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The Acts and Your Rights
About Open Arms
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At our State Branch Offices, and indeed, all our sub-branches, you will find fully qualified Compensation, and Wellbeing Advocates, fully conversant with all three (3) ACTs that effect the welfare of serving and ex-service members of the ADF. Your privacy is assured, and we make it our aim to provide a best practice service.
Advocates assist and guide those who feel they may be entitled to lodge a claim against DVA for injury or disease that may have been as a result of their service with the ADF. Others may require assistance with application forms for a range of services, such as but not limited to Service Pensions, Travel Allowances, Medical referrals, Freedom of Information requests for your Service and Medical Record, and the like.
Personable interviews take place in environs that include privacy protection, and with a kindred advocate volunteer who was formerly a member of the ADF in most cases. In some of our centres there may be paid employees undertaking the same roll as our volunteers, who are no less qualified, having gone through identical training sessions and peer coaching.
To navigate through the maze of technical and legal details of each Act takes a lot of training and practice and the Compensation Advocates of our organisation are some of the best trained and experienced within the ex-service community. Most of the Advocates have military service, some for more than 20 years, and combined with their knowledge of service life, we can be of great assistance to anybody seeking our help.
In the first instance, if you require assistance of a pressing mental emergency we strongly recommend you contact OPEN ARMS (1800 011 046) or LIFELINE (13 11 14), immediately. These details are repeated at the top of this page.
Currently serving?, Transitioning?, already discharged?, never lodged a claim with DVA?, Want to apply for an increase in disability payment for existing conditions?, then seek the services of one of our many Compensation Advocates at a location Branch or Sub-Branch) close to you.
Usual mode is to place a phone call or email to one of our offices and book an appointment at a time that suits both parties.
Seeking help or enquiring about our services including advice and forms assistance for Service Pensions, Spouse Carer Pension or allowance, Authorised Travel Allowance, are normally the domain of our Wellbeing Advocates, and again you should contact our nearest office for assistance.
Seeking advice about an existing claim is as simple as talking to your case Advocate. However, if you feel the matter is urgent, and your Advocate is not available, we recommend you contact the office from whence you placed your claim and request information from another Advocate.
All our Branches contact details are available from our Branches page.
We remind claimants that your claim, once onforwarded to DVA, is subject to the processes and protocols within that office. We have no control nor influence over their methods and procedures. Be prepared to wait at least 20 to 40 days for an acknowledgement that your claim has been received by DVA, and proceeding to a determination section.
Once this acknowledgement has been sent to you it may take as long as a further 90 days to be assessed and arrangements made with you for them to gather further information from one or more medical practitioners if required for them to make a decision.
We include these time frames here as a guide only, and certainly some assessments may not take as long, while others may take longer. The point we make is that your Advocate has no control over the time your claim takes to be determined. And, we also recommend that DVA should not be approached directly by a claimant once you have established an Advocate case manager. You may inadvertently jeopardise your case with comments made without advocacy advice.
The Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) covers service in wartime and certain operational deployments, as well as certain peacetime service between 7 December 1972 – 30 June 2004. For peacetime service eligibility, a member who had not completed a qualifying period of three years service prior to 7 April 1994 is not covered under the VEA, unless they were medically discharged. British nuclear test defence service during the 1950’s and 1960’s in Australia is also covered when the relevant criteria are met.
If you have an injury or disease arising out of, or aggravated by, a period of full-time service when you were covered under the VEA, you may be eligible for a disability pension and medical treatment. You may also be eligible for compensation under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA) for the same disability and, if so, any compensation payable is offset against your pension.
Depending on a successful claim payments include TPI-Special Rate Pension, or a percentage Disability Pension according to rated body impairment. The claimant may also be eligible for a full or part age pension equivalent through DVA unaffected by the Disability Pension amount. Payments are periodic (fortnightly) payments according to the rate assessed.
The Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 - MRCA, provides rehabilitation and compensation coverage for the following members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) who served on or after 1 July 2004:
All members of the Permanent Forces; All members of the Reserve Forces; Cadets and Officers, including instructors of Cadets; Persons who hold an honorary rank or appointment in the ADF and who perform acts at the request or direction of the Defence Force; Persons who perform acts at the request or direction of the Defence Force as an accredited representative of a registered charity; Persons who are receiving assistance under the Career Transition Assistance Scheme (established under section 58B of the Defence Act 1903) and who perform acts in connection with the scheme; and Other people declared in writing by the Minister for Defence to be members of the ADF.
For those making claims under MRCA there are 4 conditions under which payment is made depending on a rating of body impairment for each claim accepted. These are Permanent Impairment Compensation, Incapacity Payments, Special Rate Disability Pension, and Compensation following death. Payments are periodic (fortnightly) payments according to the rate assessed.
Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA) provides similar rehabilitation and compensation to that provided under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA), for injuries and diseases suffered as a result of peacetime and peacekeeping service up to and including 30 June 2004 and operational service between 7 April 1994 and 30 June 2004.
Permanent Impairment compensation in the form of a lump sum is paid for the functional loss, pain and suffering and the lifestyle effects from injury or disease accepted as related to your DRCA service. It is assessed as a percentage of whole person impairment using part 2 (Defence-Related Claims for Permanent Impairment) of the Guide to the Assessment of the Degree of Permanent Impairment.
Incapacity payments are periodic compensation for economic loss similar to the payments under MRCA. These payments are generally taxable as they are income-related payments.
Compensation following death: Dependents of deceased members may be entitled to: a lump sum payment; an additional death benefit (ADB) in the form of a lump sum payable to the spouse under the Defence Act 1903 where the member’s death occurred after 10 June 1997; a further lump sum for each dependant child (payable under the Defence Act 1903) is made to the spouse if they have responsibility for their care (payment goes directly to a child aged 18 years and over); and reimbursement for the cost of obtaining financial advice when an ADB has been paid under the Defence Act 1903.
