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Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Partner Service Pension and Other Measures) Act 2019

The Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Partner Service Pension and Other Measures) Act 2019 received Royal Assent on 20 September 2019.

The Act implements three new measures. The first measure amends the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) to streamline eligibility for Partner Service Pension (PSP) by removing inequities which currently exist between married and non-married former partners.

The second measure provides additional benefits to Australian Defence Force (ADF) members who served on Submarine Special Operations (SSO) between 1 January 1993 and 12 May 1997.  The service has been reclassified as operational service and qualifying service under the VEA, making these members eligible for a range of benefits under the VEA including service pension at age 60 and the DVA Gold Card at age 70.

The third measure amends the definition of ‘widow’ and ‘widower’ in the Defence Service Homes Act 1918 (DSHA) and the VEA to ensure consistency with changes to the definition of marriage made by the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 (the Marriage Amendment Act).

Information including the text of the Bill, Explanatory Memorandum, and Minister’s Second Reading Speech

Further information on the three measures in this Bill can be accessed via the following:

  • Schedule 1 – Extended eligibility for partner service pension
  • Schedule 2 – Extended service on submarine special operations
  • Schedule 3 – Other amendments

Schedule 1 – Extended eligibility for partner service pension

Schedule 1 amends the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) to align eligibility of former de facto partners of veterans; divorced spouses of veterans; and persons who were formerly in a registered relationship with a veteran with Partner Service Pension (PSP) eligibility which exists for separated (but not yet divorced) married partners of veterans.

Formerly under the VEA, former unmarried partners of veterans lost their eligibility for PSP on separation from the veteran partner, and the separated spouse of a veteran lost their eligibility for PSP on divorce.

The amendments result in all former partners of veterans, regardless of marital status, being eligible for an extension of PSP for 12 months on separation from the veteran, and indefinitely where specified circumstances exist, such as a domestic violence. All former partners of veterans, regardless of marital status, are also eligible to continue to receive PSP indefinitely after the death of the former veteran partner.

The amendments create a modern legislative provision which recognises different types of relationships and removes any associated discrimination. These amendments commenced on 20 September 2019.

Schedule 2 – Extended service on submarine special operations

Schedule 2 amends the VEA to classify service by a member of the Defence Force on Submarine Special Operations (SSO) during the period 1 January 1993 to 12 May 1997 as being operational and qualifying service.

Defence Force members who served on SSO between 31 December 1992 and 12 May 1997 have access to increased benefits under the VEA including Service Pension at age 60; Disability Pension under Part II; pension supplement and the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card; and the DVA Health Card for All Conditions (Gold Card) at age 70. Members are also be eligible for assessment of claims under the more beneficial reasonable hypothesis standard of proof.

These amendments commenced on 1 July 2019.

Schedule 3 – Other amendments

Schedule 3 amends the definitions of ‘widow’ and ‘widower’ in the Defence Service Homes Act 1918 and the VEA to ensure consistency with changes to the definition of marriage made by the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 (the Marriage Amendment Act). The Marriage Amendment Act amended the Marriage Act 1961 to remove the restrictions that limit marriage in Australia to the union of a man and a woman and allowed two people the freedom to marry in Australia, regardless of their sex or gender.

The amendments have the effect of expanding the class of eligible veterans and other persons in respect of whom a housing subsidy may be payable under the DSHA and expand the class of persons who will be dependants in respect of whom pensions may be payable under the VEA.

These amendments commenced the day after Royal Assent.

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