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The Repatriation Commission determines services provided to veterans. The Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) provides the administrative machinery through which the Commission operates. The Commission, comprising three full-time members, has the following functions:
Repatriation benefits are provided under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 for service with the Australian Defence Forces in designated conflicts including: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, operations in Malaya/Malaysia as members of the Far East Strategic Reserve, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and for service in various peacekeeping operations including Cyprus, Lebanon, Somalia, Rwanda and Cambodia among many others. Service in the Defence Forces during peacetime from 7 December 1972 to 6 April 1994 (subject to the qualifying period) also attracts some repatriation benefits. Since 6 April 1994 peacetime service is covered through the Military Compensation Scheme under the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988.
Certain civilians, Australian mariners of World War II (since July 1994) and Australian members of certain designated peacekeeping, observing and monitoring forces who had peacekeeping service overseas may also be eligible for benefits. Under the Papua New Guinea (Members of the Forces Benefits) Act 1957, indigenous inhabitants of Papua New Guinea who served in the Australian forces in World War II, and members of the Royal Papuan Constabulary and New Guinea Police Force who served in that conflict, are eligible for compensation-type benefits.
Members of other Commonwealth countries' forces and other allied veterans are not eligible for compensation-type benefits in respect of their service, unless they were domiciled in Australia immediately before their enlistment. However, they may qualify for an income support payment, the 'service pension', only if they served in a conflict in which Australia was involved prior to 1972.
Qualification for receiving subsidised housing loans, granted under the Defence Service Homes Act, generally depends on service with the Australian Defence Forces in World War I or World War II, or specified service in Korea, Malaya, South East Asia, Namibia, the Middle East for the Kuwaiti crisis, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, or East Timor, and for service in the Regular Defence forces on or after 7 December 1972, provided the person's first service in the forces was before 15 May 1985. Certain civilians may also be eligible.
More detailed information on repatriation allowances, benefits and services is available from DVA .
The principal objective of the Compensation Program is to ensure that eligible veterans, their war widows and widowers, and their dependants, have access to appropriate compensation and income support in recognition of the effects of war or defence service. Compensation is administered under four sub-programs - the Compensation Sub-Program, the Income Support Sub-Program, the Housing Sub-Program and the Veterans' Review Board.
The main benefits provided under this sub-program are the Disability Pension and the War/Defence Widows'/Widowers' Pension and ancillary benefits. Table 7.31 shows the number of pensions at 30 June 2001 and the four preceding years.
The Disability Pension is to compensate persons for incapacity resulting from eligible war, defence or peacekeeping service. General rate disability pensions range from 10% up to and including 100%, depending on the degree of war-caused or defence-caused incapacity. Higher rates of pension (Intermediate Rate and Special Rate) are payable if:
An Extreme Disablement Adjustment, equal to 150% of the general rate, is payable to severely disabled veterans who are 65 years of age or over.
The War/Defence Widows'/Widowers' Pension is payable to the widow or widower of a veteran:
The Orphan's Pension is payable to the children of these veterans.
From 1 January 1993, the War Widows'/Widowers' Pension also became available to the widows/widowers of former prisoners of war and the Orphans' Pension to the children of former prisoners of war.
Table 7.32 shows the number of disability pensioners at 30 June 2001 by conflict type. It should be noted that these data are based on the DVA file number prefix. This is generated by the first period of service which gave rise to the veteran's initial claim. However, a disability pensioner may also lodge further claims for disabilities based on other areas of service. The later claims may be based on service earlier or later than the service of the initial claim which generated the file prefix. For example; a Korean War Veteran, with a pension payable in respect of that service, may have subsequently served in Vietnam. However, his file prefix would remain that of a Korean Veteran and he would be included as such in the DVA Pensioner Summary. Likewise a Gulf War veteran may have lodged an initial claim due to other service as a Peacekeeper. He would be recorded only under peacekeeping service in table 7.32.
Table 7.33 shows the number of disability pensions at 30 June 2001 and for the nine preceding years.
