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The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT)

The AAT is an independent review body with power to review all decisions of the VRB, including decisions on disability pensions and allowances under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA), as well decisions under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA), and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA).

If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome after your claim has been reconsidered by a DVA officer or reviewed by the VRB (as the case may be), you can apply to the AAT for a review of that decision. The letter notifying the outcome of the reconsideration or review will include details of your right of appeal to the AAT.

How do I apply to the AAT?

You can write a letter to the AAT or fill out the Apply Online form available online or at AAT offices.

You must include:

  • the name of the decision making agency, ie DVA;
  • whether the decision was made by the Repatriation Commission, the MRCC or the VRB;
  • the date of the decision;
  • brief reasons why you think the decision is wrong; and
  • a copy of the decision.

For more information about how to apply, please refer to How to Apply page on the AAT website at www.aat.gov.au/applying-for-a-review/how-to-apply.

What are the time limits?

  • For VEA claims, to preserve the benefit of maximum possible payment, you must apply within three months of receipt of the decision you are appealing against. At the discretion of the AAT, appeals may be accepted up to 12 months after the receipt of the decision. If accepted, backdating of benefits will be affected.
  • For SRCA claims, you must apply within 60 days of receiving written advice from DVA of the outcome of your request for reconsideration.
  • For MRCA claims, an application to the AAT for review of a VRB decision must be lodged in writing with the AAT within three months of the date of the VRB’s decision. An application to the AAT for a review of a MRCC reconsideration must be lodged in writing with the AAT no more than 60 days after the date you receive the reconsideration decision.
  • For more information about the time limits, please refer to the Time limits page on the AAT website at www.aat.gov.au/applying-for-a-review/time-limits.

Can I represent myself at the AAT or ask someone else to help me?

You can deal directly with the AAT or you can ask someone to help you. If you want to, you can make your own arrangements for a lawyer or other person to represent you. For example, this could be a veterans’ advocate or it could also be a family member or friend.

If you tell the AAT you have a representative, they will usually send all documents relating to your case to that person. For some types of cases, you might be able to get help from a community legal centre or from Legal Aid. If you want legal advice or representation, it is best to do this before your first conference with the AAT.

You can also ask a family member or a friend to help you with your case or support you when you come to the AAT. If you tell the AAT that you have someone helping you, they can send all documents relating to your case to that person as well as to you.

What happens if I represent myself?

If you are representing yourself, the AAT will contact you to explain the review process and give you an opportunity to ask questions about it. This is called Outreach.

The AAT will also:

  • give you information about any organisations that might be able to provide you with advice or assistance in relation to your case
  • ask you whether you need an interpreter or any other assistance during the review process.

Outreach is usually conducted by telephone within six weeks after you send us your application. Where necessary, an AAT officer will arrange for an interpreter to be available to assist before making contact with you. To find out more about Outreach you can call 1800 228 333.

Will I be entitled to legal aid and/or costs for my application to the AAT?

Legal aid may be available at the AAT for a review of a DVA decision.  Legal aid applications by DVA clients are exempt from means testing but are subject to a merits test and decision by the state/territory legal aid commissions.

Legal aid commissions are independent bodies established under state and territory legislation. Commissions determine eligibility for their legal services and the extent of assistance they will provide in individual cases.

In addition to representation in the AAT, legal aid commissions may also provide advice and/or legal task assistance for people preparing an application to the VRB, including any alternative dispute resolution processes. However, a lawyer is not able to appear before a VRB hearing.

More information about legal aid commissions and the types of services they provide can be found on each commission’s website (centrally located at www.nationallegalaid.org/).

Please note that legal aid is not available to MRCA clients who select the reconsiderations pathway, either at the reconsiderations stage or at the AAT.  However, legal or associated costs may be awarded by the AAT in certain circumstances (see below).

Financial assistance for people appearing before the AAT may be provided by the Attorney-General’s Department at https://www.ag.gov.au .  Further information about this, including eligibility criteria, can be found in the Attorney General's Legal Financial Assistance Information Sheet (PDF 204 KB)

Legal or associated costs relating to an AAT application can be awarded in some circumstances at the AAT, at the discretion of the Tribunal. 

Costs will not be awarded in the following circumstances:

  • new documentary evidence is presented, and it could have been provided to the VRB by the claimant without unreasonable expense or inconvenience, and the AAT is satisfied the VRB would have made a more favourable decision;
  • legal aid was granted at the VRB or AAT;
  • the claimant failed, without reasonable excuse, to appear at the hearing of the review by the VRB;
  • the claimant failed to comply with a direction of the VRB in some circumstances;
  • the claimant failed to comply with a notice to supply information before the Commission made the original determination; and
  • if the AAT remits the case back to the Commission because new evidence was presented.

There is no provision for the award of costs for AAT matters where you are appealing against a decision made by the VRB.

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