Committee view and recommendation
In the view of the committee, the bill achieves its purpose in
implementing aspects of the Government's response to the recommendations of the
Review of Military Compensation Arrangements and these amendments will result
in positive changes for those who benefit from military compensation
arrangements. Nonetheless, the committee acknowledges the concerns raised by
submissions to the inquiry regarding other aspects of Australia's military
compensation arrangements and recognises that the amendments made by the bill
will not mean that these arrangements are 'free of defect'.
A large number of amendments and several other issues relating to
military compensation arrangements were raised with the committee. The committee
wishes to comment on some specific issues–in particular:
- consultation processes and Review membership;
- offsetting of Commonwealth superannuation;
- privacy issues;
- the definition of 'financial advisor'; and
- time frames for processing and reviewing applications.
Consultation and Review membership
Concerns were raised by submitters in relation to the independence of
the Review of Military Compensation Arrangements. The committee does not
question the high quality of the work completed by the Review committee, which
is evident in the two volumes of the Review's report. However, in the view of
the committee, the appointment of only one member who was not a member of the public
service to the Review committee unnecessarily opened the findings of the Review
The committee considers that a high level of consultation has been undertaken
by DVA in relation to the development of the bill, particularly with ex-service
organisations and veteran communities. In the committee's view, the Australian
Government should in future include representatives of ex-service organisations,
or other appropriately qualified persons from outside of the public service, in
any review or inquiry into military compensation arrangements. Further, DVA should
continue to consult closely with these organisations in the development of any legislation
amending military compensation arrangements.
Offsetting of Commonwealth
The committee recognises the ongoing concerns of some members of the
veteran community and others in relation to offsetting Commonwealth
superannuation in relation to some compensation. This issue received
significant consideration as part of the Review's report. The committee notes that
it reflects a long-standing policy that 'the Australian Government should not
pay two income sources to the same person'.
In the view of the committee the case has not been made for a change in policy
at this time.
Respecting the privacy of serving members of the ADF and veterans should
be an important consideration in the framework of military compensation
arrangements. The committee notes that DVA complies with the Privacy Act
1988 in the collection, storage, use and disclosure of personal information
in its possession. The committee encourages DVA to continue its ongoing
discussions with OIAC to ensure that veterans and others are fully informed
concerning the ways their personal information will be used by government
Definition of 'financial advisor'
The committee notes that on 15 May 2013 the Parliamentary Joint
Committee on Corporations and Financial Services tabled its report into the Corporations
Amendment (Simple Corporate Bonds and Other Measures) Bill 2013 (Corporations
Amendment Bill). The Joint Committee recommended the proposed legislation be
In answers to questions on notice, DVA noted that if the Corporations
Amendment Bill were passed 'a consequent amendment to the MRCA could also be
considered at that time'.
The view of the committee is that, should the Corporations Amendment Bill be
passed and receive Royal Assent, the Australian Government should move quickly
to introduce consequential amendments to the MRCA to ensure there is legislative
consistency in relation to the use of the terms 'financial advisor' and
The committee notes the Review's consideration of the delays in the
processing and review of applications by DVA. It is clear to the committee that
long delays in the processing of applications can be detrimental to claimants—resulting
in periods of stress and uncertainty. Potentially, the inclusion of legislative
time frames for the assessment of applications could result in more timely
outcomes for veterans and others entitled to seek assistance. However, this is
not the only measure which could achieve this outcome.
The committee notes that the Minister recently released a statement
which addressed concerns raised regarding the processing of claims by DVA:
The 2013-14 Budget contains funding of $1.7m over four years
to improve processing for compensation claims, with a particular focus on the
timeliness of claims for mental health conditions.
This additional funding to improve processing times will
mitigate the risk of the claims process exacerbating a client's mental health
condition. It will also help to provide access to financial support as soon as
DVA is addressing the times taken to process claims through a
range of measures, including:
- applying streamlining processes;
- further training and guidance for staff;
- the redistribution of claims across locations;
- the prioritisation of cases;
- the redevelopment of Information, Communication and Technology tools;
improved access to information from the Department of Defence.
During the inquiry, DVA demonstrated the difficulties and complexity
involved in assessing some applications for compensation. Nonetheless, in the
view of the committee, there is further scope for DVA to engage with ex-service
organisations and veteran communities to identify areas where delays could be mitigated
in the processing and review of applications. Performance measures for DVA's
processing and review of applications should also continue to be closely
monitored by the Australian Government. If no improvement is evident in the
times for processing and reviewing applications, further consideration should
be given to legislative change.
The committee recommends that the Senate pass the Veterans'
Affairs Legislation Amendment (Military Compensation Review and Other Measures)
Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens
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