The Veterans' Children Education scheme (see tables 7.34 and 7.35) provides financial help, guidance and counselling to certain students up to 25 years of age. To be eligible a student must be the child of a veteran, an Australian mariner, or a member of the Forces, who is (or has been) in receipt of a Special Rate or Extreme Disablement Adjustment Disability Pension. Children of former prisoners of war, of veterans, or of Australian mariners whose death has been accepted as war-caused, are also eligible.
7.34 VETERANS’ CHILDREN EDUCATION SCHEME, Cost of Education Beneficiaries
7.35 VETERANS’ CHILDREN EDUCATION SCHEME, Number Receiving Benefits - At 30 June 2001
Income Support Sub-Program
The main form of income support paid is the Service Pension. This is an income and assets tested pension similar to the Age Pension paid by Centrelink. The pension is payable to veterans with qualifying service at age 60. Prior to 1 July 1995, the pension was payable to female veterans with qualifying service at age 55. Qualifying service generally means service in an area and at a time when danger from hostile enemy forces was incurred by the veteran. The Government introduced changes to the minimum age at which a female veteran can be granted Service Pension (Age). The minimum age will be lifted from 55 to 60 years in six-monthly increments every two years over the period 1995 to 2013. This means that the qualifying age for Service Pension (Age) at 1 July 2001 is 57 years. Veterans with qualifying service may be paid the pension at any age if they are permanently incapacitated for work.
Veterans of other Commonwealth and allied countries may also qualify for the Service Pension for service during a period of hostilities in wars or war-like conflicts in which Australia has been engaged. Veterans of Commonwealth forces must have served outside the country of enlistment or be entitled to the award of a campaign medal for service within that country. Allied veterans must have service in formally raised forces. The veteran must be an Australian resident with at least ten years residency.
From 1 April 1993, all service pensioners became eligible for 'fringe benefits', provided by the Commonwealth Government, which include some medical and hospital treatment, pharmaceutical benefits and the payment of a telephone allowance.
Income Support Supplement is payable to war widows and war widowers at Service Pension age of 60 for men and currently 57 for women (see Service Pension above). Income Support Supplement is also payable to a war widow or widower under Service Pension age who has a dependent child, or is caring for a severely handicapped person, or is permanently incapacitated for work. Income Support Supplement is subject to income and asset testing and the war widow/ers pension is assessed as income. Its maximum rate is fixed at $124.90 per fortnight.
A number of supplementary benefits are also available. These include:
Table 7.36 shows the total number of service pensions as at 30 June 2001, and table 7.37 shows the number of pensions and annual expenditure for the years 1992 to 2001.
Housing Sub-Program (Defence Service Homes Scheme)
The Defence Service Homes (DSH) Scheme provides financial benefits to recognise the contribution of certain men and women who have served Australia in either peacetime or wartime. The benefits include housing loan interest subsidies, comprehensive homeowners' insurance cover at competitive rates, and home contents insurance (see table 7.38).
The Scheme was established in 1918 as the War Service Homes Scheme. In 1972 its name was changed to the Defence Service Homes Scheme to recognise the extension of eligibility to those with qualifying peacetime service.
The Commonwealth Government sold the DSH mortgage portfolio to Westpac Banking Corporation, which became the Scheme's lender on 19 December 1988. Under the Agreement between the Commonwealth and Westpac, the Commonwealth subsidises Westpac for the low-interest loans provided. The subsidy is paid directly to Westpac and represents the difference between the concessional interest rate paid by the borrower and the agreed benchmark interest rate.
Since 1918, the Defence Service Homes Act has made provision for DSH insurance. Building insurance is available to all persons eligible under the Defence Service Homes Act or the Veterans' Entitlements Act. This benefit is also available to those who obtain assistance under the Defence Home Owner Scheme. DSH contents insurance, a comprehensive insurance package underwritten by QBE Mercantile Mutual Ltd, is available to veterans and the service community.
The maximum loan available under the DSH Scheme is $25,000 repayable over 25 years. The interest rate on new loans is capped at 6.85% for the term of the loan. Loans can be used to buy a home or strata unit, build or extend a home, buy a right of residence in a retirement village, refinance an existing mortgage, repair or modify an existing home, or obtain granny flat accommodation on another person's property.