You should not attempt to traverse a claims activation without first contacting a qualified Advocate familiar with most, or all of the Acts listed above.
All members and ex-serving members of Australian Defence Forces (ADF) are entitled to certain rights under Australian Acts of Parliament, that define those rights and the conditions under which they are enabled.
Parliament considers that if a member or past member of the ADF is killed, wounded, suffers injury or disease in the performance of their duty, then the government has due diligence to compensate the member or his family, in the case of death.
Every employee has the right to be compensated for any injury suffered through the normal act of doing their job. Members of the Australian Defence Forces, (ADF), are no different with the exception that their job includes training and tasks which can and do result in death, major injuries, disabilities, and disease, that the civilian workforce would never encounter.
Historically governments have usually tried to enact legislation that caters for the unique nature of defence service. From the first world war onwards, there have been Acts of parliament to help and compensate for death and injuries received during service with the defence forces. These have been amended over the years as the nature of defence service changes. Currently there are three Acts governing ADF service, and each are different in their own way, requiring in most cases a different standard of proof relating to death or injury and disability due to service.
To navigate through the maze of technical and legal details of each Act takes a lot of training and practice and the Compensation Advocates of our organisation are some of the best trained and experienced within the ex-service community. Most of the Advocates have military service, some for more than 20 years, and combined with their knowledge of service life, can be of great assistance to anybody seeking our help. In addition, there are Advocates from all 3 services as well as the cadet corps organisation to ensure that there is always someone to talk to who is familiar with your service.
Interviews are conducted in a friendly environment ensuring your privacy and confidentially are protected. All our Advocates are familiar with the provisions of the Privacy Act to ensure your information is protected.
Our services do not just involve compensation, but the full gambit of information and services needed by our defence force members. Whether your request is for service medical or administrative records, service certificates, medal entitlements, pension applications and information, or any other matter that is of concern we can provide assistance in obtaining whatever is needed.
The VVFA has been at the forefront of the training of Advocates for many years and this continues with the latest Advocacy Training Development Program (ATDP) where Training is accredited with a major training institute which ensures that Advocates are not only familiar with the current legislation but are tested to ensure that their knowledge complies with the high standards set by our organisation. We pride ourselves on the high quality of our advocacy work as the results of decisions indicate.
And remember, all our services are provided totally free of any charges to our clients.
There has been an attempt in recent times to get claims submitted online, siting the ease of preparation and convenience, as some of the benefits of modern technology. Experience has shown that the claim prepared by one of our Advocates is not only more likely to succeed, but have a better result for the veteran and their family members. Claims prepared by our Advocates will ensure that future claims will not be jeopardised by omission or mistake when compiling the original claim.
We strongly advocate that anyone considering a claim against DVA, for any condition related to their service, consult a qualified practitioner, due to the complexities of the Defence Acts involved. You should not attempt direct contact yourself, or avail yourself of the DVA on-line claims application facility, without assistance. It may jeopardise the outcome and impact on any future claim.
Where it began
Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling (formerly VVCS) is Australia’s leading provider of high quality mental health assessment and clinical counselling services for Australian veterans and their families. They are focused on meeting client needs through a combination of proven clinical practices and new and emerging evidence-based approaches.
It was, in its earlier form - VVCS-founded by Australia's Vietnam veterans, and particularly through the efforts of Phil Thompson (deceased), former President of VVAA NSW Branch.
The Vietnam War was a difficult chapter in Australia's history. For those who served, the experience forged strong bonds and a commitment to look out for each other. This deep sense of mateship led Vietnam veterans to lobby for a specialised counselling and support service for veterans and their families.
The result was the Vietnam Veterans’ Counselling Service (VVCS). VVCS was established by the Australian Government in 1982. Since then, access to VVCS has been extended to veterans of all conflicts, their families, and other members of the ADF and ex-service community. In 2007 the service was renamed VVCS – Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service. Eligibility was further expanded and, in 2018, VVCS became Open Arms.
Support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families
Free and confidential counselling
Group treatment programs
Suicide prevention training
Who can access Open Arms
Open Arms provides free and confidential counselling to anyone who has served at least one day in the ADF, and their families.
Open Arms' counselling and support services are available to current serving, Transitioning, Ex-serving, Partners, Families, Children and Parents of Veterans.
Your privacy and confidentiality
About their privacy and confidentiality, they say, for those currently serving, your Information is not shared with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) if you self-refer to Open Arms.If you are a member of the ADF and you have been referred through your ADF medical officer or Defence psychologist, periodic reports regarding your treatment will be provided to the ADF Referring Authority.
Under normal circumstances your clinical information will not be released to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), other government agencies or external parties without your consent.
Your information may only be shared under exceptional circumstances or in accordance with the law. This occurs where your safety or the safety of others is at serious risk, in serious criminal matters, or in response to a court direction.The Open Arms website contains more information in relation to veterans families,including children.
Suicide Prevention Training
Suicide among current ADF members, their partners, wives, and children has been in the news as recently as 2019. Although studies are carried out whenever there is a jump in occurences in the media, it is not unknown among veterans. However, services such as those offered by Open Arms and lifeline, or Operation Life, are often overlooked with every 'NEW' study or consultative recommendation and report.
Open Arms offers a variety of free training opportunities to those seeking to help family, friends, co-workers or others in the veteran community. The suicide intervention workshops assist participants to recognise warning signs for suicide, and learn intervention strategies.
The VVFA believes the services offered by Open Arms to be of paramount importance to all veterans experiencing troubled thoughts stemming from their service.