Posted on 09 Mar 2017
Veterans and ex-service personnel will soon be stripped of their right to privacy, which includes the release of their medical records, following the introduction of an “ill-thought-out” Government Bill, according to a senior military compensation expert.
As part of the Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Digital Readiness and Other Measures) Bill, which was rushed through Parliament in conjunction with the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation Amendment (Defence Force) Bill (DRCA), veteran's personal information will not only be shared between government departments but also be publicly disclosed for the first time.
The Bill expressly provides the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) Secretary with the power to make public the private medical records of veterans if the department feels the need to ‘correct misinformation’ or ‘the public record’, and the power to override any objections from that person.
Slater and Gordon Military Compensation expert Brian Briggs said the Bill is a gross abuse of power and insulting to defence force members who have put their lives on the line to serve our country.
“Ex-service personnel seeking support through the DVA are currently subject to unnecessary road blocks in their pursuit for justice due to the incompetent systems in place,” Mr Briggs said. “Now they will also have to worry about what the department is doing with their personal information.
“This Bill allows for an appalling breach of privacy by the Government, giving free rein to individuals’ military service, medical records, Medicare history and Centrelink files."
“This will deter defence force personnel with serious physical and psychological injuries from speaking freely and frankly with their doctors for fear that it will be made public.”
Mr Briggs said the Bill has been rushed through parliament in the hope that the changes will fly under the radar.
“These provisions directly violate an individual’s right to privacy and disregard the potential pitfalls of releasing this information publicly,” he said.
“Civilians don’t have to bite their tongue when visiting a doctor in fear of their colleagues finding out about their health, why should veterans face this sort of scrutiny?
“We’ve seen what this Government has done with penalty rates, we’ve seen what it did with Centrelink, and now it’s going after our veterans. This Government has form when it comes to attacking the most vulnerable members of our community.
“We need legislation that will support veterans and help them get the assistance that they not only need, but deserve.”