Military Compensation and Rehabilitation Service
The objective of the Military Compensation and Rehabilitation Service (MCRS) is to ensure that current and former members of the Australian Defence Force, who suffer an injury or disease which is causally related to employment in the Australian Defence Force, are provided with compensation and rehabilitation benefits and services. The MCRS is responsible for providing benefits through the Safety, Rehabilitation & Compensation Act 1988. Table 7.39 summarises activities under the MCRS for 2000-01.
The Safety, Rehabilitation & Compensation Act provides compensation cover for injury or disease sustained during peacetime service since 4 January 1949 and operational service since 7 April 1994. Once liability has been accepted for an injury, a range of benefits may or may not apply in an individual case. In broad terms:
Health care treatment is provided to people whose disabilities have been accepted by DVA as service-related, and for pulmonary tuberculosis, post traumatic stress disorder and malignant neoplasia whether they are service-related or not. In addition, and subject to certain conditions, health care treatment in Australia is provided to certain veterans of Australia's defence forces for all health conditions. Eligible veterans include: ex-prisoners of war; veterans and mariners of World War II aged 70 years or over who have qualifying service from that conflict; those receiving a disability pension at or above the maximum (100%) general rate; World War II veterans and mariners receiving both Service Pension at any rate and Disability Pension at 50% rate or higher; veterans, mariners or nurses who served in World War I; certain service pensioners; and returned ex-servicewomen of World War II. War widow(er)s and certain other dependants of deceased veterans are also entitled to treatment for all conditions.
Younger veterans from post-World War II conflicts have needs additional to those of their older counterparts. These needs are addressed by a range of services which include integrated out-patient, in-patient and support services for the treatment and rehabilitation of veterans with war-related mental health conditions. Intensive in-patient treatment programs are available in each State. Community-based psychological services are provided by the Vietnam Veterans' Counselling Service and individual providers.
Assistance is available for the Vietnam veteran community through a series of recent initiatives to support veterans and their families in response to the validated findings of the Vietnam Veterans' Health Study. These include mental health support for veterans, their partners and children, assistance with treatment costs for Vietnam veterans' children with spina bifida, cleft lip/palate, adrenal gland cancer and acute myeloid leukaemia, and preventive health programs for veterans. The role of the Australian Centre for Post-traumatic Mental Health has been expanded to address mental health problems affecting the wider veteran community, and funding is being increased for research into veterans' health issues that may be the result of operational service.
Vocational rehabilitation services are available to support those who are leaving the Australian Defence Force, those at risk of losing employment, and those who wish to return to the workplace. Rehabilitation Allowance may be available to people whose pension entitlement is affected - the intention is that no financial loss should be incurred by individuals taking up paid employment. Safety net arrangements enable a return to former pension status in the event that employment cannot be sustained (this applies to pensioners receiving above general rate levels of Disability Pension or Service Pension through invalidity).
With the transfer of the Repatriation General Hospitals to the States, or their sale to the private sector, hospital care is now provided through the Repatriation Private Patient Scheme. The Scheme provides acute hospital care for veterans or war widow(er)s in local facilities. Under the Scheme, a veteran or war widow(er) may be admitted directly to a local public hospital, former repatriation hospital or a contracted private Tier 1 veteran partnering hospital, as a private patient, in a shared ward, with the doctor of his or her choice.
Financial responsibility for hospital and medical treatment in a public hospital, a former repatriation hospital or a veteran partnering private hospital is accepted by the department with no cost to the patient. Should a veteran require hospital care, the treating doctor would be able to arrange treatment at an appropriate local facility.
On a State by State basis the Repatriation Commission sought tenders from private hospitals to be selected as veteran partnering hospitals, which allows the same access as public hospitals and former repatriation hospitals (i.e. where no prior financial authorisation is required for admission, once eligibility is established). These hospitals have been selected by the Department because they are conveniently located for most veterans, offer a full range of services at competitive rates, and perform consistently to industry-approved standards.
