The Legal Services and Assurance Branch provides a range of legal and assurance services to the Minister, the Repatriation Commission, the MRCC, the Secretary and other areas of the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio (e.g. the Australian War Memorial).
During 2012-13, a significant legislation program was undertaken by the Government, leading to the enactment by Parliament of a number of Acts.
Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Military Compensation Review and Other Measures) Act 2013
This Act amended portfolio legislation to give effect to part of the Government’s response to the Review of Military Compensation Arrangements, including amendments which:
- streamline access to treatment for certain persons with eligibility for defence-related injuries or diseases under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988
- increase flexibility for compensation payments to wholly dependent partners
- increase the amount of weekly compensation payable to eligible dependent children of deceased members or former members
- increase the membership of the MRCC
- enhance transition management arrangements.
The Act also included minor amendments which:
- clarify the provisions relating to payments to bank accounts
- enable the Repatriation Commission and the MRCC to pay part of the cost for aged care services
- create an entitlement to travel expenses for partners of certain eligible persons.
Aged Care (Living Longer Living Better) Act 2013
This Act included amendments to the income and asset test provisions of the VEA to reflect the changes to the way that residential aged care accommodation costs may be paid. The amendments provide for the consistent treatment, under the VEA, of all lump sum accommodation and periodic payments regardless of whether the payment was made before or after 1 July 2014.
Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2013
This Act included minor amendments to enable the payment of a partial quarterly Pension Supplement where a person has changed to fortnightly supplement payments or ceases to be eligible for the supplement. The Act also corrects the rate calculator for the quarterly clean energy supplement.
Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Income Support Bonus) Act 2013
This Act included amendments to enable the payment of the Income Support Bonus in respect of eligible recipients of the education allowance under the Veterans’ Children Education Scheme and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act Education and Training Scheme.
Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Further 2012 Budget and Other Measures) Act 2012
This Act included amendments to enable the payment of the Schoolkids Bonus in respect of eligible recipients of education allowance under the Veterans’ Children Education Scheme and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act Education and Training Scheme. In addition the Act extended the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial for 12 months.
Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Act 2012
This Act amended the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 to extend the Paid Parental Leave scheme to certain working fathers and partners so that they receive two weeks dad and partner pay. The amendments to the VEA were consequential amendments concerning exempt income, pension bonus, employment income and the debt recovery provisions.
Minor amendments were made to Veterans’ Affairs legislation by the Statute Law Revision Act 2013, Personal Liability for Corporate Fault Reform Act 2012, Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Act 2012 and National Disability Insurance Scheme Legislation Amendment Act 2013.
Legal services expenditure
Requirement to report
The following information about legal services is required to be published under paragraph 11.1(ba) of the Legal Services Directions 2005 issued by the Attorney-General under section 55ZF of the Judiciary Act 1903.
In 2012-13, DVA spent a total of $9.01 million on legal services compared with $8.8 million in 2011-12. Expenditure included external and internal legal services.
External legal services
In 2012-13, DVA spent $5.6 million on external legal services compared with $6.0 million in 2011-12. Included were disbursements and engaging counsel who advised on litigation, procurement, contracting and management issues.
In accordance with Guidance note 8 to the Legal Services Directions, Table 47 shows expenditure on total external legal services and details the number of male and female counsel briefed and the value of this work in 2012-13.
|External expenditure on solicitors||$4.6 million|
|External expenditure on counsel||Male counsel briefed||12||Value||$0.3 million||$0.41 million|
|Female counsel briefed||8||Value||$0.11 million|
|Other disbursements on external legal services 1||$0.62 million|
|Total external legal services expenditure||$5.6 million|
1 Disbursements are costs incurred for goods and services that are not counsel or professional fees (e.g. filing fees, expert witnesses and administrative fees such as photocopying).
Internal legal services
DVA provides internal legal services such as:
- legal advisings related to legislation administered by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
- management of the Minister’s legislation program
- drafting of legislative instruments and related documentation
- procurement and contract legal issues
- conduct of all non-military compensation litigation at superior courts for matters involving claims under the VEA.
The Veterans’ Review Board also has internal staff providing services of a legal nature.
The total direct salary and overhead costs for DVA legal services, including the Veterans’ Review Board, in 2012-13 was $3.4 million compared with $2.8 million in 2011-12.
Reporting under paragraph 11.2 of the Legal Services Directions 2005
In 2012-13, the Office of Legal Services Coordination (OLSC) investigated five allegations relating to potential breaches of the Directions by DVA. The OLSC found no breaches in three of these cases, with another case closed with no further action required. One investigation remains open.