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Budget Measures 2017 - further information

Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Act 2006 to be known as the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests and British Commonwealth Occupation Forces (Treatment) Act 2006

Under the long-standing provisions of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) and its predecessor legislation, there is no scope for BNT participants or BCOF veterans to be granted treatment for all conditions based on the nature of this service alone.  This is because the automatic grant of treatment for all conditions is based on being age 70 or over and having rendered service on active operations during a war or conflict.  BNT and BCOF service do not meet this service requirement.

This Budget measure will provide treatment for all health conditions to those who participated in the British Nuclear Tests (BNT) program in Australia, as well as veterans who served as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF), which took part in the occupation of Japan immediately following the Second World War. It will also include a small number of civilians who did not actively participate in the BNT program, but who were in the same vicinity as other civilians who participated directly in the BNT tests. These members include pastoralists and members of indigenous communities.

The treatment for all conditions would be provided under an existing piece of legislation, the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Act 2006 (‘BNT Act’), which, in its current form, provides more limited treatment benefits to BNT participants.  From 1 July 2017, this Act will be known as the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests and British Commonwealth Occupation Force (Treatment) Act 2006

If a person considers they meet the requirements of this measure ie, was a person that participated in the BNT in Australia, a civilian in the vicinity at the time of the BNT or an Australian member of the BCOF, please contact DVA on 133 254 and 1800 555 254 for details on how to apply for full health care. Further information can be found on Factsheet DP83 or the British Nuclear Tests and British Commonwealth Occupation Force page. Claim forms can be accessed here.

Special and Intermediate Rates of Disability Pension

The Special Rate of pension was designed for severely disabled veterans of a relatively young age who could never go back to work and could never hope to support themselves or their families or put away money for their retirement.  Veterans are considered for the Special Rate when their incapacity from accepted conditions is determined to be at 70 per cent or greater of the General Rate, their war or defence caused conditions prevent the person from working more than eight hours per week and as a result they have a loss of remuneration.

The eligibility criteria for the Intermediate Rate are the same as the criteria for the Special Rate, with the exception of the maximum capacity to work.  To be eligible for the Intermediate Rate, a veteran’s incapacity must render them incapable of undertaking work other than on a part-time or intermittent basis.  This is defined as no more than 50 per cent of the time ordinarily worked by persons in that kind of work, or no more than 20 hours per week.

In addition to the criteria set out above, a claimant who is 65 years or older must satisfy the 10 year work test.  Further, they must have worked for the same employer or their predecessor(s), or been self-employed and working in the same profession, trade vocation or calling for 10 consecutive years or more. 

The requirement of 10 years of continuous employment disadvantages clients aged 65 years or older who would meet the eligibility requirements for the Special or Intermediate Rates of Disability Pension but for requirement of 10 years of continuous employment with a single employer or to have worked in the same field of vocation for 10 consecutive years or more.  The reality of the modern work environment is that it is now unusual that a person would remain employed by a single employer for 10 years, or within the same field or vocation for 10 continuous years.  Under this Act, a veteran may be eligible for the Intermediate or Special Rate of Disability Pension where the veteran changes employer or employment during that continuous 10-year period of work before ceasing employment.

Early access to rehabilitation through a pilot programme

Currently, veterans and ADF members with eligibility under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 have to wait until their initial liability claim is accepted before they can access rehabilitation services.  Assessing a claim typically takes around four months, and for complex cases (such as when the diagnosis is not finalised) it can take even longer.

By contrast, clients with eligibility under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 can apply for assistance under the Veterans’ Vocational Rehabilitation Scheme without submitting a claim as long as they meet the service eligibility requirements.

The 2011 MRCA Review recognised the need for early intervention and noted that access to rehabilitation as soon as a claim for initial liability is lodged is desirable.  Early access to rehabilitation will facilitate participation in economic activities with all of the ensuing benefits of work and recovery, assist in minimising the ongoing effects of injury and illness and promote recovery and wellbeing.

A six month pilot programme providing early access to rehabilitation to a group of 100 participants will be undertaken in the 2017-18 financial year.  These amendments facilitate that pilot programme, as there is currently no legislative basis to provide rehabilitation before a claim for liability is accepted by the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission.

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