The Legal Services, Assurance and Deregulation Branch provides a range of legal and assurance services to the Minister, the Repatriation Commission, the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission and other areas of the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio (for example, the Australian War Memorial).
During 2013–14, a significant legislation programme was undertaken by the Government, leading to the enactment by Parliament of a number of Acts.
Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Act 2014
The Act amended portfolio legislation to give effect to various minor measures and technical amendments that:
- clarified travel arrangements for treatment under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 and the Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Act 2006
- ensured that eligibility for assistance under the Defence Service Homes Act 1918 is provided to certain defence force members with their service re-classified as operational service
- enabled special assistance to be provided through a legislative instrument in place of regulation
- clarified the scope of the debt recovery provisions under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986
- updated references in the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 as a consequence of the enactment of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 and the implementation of the MRCA Supplement.
Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014
The Act includes amendments to the Pension Bonus Scheme to end the period for late registrations for those who were eligible to participate but had not registered at the time the Pension Bonus Scheme was closed to new entrants on 20 September 2009. The Act will also align, from 1 January 2015, the income test treatment of account-based superannuation income streams with the deemed income rules that apply to other financial assets.
Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Mental Health and Other Measures) Act 2014
The Act amended portfolio legislation to give effect to some important measures and also made technical amendments that:
- expand non-liability health care to include certain mental health conditions and alcohol and substance use disorders, and extend the periods of eligible service
- expand eligibility for the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service
- provide that Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders do not have to reclaim after a temporary absence overseas
- expand the circumstances in which an eligible young person is taken to be wholly dependent on a defence force member
- enable the Chief Executive Officer of Comcare to be nominated for appointment to the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
- provide for and improve the dispute resolution processes, case management powers and administrative and business procedures of the Veterans’ Review Board.
Minor amendments were made to Veterans’ Affairs legislation by the Farm Household Support (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 2014, Statute Law Revision Act (No. 1) 2014, Tax Bonus for Working Australians Repeal Act 2014 and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 2014.
Legal services expenditure
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 2013–14, DVA spent a total of $9.429 million on legal services compared with $9.01 million in 2012–13. Expenditure included external and internal legal services.
External legal services
In 2013–14, DVA spent $6.244 million on external legal services compared with $5.6 million in 2012–13. 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 44 shows expenditure on total external legal services and details the number of male and female counsel briefed and the value of this work in 2013–14.
|External expenditure on solicitors||$4.99 million|
|External expenditure on counsel||Male counsel briefed||44||Value||$0.475 million||$0.661 million|
|Female counsel briefed||24||Value||$0.185 million|
|Other disbursements on external legal services1||$0.586 million|
|Total external legal services expenditure||$6.244 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 programme
- 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 who provide services of a legal nature.
In 2013–14, the total direct salary and overhead costs for DVA legal services, including for the Veterans’ Review Board, was $3.18 million, compared with $3.4 million in 2012–13.