Advocacy

Veterans Support and Advocacy Service Australia Inc
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THE VSASA ADVOCACY GUIDE 
Answering a few frequently asked questions.A Short unofficial guide to help answer some frequently asked questions. This document relates to the Veterans’ Entitlement Act of 1986 (VEA). It does not relate to the various Military Compensation Acts. 

Why do I need VSASA and a Practitioner ? Because we have the training, knowledge and resources to present your case in a professional and competent manner. 

So, what is a Practitioner ? All of the practitioners at VSASA (Toowong) are volunteers, and they fit into the following three categories. 
(1) A “Pensions Officer” will handle your initial claim. 
(2) A “Case Officer” will prepare any review of the Repatriation Commission decision should it not be in your favour. 
(3) An “Advocate” will take your case to the Veterans’ Review Board (an independent review body) should that be necessary. 
All practitioners are trained to the appropriate level and some are qualified to practice at all three of the above levels. Your practitioner will assist you, and may suggest a course of action. Ultimately all decisions in respect of your claim will be made by
 ………. you alone ………..

If you do not understand any facet of your case feel free to ask. 

Note: We also have practitioners that are qualified in Military Compensation matters. 

How Much Will It Cost Me? All services provided by VSASA practitioners are free of any charge.

What is the difference between the DVA and the Repatriation Commission? The determining authority is The Repatriation Commission. The body that administers that authority is the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). All throughout the claims process you are dealing with the DVA. The person who makes the decision in your case is employed by DVA, and that person is a duly authorised delegate of the Repatriation Commission. 

Where do I fit in? There are a number of relevant pieces of legislation (such as the new Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act) that relate to serving and ex-military personnel. In some instances a veteran will be eligible to claim under more than one piece of legislation. What category you fit into is dependant on a number of factors: 
• When did you serve ?
• When did the injury or disease occur ?
• What type of service was it ?
(operational, peacekeeping, peacetime etc)

The practitioner will explain what category you fit into. 

What are the two types of Pensions ? There are two types of pensions under the VEA, Service Pension and Disability Pension. One does not necessarily preclude you from the other. 

The Service Pension (SP), put simply, is the old age pension. It is available to those veterans who have Qualifying Service (those who have faced danger from hostile enemy forces). The advantage is that these veterans qualify for it at age 60, as opposed to the general population who qualify at age 65 for the old age pension.
  or
 if, at any age, you have a medical condition (not necessarily caused by your service) and a specialist doctor says you can no longer work and rates you at 40 GARP points of impairment (explained later). This pension is means and assets tested. 

The Disability Pension (DP), put simply, is compensation for the disability caused by an injury or disease that the Repatriation Commission has accepted as caused by your military service. The level of your General Rate of Disability Pension ranges from 0% to 100%. ….. Zero percent (0%) is where, for example, you have a mild hearing loss but it is not enough to affect your lifestyle. It can be accepted and covered for medical expenses (and White Card for accepted disability) but you do not receive compensation. (Disability Rate is 0%) 
There are five types of Disability Pension payments:               
1      General Rate of Pension
               2      Extreme Disability Adjustment
               3      Intermediate Rate
               4      Temporary Special Rate
               5      Special Rate
The last four are usually referred to as Above General Rate Pension (AGR) and are for veterans who can no longer work because of their accepted disabilities alone, or suffer extreme disability. There are very strict criterions which must be satisfied in order to obtain any AGR Pension. Your practitioner will explain the various criteria to you. The Disability Pension is not means or assets tested. Note: The term TPI is generic. The correct title is “Special rate of pension” (Section 24 of the VEA)

Do I need a diagnosis ? When you are aware that you have a medical condition it is imperative that it is properly diagnosed. If, for example, you have a “bad back”, your practitioner can do nothing for you until it is correctly diagnosed (lumbar spondylosis, prolapsed disc or whatever). If you have a psychiatric condition it may be any of a number of conditions (depression or anxiety for example. Not every veteran has PTSD) The reason for this is that Statements of Principles vary from condition to condition (see next paragraph). Once a diagnosis has been made the practitioner will then assist you in establishing whether or not it is connected that is to say, caused by your relevant service. 

