Posted on 21 Aug 2017
Slater and Gordon Military Compensation Lawyer Brian Briggs has welcomed a Senate Committee’s recommendation to the Federal Government for the review of the existing “strict” system imposed on veterans applying for support.
This week, the committee published its recommendations, which called for a review within the next 18 months of the system – known as the Statement of Principles (SOP) – in a bid to simplify the framework of compensation and rehabilitation for veterans and ex-service personnel.
The principles, developed by the Repatriation Medical Authority, are currently used by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) in determining whether a veteran’s injury has resulted from their service and, consequently, whether they are entitled to support.
Mr Briggs presented to the committee’s Senate hearing: Suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel in February this year, calling for the SOP to be used only as a guide given the current model’s strict and inflexible structure.
He said many veterans had been unfairly left out because of the current system’s rigid parameters, adding that the stress of this process had, for some, exacerbated their mental illness and, in some cases, led to suicide.
“A claim will be rejected if at least one of the factors in the applicable statement is not proven – even if the claimant has medical evidence or opinion from a qualified specialist, linking the onset of their condition to some event, injury or activity occurring during service,” Mr Briggs told the committee.
Mr Briggs said it was ludicrous to think that a veteran, who had put his or her body on the line for their country, would miss out on legitimate support because a box had not been ticked.
He said a number of veterans had felt “completely let down” by the process and the country they had been so proud to protect.
He added that the review was an inexpensive and common sense decision that would hopefully improve the lives of a number of veterans and ex-service personnel who had suffered both physical and psychological injuries during their service.
“The current system is completely impractical and is leaving many of our veterans out in the cold – on what is essentially a technicality,” Mr Briggs said.
During his presentation, Mr Briggs also recommended the introduction of 90-day time limits for the DVA to decide on accepting a veteran’s claim for compensation and reconsideration of decisions. He questioned why advocates and not lawyers were only permitted to represent veterans in the Veterans Review Board, describing it as a “David vs Goliath battle”.