In August 2012 Sapper Curtis McGrath lost both legs to an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) while serving in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan. He was three months into a six-month tour of Afghanistan at the time he was wounded.
Curtis spent three days in intensive care at the US Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and several more weeks in the wards, undergoing several surgeries to prepare him for the long flight home to Australia. From Landstuhl, Curtis was flown to Brisbane, along with a medical team. While he was in hospital, a DVA adviser contacted Curtis to explain his eligibility for benefits and services from DVA.
Curtis is one example of an increasing trend of a currently serving member who is also a client of DVA. His story highlights the coming together of support and assistance offered to ADF personnel by both Defence and DVA. For serving members, Defence is generally the primary provider of support. However, an agreement between DVA and Defence allows DVA to provide services in certain circumstances.
For example, Curtis’s prosthetics and some home modifications were supplied by Defence, but additional home modifications were provided by DVA under legislation covering DVA clients. DVA also managed the processing of Curtis’s lost deployment allowances and the provision of a modified vehicle under the Motor Vehicle Compensation Scheme.
This was achieved through the On Base Advisory Service (OBAS), a service introduced in 2011 that situates DVA advisers on a number of Defence bases in a full- or part-time capacity. For Curtis, the OBAS was an invaluable part of his recovery. Being able to see his On Base Adviser daily when necessary, and on his way to rehabilitation activities such as hydrotherapy, allowed Curtis to feel that the whole process was being managed in a holistic way. ‘I would recommend my On Base Adviser to my mates without any reservations,’ said Curtis.
This cooperation between DVA and Defence in ensuring Curtis’s needs were met allowed his rehabilitation to go as smoothly as possible, and he won three medals at the US Marine Corps Trials in May 2013. For Curtis, having clear explanations of the benefits and services available to him through both Defence and DVA has made all the difference.