Avoid common pitfalls to get the most from your compensation claim.
As many frustrated veterans know, dealing with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) can be overwhelming and challenging. The claims process can involve a mountain of paperwork, endless red tape, and be costly for veterans who are simply trying to get fair compensation for injuries suffered in the line of duty.
The good news is, with the right tips and support, you can avoid facing these challenges, get the most out of your military compensation claim, and get back to what’s most important – your health, well-being and family.
Understanding how the DVA system works and if you’re eligible for compensation
If you’re a current or former member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), cadet, cadet officer, cadet instructor, or member of the Australian Federal Police with approved overseas service, you may be eligible for compensation from the Australian Government’s DVA.
There are a number of military compensation schemes designed to help people injured while serving - but knowing what you’re eligible for and applying for these can be very complex.
The Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC) is the associated body that assesses your claims, pays compensation and provides treatment and rehabilitation. So, once you’ve made a claim, the MRCC assigns a delegate to assess your claim, to potentially get you medically assessed, and get you to make decisions on liability and what you’re entitled to. You can read more about the process here.
Many veterans have missed out at the hands of a complex, out-of-touch and bureaucratic system
Sadly, thanks to a confusing system with non-independent advice, too often we see veterans missing out on getting the right compensation they’re entitled to. The challenges include:
Confusion over what scheme you and your family may be covered by
It may be more than one scheme depending on the dates and places of your service. And to make it even more confusing, you or your dependants may have multiple entitlements for the same injury, disease or death under more than one scheme. This is on top of entitlements under one or more government ex gratia schemes, a Commonwealth-funded superannuation policy and/or a personal insurance policy.
Feeling like just another number
Sadly, in my experience, the DVA often treats veterans and ex-service personnel as numbers, not as men and women who have served and made sacrifices to protect their country and now need help in their time of need. Many veterans find the service provided by the DVA to be bureaucratic, inefficient and unhelpful. The complex legal framework also makes it difficult for veterans to get the correct help they need. As a result, veterans may end up feeling stressed and powerless to move forward and may even miss out on all their entitlements.
Not getting the best independent legal advice that has your interests top of mind
The DVA has its own lawyers advising the agency about your claim. These lawyers will not give you, the claimant, independent legal advice, nor will you automatically be paid your full compensation entitlement.
What you can do to avoid these risks
In addition to checking out the list of the 10 biggest mistakes you can make when dealing with the MRCC, I’ve shared some of the most important things you need to know to give your claim the best chance of success.
Don’t go it alone
When trying to get much-needed compensation, people often think they can ‘go it alone’ or get advice from someone who’s not legally qualified or insured to help with their claim. The military compensation legal framework is considered the most complex in Australian law, and with the DVA using its own lawyers for your claim, you’re not getting the best independent legal advice, nor will you automatically be paid your full compensation entitlement.
To get the most from your claim, it’s important to get independent expert advice from a lawyer who is qualified and experienced in dealing with the system and who will stand up for your rights.
Don’t solely trust that the MRCC knows best
Once your claim has been submitted, it’s over to the MRCC delegate to decide which compensation scheme is best for you. Often veterans just accept the delegate’s view without question. It’s important to remember that delegates are public servants employed by the government – they don’t necessarily understand your unique circumstances or have your best interests at heart.
Don't think it’s too late
While it’s important to act on a claim as soon as you know you’re eligible, if you’ve been knocked back before or you think you’ve missed your time frame, you should still seek professional advice. In many cases, we’ve been able to help clients who think they’ve missed the boat.
Get independent advice
My biggest tip for dealing with the DVA is to do so with the support of a qualified, independent lawyer. You’ll benefit from working with someone who knows the system inside out and can look forward to much less stress as you work to move on with your life.
The Military Compensation Group at Slater and Gordon is the largest legal practice in Australia acting on behalf of ADF personnel and Veterans. My team understands the range of different schemes that cover military compensation and rehabilitation, and, unlike the DVA, we are genuinely interested in getting the best possible outcome from your claim for you and your family.
When and how to get help
We’re here to help. If you have a question, want some more information or would just like to speak to someone, make an enquiry now and our Military Compensation team will be in touch with you as soon as possible. You can make an enquiry online or phone us on 1800 555 777.
Slater and Gordon is proud to provide our clients with access to leading, affordable legal services, including our ‘no win, no fee*’ offer, as well as a free social work service upon referral from a lawyer if required.
*No Win No Fee, conditions apply. Read more.
The contents of this blog post are considered accurate as at the date of publication. However the applicable laws may be subject to change, thereby affecting the accuracy of the article. The information contained in this blog post is of a general nature only and is not specific to anyone’s personal circumstances. Please seek legal advice before acting on any of the information contained in this post.