think, analyse and write will find rewarding.
If you are in interested in assisting in this work on a volunteer basis, then please get in touch.
Non-liability health care for Reservists
Non-liability health care enables eligible veterans to access treatment at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ expense for specified conditions, without needing to establish a link to service. In a nutshell, it provides a White Card for certain conditions without the paperwork.
Under existing arrangements current and former full-time members of the ADF including Reservists who have at least one day of continuous full-time service (CFT) have access to free mental health treatment.
Many Reservists with periods of service in the ADF, sometimes more than 40 years, but have not been required or given an opportunity to undertake a period of continuous full-time service. Consequently, they are excluded from applying for non-liability health care.
Access to DVA funded mental health care under the provision of NLHC would be a significant measure toward ensuring the mental health and well-being of all Defence Reservists.
DFWA, together with the Defence Reserves Association and the Returned & Services League of Australia wrote a joint letter to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel, Matt Keogh, seeking his support for the extension of non-liability health care to all those serving in the reserve forces.
The Federal Election resulted a change of Government and a major shift away from the major parties towards minor parties and independents.
Most would agree that policies and promises affecting the Defence personnel and veteran communities were scarce during the election campaign. That said, Labor did go to the election with a number of policies in some important areas such as boosting ADF homeownership, increasing TPI pensions, and tackling veteran homelessness. You can read what their policies were here.
DFWA will continue to work with Government, the Opposition, and the minor parties to progress our policy objectives and improve the lives of currently serving members, veterans, and their families.
Indexation of Defence Force superannuation scheme pensions occurred from the first pension day after the 1st of July, in line with the Consumer Price Index.
The CPI increase was of 3.5% – the largest increase since the 4.6% increase following introduction of the GST in 2001.
While the CPI indexation is a relief to many, given the rising cost of living, we should not stop advocating for fair indexation provisions to be applied to all Defence Force superannuation schemes.
ADF Cover, Military Super, and DFRDB under 55s pensions are indexed only to CPI. DFRB and DFRDB over 55s pensions are indexed to the greater of CPI, Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI) or movements in the Average Weekly Earnings rate.
The difference between the two indexations over the last five years is 1.9%. On an average Military Super pension of $47,670, that is almost $35 less per fortnight.
DFWA is giving away two copies of the book by Ian Burrett – How to Research and Honour our Returned War Heroes. You can learn more about the book in the latest Camaraderie magazine.
To enter, simply join DFWA or renew your membership online before 30 September 2022. Terms and conditions.
Draft Legislation – Veteran Superannuation Invalidity Benefits Taxation
The Government is introducing legislation to “ensure no veteran pays higher income tax because of the Federal Court decision in Commissioner of Taxation v Douglas. A draft bill, Treasury Laws Amendment (Taxation of Military Superannuation Benefits) Bill 2022 and associated draft explanatory material, have been released for public consultation.
Submissions on the draft legislation are being accepted until 5 August 2022. DFWA will be making a submission.
The first tranche of 2021 Census data was released on 28 June 2022. Further tranches of data will continue to be released into 2023.
The 2021 Census was the first to ask questions relating to service in the Australian Defence Force. The question asked whether the respondent is currently serving, or has previously served in the Defence Force, and the type or types of service.
The Census question captures the various forms Defence Force service can occur – both regular and reserve and the different combinations thereof.
The data released focuses on:
- Household composition, housing, high-school education, and household income
- Age and sex, long-term health conditions, location, indigenous status, assistance requirements
The data released so far is interesting, but it is very narrow in terms of what conclusions can be drawn. We are very interested to see future releases so that we can better understand health, social, and economic factors affect Defence personnel, veterans, and their families.
The latest Camaraderie is available online, now. Be sure to check it out here!
Exploring the concept of the Veteran as a Sovereign Asset
During the first half of this year, DFWA-SA has been reviewing how we can best support the objectives of DFWA at the National level while still delivering outcomes at the State level. We have looked to concepts that are relevant to the contemporary veteran and achievable by the committee and membership of branch.
One element we have been exploring and developing is the concept of the Veteran as a sovereign asset due to the unique nature of military service. This supports the National objective of Veteran Recognition through the Military Covenant but seeks to define the next step and look for concrete outputs from the Covenant.
While still in the formative stages, we (and others) have been using the term as widely as possible over the past few years to shift the focus of the public and politicians from the mindset that all veterans suffer negative effects from their service to recognition and celebration of the strength within the veteran psyche. It was particularly pleasing to hear the previous Minister for Veterans Affairs, Andrew Gee, using this exact phrase during the Veteran Employment Awards last year.
Australian veterans bring qualities which are unique to the population and more needs to be done to bring that alive. There is a great deal being done by a range of ESOs in helping with issues from employment preparation to addressing homelessness. These are honorable and should be supported, but how do we change the mindset of “they need to be helped” when veteran qualities of clarity of thought, communication, teamwork, and an exposure to a level of diversity most companies will never achieve, all need to be recognised.
The list of positive Veteran qualities continues but the point is clear; Veterans are unique, they possess, through training and operations, a range of unrecognized so-called “soft skills” as well as practical skills. Their increased profile in the workplace, volunteer organisation’s, business and politics is great to see, but we are still fighting a now well-entrenched mindset. This needs to change and the language around service Veterans needs to change first.
DFWA-SA will present our approach and tangible steps locally to realization in future newsletters and Camaraderie, as well as continuing to raise the issue in all our communication. Feedback and thoughts on this issue are always welcome.
Royal Commission Update
The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide held its block 5 hearings in Townsville between 20 and 30 June 2022.
The focus of the hearings was around life at Lavarack Barracks, the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ADF members, mental health screening, and critical incident handling and support.
Key witnesses included BRIG Kahlil Fegan, Commander 3rd Combat Brigade; Chief of the Defence Force, GEN Angus Campbell; and former Ministers of Veterans’ Affairs the Hon. Andrew Gee and the Hon. Darren Chester.
Block 6 hearings will be held in Hobart commencing Monday 01 August 2022. Hearings will be conducted at the Wrest Point Hotel Hobart.
Anyone wishing to make a submission to the Commission can do so on the Commission’s website. The Commission will accept submissions until 13 October 2023.