31 January, 2008

Kevin Rudd and Australian Veterans

The incompetent anti-veteran government of John Howard and his Liberals and Nationals coalition sycophants fell at the last election. Thank goodness. They were nothing but an insult to the conservative free-enterprise side of politics.

The new government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Australian Labor Party looks set to slash government spending, and, given the traditional hostility of the Labor Party towards war veterans, you can bet your proverbials that Veterans' Affairs will get high priority for the chopping block.

They might abolish the Department of Veterans' Affairs and associated bodies altogether and merge their facilities and services with those of Social Security. Or, they might privatize them - as was done with the Repatriation Hospitals and with War Service Home Loans; of course, if that did happen, I wonder if major Japanese finance institutions would be the new owners? Now there's a thought.

Reform and improvement of the whole veterans' affairs system so that it better serves the actual needs of veterans and their families just isn't on the cards at all. Even though improving the veterans' affairs system would reduce waste and so lead to hefty savings in that area.

One worrying thing is that slashing by stealth may have started already, not in places where there has been a huge waste of the taxpayers' money but by sneaky administrative means: cutting the pensions of veterans who are at the bottom of the system and incapable of defending themselves.

There are rumours - which I have no way of confirming and which I hope are wrong - that many [the usual figure spoken is four hundred] war veterans who have had their pensions cut or taken off them because they "failed to comply with medication regimes or doctors orders".

Does anyone - veterans, civil liberties people or anyone at all - have any reliable information to confirm or refute these stories?


puffwheat08 said...

Pension increase promised by both parties before the election have been legislated and passed prior to the calling of the election. It seems they are set in concrete.[no guarantees]

Regarding loss or reduction of pension. DVA cross check continually, thru various means, the status of veterans. Millions was spent last budget in upgrading the computer system which links Centrelink, ATO and DVA. Checking is done 24/7. I am reliably told that there is no dedicated process which tracks medication but DVA can access records and where annomoloies are discovered they investigate under sec 31 of the VEA[1986]. I am aware of 3 TPI's who have been caught this way and had their pensions reduced.

Appeals were lodged, the outcome of which is not known.

Where psychological disabilities are accepted by DVA a whole range of treatments are available and medication is only one. But where a veteran gets a TPI for such conditions and immediately ceases all treatment then he is leaving himself open to scrutiny.

More damage is done when veterans lodge claim and or applications for increase without the support of an advocate. The VVFA in all state will help in these situations. All veterans and peacekeepers are welcome and no charges are made for service.

Ungrateful Troublemaker said...

Thanks for that. There's quite a difference between 3 individuals and 400+ .

The 24/7 checking you mentioned refers to changes - reported, unreported and otherwise - in income, assets, marital situation and the like. Very necessary, of course, to prevent outright fraud and the inadvertent misuse of public money but a long way from a quality assurance system that ensures the taxpayers are truly getting good value for their money.

While there is, as you say, no dedicated process which which tracks medication - however, there are some doctors who get peeved when their lordly decisions are questioned, ignored or rejected. I don't doubt for a moment that some are spiteful enough to report to DVA anyone who did not obey them without question.

Just a personal note here: I myself rejected an offer of entrepreneurial surgery. Also, few times now, with a few different doctors, I have refused to take medications to which I had previously had adverse reactions - that is, had I taken them, the same adverse reactions would have happened again - fortunately, none of these had any bearing whatsoever on my own pension status - but, having been through that process myself, I think it quite likely that spiteful dobbing by some doctors had taken place where any veterans had been penalized for declining to take specific medications. I'm lucky enough to have come across quite a few reasonable doctors who, on questioning their decisions, have responded with good alternatives in a thoroughly professional manner.

Sorry, there seems to be little difference between claims made with and without advocates. If there was such a difference then nearly all claims, assisted by advocates, made by veterans who were manifestly harmed in the course of their war/hazardous service would have been satisfied at the level of Repatriation Commission - even earlier - but instead, injured and ill veterans and their families are forced to go through more bureaucratic mazes and to jump more hurdles months or years later, first at the Veterans' Review Board and eventually at the Adninistratve Appeals Tribunal, if not the High Court itself.

It's not a system, it's a disgrace - and at a time of war, a stupid and dangerous one.

I don't doubt the dedication and hard work of the Vietnam Veterans' Federation of Australia - but aren't they fighting the wrong fight? The real enemy is over there, in DVA, in Finance, in Treasury where the whole purpose of a repatriation/ veterans' affairs system has been forgotten and all they are interested in is money.