This chapter will outline some background information in relation to the
inquiry. In particular, it will provide an overview of key entitlements
available to veterans under the three main legislative schemes. These are the Veterans
Entitlement Act 1987 (VEA), the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation
Act 1988 (SRCA) and the Military, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act
Overview of key veteran entitlements
Arrangements for pensions, compensation, rehabilitation, health care and
other benefits for current and former members of the Australian Defence Force
(ADF) and their dependents have changed over time. This has resulted in some
ADF members and veterans being covered under different and multiple schemes
depending on their service. In particular, the VEA and the SRCA may apply to
those with service before 1 July 2004. The MRCA was enacted to provide
rehabilitation and compensation for a range of persons who served on or after 1 July 2004.
Health services to DVA clients are usually provided through Gold and
White Cards which allow access to a range of public and private health care
services which are provided at the cost of DVA.
The DVA Health Card – All Conditions within Australia and DVA Health
Card – Totally & Permanently Incapacitated, known as the Gold Card,
provides eligible veterans with access to a wide range of public and private
health care services within Australia for the treatment of health care
conditions both related and unrelated to war service.
The DVA Health Card – Specific Conditions, known as the White
Card, provides eligible veterans with access to a wide range of public and
private health care services within Australia for the treatment of disabilities
and conditions accepted as war or service related. The White Card is for the
treatment of specific conditions according to clinical need.
Covered health and care related services include medical consultations
and procedures as well as medical specialist services listed by the Medical
Benefits Scheme (MBS). The DVA does not generally fund health and related care
services not listed on the MBS unless under special circumstances.
Veterans Entitlement Act
DVA explained that the VEA was a consolidation of a number of pieces of
legislation, starting in 1920, that had progressively extended eligibility for
repatriation benefits to veterans of different conflicts. It noted that the VEA
'has a focus of lifetime fortnightly non-taxed, non-means tested disability and
widow's pension and health care, with little rehabilitation focus'.
Repatriation Commission is responsible for granting pensions, allowances and
other benefits, providing treatment and other services and generally
administering the VEA.
Pensioners under the VEA are the largest group of DVA clients (225,933)
and the largest group of these clients receive the service pension (108,944). A
service pension can be paid to veterans with qualifying service on the grounds
of age or invalidity, and to eligible partners, widows and widowers. It is
subject to an income and assets test. The service pension singles rate is $888.30
and the rate for couple is $669.60 per fortnight.
DVA clients under the VEA also include 89,797 disability pensioners.
There are four rates of the disability pension. The general rate is linked to
an individual's level of assessed impairment using the Guide to the
assessment rates of veterans' pensions (GARP). The general rate is payable
in multiples of 10 per cent ($55.43 per fortnight) up to 100 per cent ($485 per
The intermediate rate disability pension is payable where a person is
assessed as having a 70 per cent or more disability (using the assessment for
the general rate) and it is also assessed that the person is unable to work for
at least 20 hours a week (or more than 50 per cent of full-time hours normally
worked). The intermediate rate is $926.20 per fortnight.
The special rate disability pension is often referred to as the totally
and permanently incapacitated (TPI) disability pension. The special rate can be
payable where a person is assessed as having a 70 per cent or more disability
and is assessed as unable to work for at least eight hours a week. The special
rate is $1,364.30 per fortnight.
The extreme disablement adjustment (EDA) rate disability pension can be
available for veterans who are 65 years of age and who are entitled to a
disability pension at 100 per cent general rate but are not eligible to receive
a special rate or intermediate rate pension. Work tests are not applied; instead
a test requiring 70 medical impairment points or more and at least six out of
seven lifestyle points (determined under the GARP) is applied to qualify for
EDA. The EDA rate is $753.60 per fortnight.
Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation
The SRCA provides compensation coverage to all Commonwealth employees
and is administered by Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission. The SRCA
is also administered by DVA, with Part XI extending coverage to ADF
members and former members for injuries and illnesses linked to service between
1 December 1988 and 1 July 2004.
It originally covered only peacetime Defence service but was extended to
operational service from 1994, and applies to service up to 1 July 2004. DVA
The SRCA encompasses the preceding legislation of 1930 and
1971 in that claims relating to injuries/diseases prior to 1988 are compensated
under the provisions of the relevant prior scheme. It has a model of lump sum
permanent impairment for non-economic effects of injuries/diseases and
incapacity payments for economic loss based on pre-injury earnings, a rehabilitation
focus, and health care for accepted injuries/diseases.
