In 2013–14, the full MRCC held 11 formal meetings and considered 102 submissions. The subcommittee of the MRCC met on nine occasions and considered 32 submissions.
Over the four years to 2012–13, the number of matters considered by the MRCC and its subcommittee grew from 115 submissions, to 211. The number of submissions that were considered by the MRCC and its subcommittee continues to be greater than that considered by the Repatriation Commission.
Matters considered during the year included:
- contracting and tendering for the supply of health and support services
- the implementation of the Government’s response to the military compensation review
- a review of the guidelines for Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP) National Schedule of Equipment
- the Veteran Mental Health Strategy
- framework for the provision of support to contemporary widows, widowers and dependants
- delegation of Commission powers and amendments to treatment principles
- guidelines for delegates on establishing special circumstances under the MRCA
- the DVA Strategic Research Model and associated research proposals.
Since the MRCA commenced in June 2004, the Commission’s activities and business under that Act have increased significantly.
In 2013–14, initial liability claims received under the MRCA for injury and death (combined) were 5,829 compared with 4,804 in 2012–13, an increase of 21.3 per cent. The number of such claims finalised in 2013–14 was 6,290 compared to 4,332 in 2012–13, an increase of 45.2 per cent. The number of initial liability claims on hand declined by 461 over the year and was 1,725 at 30 June 2014. The mean time taken for initial liability claims finalised in 2013–14 was 144 days compared to 155 in 2012–13, against a target of 120 days. The critical error rate for such claims reduced from 2.4 per cent in 2012–13 to 0.6 per cent in 2013–14, within the 5 per cent target.
Claims for permanent impairment under the MRCA have also risen, from 3,073 in 2012–13 to 3,990 in 2013–14, an increase of 29.8 per cent. Incapacity payees under the MRCA increased by 29.9 per cent, from 2,231 in 2012–13 to 2,899 in 2013–14. These results are indicative of the growth in activity levels under the MRCA generally. The critical error rate of 22.1 per cent for incapacity payment decisions remains well above target. The Department’s annual report refers to action to address this.
Under the SRCA, initial liability claims have increased, with 3,432 claims (injury and death combined) received in 2013–14 compared with 3,103 in 2012–13, an increase of 10.6 per cent. SRCA initial liability claims finalised totalled 3,450 in 2013–14, up from 3,047 in 2012–13. There was a reduction in the number of such claims on hand, from 1,417 at 30 June 2013 to 1,399 at 30 June 2014. The mean processing time for these claims was 160 days compared to 171 days in 2012–13, against a target of 120 days. The critical error rate for SRCA initial liability claims was 9.5 per cent in 2013–14, above the target of less than 5 per cent.
The number of new SRCA permanent impairment claims received was 12.2 per cent higher than in 2012–13, up from 3,171 to 3,557 in 2013–14. The critical error rate for permanent impairment claims was 4.3 per cent, within the 5 per cent ceiling. The number of incapacity payees under the SRCA fell 1.5 per cent, from 2,348 in 2012–13 to 2,312 in 2013–14. The critical error rate for incapacity payments was 14.1 per cent in 2013–14, against a target of less than 5 per cent. Overall, SRCA activity is reducing but the rate of decline has slowed due to earlier claiming amongst those eligible.
The Department also has a role in Veterans’ Review Board (VRB) and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) applications. The Department prepares reports of the decisions under review, and provides staff to advocate on behalf of the Commission before the AAT. On limited occasions, the Commission will apply for a review by the AAT of a VRB decision under the MRCA. The Commission is not represented at VRB hearings.
During the year the Department analysed the primary decisions set aside at reconsideration stage by VRB and AAT administrative reviews in 2012–13. Of 13,286 commission determinations under the MRCA in 2012–13 only 327 (or 2.5 per cent) MRCA primary decisions were varied or set aside at the section 349 reconsideration, VRB or AAT stage. Of all commission decisions at primary or reconsideration stage, only 1.4 per cent were set aside or varied.
Of 5,822 SRCA primary decisions, 246 or 4.2 per cent were set aside at the reconsideration or AAT stage (the VRB is not involved in SRCA matters). Of all commission decisions at the primary and reconsideration stage, only 0.6 per cent were set aside or varied at the AAT level.
The percentage of set aside decisions as a portion of commission determinations/decisions remains low and illustrates the quality of the decisions being made at the primary processing stage under both Acts.
Activity under both Acts is reported in more depth in the DVA annual report under programmes 1.6 and 2.6. The DVA annual report refers to action being taken by the Department to reduce above-target mean processing times and error rates for the MRCA and SRCA.
Single Access Mechanism
The Single Access Mechanism facilitates the transfer of information and relevant service and medical records between the Department of Defence and DVA for current and former members of the ADF.
DVA uses these records to assist in the determination of claims under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA), MRCA and SRCA. They include records of service, overseas postings, leave confirmations, workplace health and safety incident reports, medical and psychological reports, and financial statements.
The DVA Single Access Mechanism team receives, actions and monitors all requests for defence records. Approximately 30 per cent of compensation claims require the team to request records from the Department of Defence as part of the determination process. In 2013–14, 24,350 Single Access Mechanism document requests were completed.
The report on the Review of Military Compensation Arrangements of February 2011, noted a considerable time lag between when a member of the ADF is injured and when the member makes a claim for compensation. It also noted that reducing the time lag would assist in establishing better workplace safety management practices and in more timely provision of evidence supporting a claim. The report recommended that the MRCC should establish a key performance indicator to measure the time lag between injury and claim, which should be reported on to Defence and in the MRCC annual report.
The time lag between injury and claim under the MRCA is part of the regular Defence Continuum report to the Defence Links Steering Committee. The time lag for 2013–14 is shown in Table 5.
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