What are Statements of Principals (SOP’s) ? There is an SOP for most medical conditions. They are prepared by specialists in the appropriate field and they are amended as up to date scientific information comes to light. SOP’s are legal documents that are prepared by the Repatriation Medical Authority (RMA) and they set out in a number of parts. Most important of these parts is called “The Factors” (usually Part 5). This part sets out the factors that could possibly link your medical condition to your relevant service. For example if you had Huntington’s chorea, which is caused genetically, it is practically impossible to link it to your service, hypertension, on the other hand, has many causes which may be linked to service. 

If the factors in the SOP are not met, the claim for that condition will fail at the primary level. Should you wish to look at the most up to date SOP’s for any condition you can go to the Internet www.rma.gov.au and follow the prompts. 

What is GARP ? Throughout your process you will hear reference to GARP (GARP Assessment and GARP points or GARP rating) it is an acronym for the publication titled “The Guide to the Assessment of the Rate of Veterans’ Pensions”. Put simply, GARP is a method to assess the degree of disability of any given medical condition and measure it in terms of “impairment points”. GARP also allows a calculation as to how that particular medical condition(s) affects your lifestyle. GARP also allows for an assessment of a number of conditions into one singular impairment rating. As a finale GARP enables the conversion of the impairment points and the lifestyle rating into a percentage and, that is the percentage of pension you will receive from DVA if those conditions are accepted. 

What are the Standards of Proof ? In all proceedings, especially law, there is a standard of proof set. That means the level of evidence needed to satisfy what you are asserting. In DVA matters there are two standards, “reasonable hypothesis” and “reasonable satisfaction”. Some claimants (eg those with operational service) enjoy the “reasonable hypothesis” standard to establish their claim. Put simply, this means that the claimant only has to raise a reasonable hypothesis connecting his medical condition to his relevant service and the DVA then has to show beyond doubt it is not reasonable. It cannot be just a “story” there must be some evidence pointing to the hypothesis. 

EVERYTHING else in these matters is decided on the “reasonable satisfaction” standard. This means that you must show, on the balance of probabilities, it is more likely than not that this is fact. This is a hard concept to grasp but your practitioner will explain it to you. 

How come a couple of ‘mates’ in my old unit are TPI ? Your practitioner cannot comment on any other cases. They are constrained by ethics and privacy and any knowledge would be restricted to those cases that they may have been personally involved in. Please do not ask your Advocate to comment on any other case. You should be aware that legislation changes with time, new Acts formulated and others amended. SOP’s change with time. You should also be aware there are continuous precedents being set by Judicial Decisions (eg: in the Federal and High Courts of Australia). What applied to your ‘mates’ may or may not apply to you. Similarly, precedents and changes to SOP’s are quite often beneficial to your situation. 

How come I got so few Impairment Points ? Your practitioner has no control over this. Once you see a specialist or a GP it is entirely between patient and doctor. You tell him what is wrong, he examines you and then he decides your level of impairment. There are avenues open to you for second medical opinions. 

Can I appeal a decision made ? Should any decision not be in your favour you have avenues of appeal. The “early” levels of appeal are:• Section 31 (VEA) S31
• Veterans’ Review Board (VRB)

Section 31 (VEA) An (S31) appeal prepared by a VSASA case officer then goes to the Review Section of the DVA. A review officer of DVA, senior to the officer that made the original decision, will review your case. This appeal generally requires additional evidence. 

The next level is:

Veterans’ Review Board 
(VRB) which is an independent body that also reviews what has been presented, and any new evidence provided. You and an Advocate from VSASA then attend the VRB in person with further argument and evidence. If unsuccessful at the VRB level, you can appeal to courts of law. VSASA (Toowong) has a general policy to advise veterans to seek suitable legal advice at this point. The sequence of the appeals system then follows:     •      Administrative Appeals Tribunal
     •      Federal Court
     •      Full Bench of the Federal Court
     •      High Court of Australia
     •      Full Bench of the High Court of Australia 
This above data was produced by VSASA for the benefit of our clients. It was produced to answer some questions about the system as defined by the Veterans’ Entitlement Act of 1986 (VEA) and should not be solely relied upon for a complete understanding. If you have any questions at all in reference to your claim, or its relevance to the VEA please do not hesitate to ask your Pensions Officer, Case Officer or Advocate to further explain the issue at hand to you. Please also be aware that VSASA is a registered charitable organisation and while any donations are deductible, neither they nor any fees for service are required nor requested. Any decision to make a donation rests with the veteran client and is not in any way enforced or mandatory.      Thank you.