Under the SRCA compensation in the form of a lump sum is paid for the functional
loss, pain and suffering and the lifestyle effects from injury or disease
accepted as related to SRCA service. DVA noted:
The maximum SRCA [permanent impairment] compensation is
currently $251,672 tax-free lump sum for permanent impairment and non-economic
loss (indexed). The Defence Act 1903 provides for payment of a Severe
Injury Adjustment (SIA) if an assessed degree of impairment due to specified
SRCA injury or disease is at least 80%. SIA provides for a maximum lump sum of
$78,235 with an additional $85,750 for each dependent child.
Incapacity payments are economic loss compensation payments for the
inability (or reduced ability) to work because of a service injury or illness:
Under the SRCA, weekly, taxable, incapacity payments for loss
of earnings are paid at 100% of normal weekly earnings, reducing to 75% after
45 weeks in receipt of compensation with payments ceasing age 65. These
payments, both at 100% and 75% of normal weekly earnings, are less a 5%
notional superannuation contribution.
The costs of treatment for accepted conditions are generally met through
a White Card which will cover all reasonable medical, hospital, pharmaceutical
and other treatment costs related to the compensable injury or disease.
Persons who receive compensation under the SRCA may also be able to
claim compensation under the VEA. There are 'offsetting' provisions intended to
prevent compensation being provided under both the SRCA and the VEA for the
same injury or disease. Compensation received under the SRCA can affect the disability
pension or income support pension received under the VEA.
Claims for ADF members under the SRCA are determined by delegates of the
Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC) within DVA.
As at March 2017, there were 51,926 DVA clients under the SRCA. These included
13,226 permanent impairment payees, 1,800 incapacity payees and 751 open
Military Rehabilitation and
Compensation Act 2004
The MRCA was introduced to replace the VEA and SRCA and to provide a
rehabilitation and compensation scheme which combined the features of the VEA
and SRCA and covered all types of ADF service from 1 July 2004.
Under the MRCA there are a range of benefits available where liability for a
service-related condition has been accepted. These include:
permanent impairment (lump sum) compensation;
incapacity benefits (due to an inability or reduced ability to
rehabilitation (both vocational and non-vocational);
medical treatment (including the Gold Card);
household and attendant care services; and
compensation for the dependants of deceased members – including
bereavement payments, lump sums, funeral expenses, medical treatment (via the
provision of a DVA Health Card (Gold)) and compensation for the cost of
obtaining financial advice.
Under the MRCA there are three types of service: warlike service; non-warlike
service; and peacetime service. Lump sum payments for ADF members who are
injured or contract a disease that is related to warlike and non-warlike
service are calculated at a higher rate than those members who were injured on
peacetime service. However, members who are eligible for maximum permanent
impairment compensation get the same amount, irrespective of the type of
service which caused the impairment:
Permanent impairment compensation payments are non-economic
loss payments; that is, they are paid to compensate for pain, suffering,
functional loss or dysfunction and the effects of the injury or disease on
lifestyle. Under the [MRCA], when liability for an injury or disease that
results in permanent impairment has been accepted, the MRCA allows compensation
to be paid periodically, currently a weekly amount of $335. In the case of a 30-year-old
male, the MRCA weekly amount can be converted into a lump sum of up to $448,971.
For incapacity payment under the MRCA, weekly, taxable, incapacity
payments for loss of earnings are paid at 100 per cent of normal earnings
reducing to 75 per cent after 45 weeks after discharge and cease at age 65.
The Special Rate Disability Pension (SRDP) payment provides an
alternative form of periodic compensation (instead of incapacity payments) for veterans
whose capacity for work has been severely restricted because of conditions suffered
due to military service. Veterans eligible for the SRDP are offered a choice in
writing and required to obtain financial advice. The choice between the SRDP
and incapacity payments cannot be changed. Those eligible for the SRDP receive
a Gold Card. Participation in rehabilitation is a precondition to being
assessed as eligible for the SRDP.
As at March 2017, there were 25,224 DVA clients under the MRCA. These
included 9,028 permanent impairment payees, 3,121 incapacity payees and 2,040
open rehabilitation cases.
Non-liability Health Care
Non-liability health care is coverage by DVA for health treatments
without the need to establish a link to service or recognise liability for
providing compensation. Under these arrangements veterans with certain service
may be eligible for treatment of cancer (malignant neoplasm), pulmonary tuberculosis
and mental health conditions. In the 2016-17 Budget, the Government announced
that it would extend non-liability health care for certain mental health
conditions to all current and former ADF members, irrespective of their date,
duration or type of service.
From 1 July 2017, this was extended to treatment of all mental health
This could include treatment from a general practitioner, medical
specialist, psychologist, social worker, occupational therapist, psychiatrist,
hospital services, specialist PTSD programs, pharmaceuticals, or oncologist
services as required. Veterans who are eligible are issued with a DVA Health
Card – for specific conditions (White Card).
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