Under arrangements with State Governments, entitled persons requiring custodial psychiatric care for a service-related disability are treated at departmental expense in State psychiatric hospitals.
Entitled persons may also be provided with dental treatment through the Local Dental Officer Scheme, which comprised 6,900 local dental officers at 1 June 2000.
Optometrical services, including the provision of spectacles, the services of allied health professionals, and a comprehensive range of aids, appliances and dressings, may be provided to entitled persons.
In addition, entitled persons may be provided with pharmaceuticals through the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Through the Repatriation Transport Scheme entitled persons are eligible to receive transport assistance when travelling to receive approved medical treatment.
DVA also assists the veteran community through the Veteran and Community Grants Scheme, which aims to maintain and improve the independence and quality of life of members of the veteran and ex-service community through activities and/or services that sustain and/or enhance wellbeing. The grants focus on the delivery of funding through in-home, community and residential support streams. Veteran and Community Grants provide funding for projects that address the needs of members of the veteran and ex-service communities through a range of support initiatives. These may be through:
Veteran and Community Grants are intended to provide assistance to encourage the development of projects that will become financially viable and self-sufficient. Grant funds are not provided for recurrent or ongoing financial assistance. There are three funding rounds each financial year: in July, October and March.
Following a major review of the delivery of its health services in 1999, the Department has placed considerable emphasis on health promotion activities. Its five-year strategic plan targets seven key health priorities. As part of its health promotion activities, the Department also produces a range of health promotion resource materials for the veteran community.
In January 2001, DVA introduced the Veterans’ Home Care program. This program extends the range of services provided to the veteran community to include personal care, domestic assistance, home and garden maintenance and respite care. Other services, such as delivered meals, are provided under arrangements with State and Territory Governments. Veterans' Home Care services are available to eligible veterans and war widow(er)s who are assessed as needing care to remain in their homes.
Between January and 30 June 2001, a total of 19,912 veterans and war widow(er)s were assessed for Veterans’ Home Care services. Some 80% of assessments resulted in an approval for one service, 16% for two services and 1% for three services. Some 3% of assessments did not result in an approval for services as veterans may have been referred to other services, such as community nursing or the DVA program, HomeFront. The service most frequently approved was domestic assistance (53%), followed by home and garden maintenance (28%), respite care (16%) and personal care (3%).
Veterans' Home Care has a strong preventive focus, and particularly targets veterans and war widow(er)s with low-level care needs. It is anticipated that net savings will be made from the initiative due to better health outcomes for veterans, reducing avoidable illness, injury and associated health costs. Better health will mean that veterans spend less time in hospital and need fewer medications and other high cost services. More importantly, they will be able to lead fuller, more active lives.
OAWG manages the War Graves Program and maintains some 24,000 graves and memorials of Commonwealth war dead in 75 war cemeteries, plots and civil cemeteries in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands) and Norfolk Island. OAWG also makes an annual contribution to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to assist with the maintenance of war cemeteries elsewhere in the world.
OAWG represents the Australian Government's interest in the maintenance of graves of Australian service personnel and war memorials that commemorate those Australians who died in other conflicts, in overseas countries. These include the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Pusan, Korea, and the British Commonwealth Forces Cemetery in Yokohama, Japan, and in Malaysia.
Another of OAWG's major tasks is the official commemoration within Australia of those Australian men and women whose deaths in post-war years is accepted as due to their war service. In recent years OAWG has processed some 7,000 commemorations annually and this trend continued during 2000-01. The Office has some 250,000 memorials under perpetual maintenance.
OAWG constructs major memorials at significant locations where Australians have suffered and died. In recent years, memorials have been dedicated at Hellfire Pass in Thailand; Le Hamel and Fromelles in France; Sandakan in North Borneo, Malaysia; and the Anzac Commemorative Site at North Beach, Gallipoli. In May 2001 the Hellenic-Australian Memorial Park was dedicated in Rethymno, Crete.
The Office also cares for war graves and cemeteries in Australia which contain the graves of foreign service personnel and civilian internees who died during the two World Wars. It also maintains the graves of, and memorials to, former Prime Ministers of Australia and Governors-General, on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage.
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