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Legal services

DVA provides a range of legal and assurance services to the Minister, the Repatriation Commission, the MRCC and other areas of the Veterans' Affairs portfolio.

Legislation program

During 2016–17, several portfolio-related Bills were enacted, most notably two Budget-related Bills and legislation that will make DVA digitally ready to support its business transformation program. Two portfolio Bills were introduced but have not yet passed the Parliament, and several Bills from other portfolios with consequential amendments for veterans' affairs legislation were introduced and/or passed. Details are provided in Table 35.


Table 35—Legislation program 2016–17
Title Description
Enacted legislation
Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Budget Measures) Act 2017 This Act provided medical treatment for all conditions to Australian participants in the British nuclear tests, civilians present at a nuclear test site in the relevant period and Australian veterans of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force; amended the 10-year work restrictions for the Special and Intermediate rates of disability pension; and enabled a pilot program of accelerated access to rehabilitation.
Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Budget and Other Measures) Act 2016 The Act amended the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 to pay interim incapacity payments at 100 percent of normal earnings and to align the cut-off age for incapacity payments to the increased 'pension age' as defined in the Social Security Act 1991. It also extended eligibility under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 for non-liability healthcare treatment for certain mental health conditions to cover all current, former and future permanent Australian Defence Force members.
Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Digital Readiness and Other Measures) Act 2017 This Act made DVA digitally ready in a legal sense, in line with the Government's digital transformation agenda; made provision for contingent amendments to the information-sharing provisions in a proposed new Act to be called the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988; and made some minor and technical amendments to the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 concerning criminal penalties.
Budget Savings (Omnibus) Act 2016 This Act included amendments to create a single appeal path for reviewing original determinations made under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004; made consequential amendments to the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 to ensure that Commonwealth parental leave payments under the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 are included in the income test for income support payments; and made amendments to the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 to ensure the continuation of the current penalty interest rate that applies to debts under that Act.
Comcare and Seacare Legislation Amendment (Pension Age and Catastrophic Injury) Act 2017 The Act amended the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 so that workers compensation arrangements for the Comcare scheme are aligned with minimum benchmarks to be set by the proposed National Injury Insurance Scheme, and to ensure that persons in receipt of incapacity payments can continue to receive those payments until they reach pension age.
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Energy Assistance Payment and Pensioner Concession Card) Act 2017 This Act amended the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 to provide service pension, income support supplement and compensation recipients with a one-off energy assistance payment, and reinstated the Pensioner Concession Card from 9 October 2017 to those former pensioners who lost their Pensioner Concession Card on 1 January 2017 due to the assets test rebalance.
Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (2016 Measures No 1) Act 2016 This Act consolidated three existing forms of assistance for Indigenous university students under a single Indigenous-specific division of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 and included consequential amendments to the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 to provide that such assistance is exempt for the purposes of the income test.
Bills introduced but not yet passed
Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation Amendment (Defence Force) Bill 20161 This Bill would create the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA). The DRCA would duplicate the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, with modifications to limit coverage under the Act to Australian Defence Force members and their dependants.
Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Omnibus) Bill 2017 This Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs on 30 March 2017. It would implement several small but necessary amendments to veterans' affairs legislation to clarify, improve or streamline the operation of the law.
Other Acts and Bills with consequential amendments for veterans' affairs legislation
Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Jobs Path: Prepare, Trial, Hire) Act 2017 This Act made a consequential amendment to the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 to exempt a fortnightly incentive payment ($200) received by a participant when undertaking an internship as part of the Youth Jobs PaTH from being included as part of the person's income.
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Seasonal Worker Incentives for Jobseekers) Act 2017 The Act amended the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 to trial a social security income test incentive aimed at increasing the number of job seekers who undertake specified seasonal horticultural work, such as fruit picking.
Statute Update Act 2016 This Act included consequential amendments to the Defence Service Homes Act 1918 and the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 to replace references to penalties expressed as a number of dollars with penalties expressed as a number of penalty units.
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Ending Carbon Tax Compensation) Bill 2017 This Bill would amend the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 to prevent new recipients of welfare payments or concession cards from being paid the energy supplement from
20 September 2017.
Social Security Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017 Amongst other things, this Bill proposes to consolidate seven working age payments and allowances into the new job seeker payment, thereby simplifying the system for people receiving working age payments.
Social Security Legislation Amendment (Better Targeting Student Payments) Bill 2017 This Bill would change the rates of the pensioner education supplement and the education entry payment to better align those payments with study loads undertaken by eligible students, with four payment tiers proposed.
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Payment Integrity) Bill 2017 This Bill proposes four measures designed to improve the integrity and sustainability of the welfare payments system. Of relevance to the Veterans' Affairs portfolio, the Bill would stop the payment of pension supplement after six weeks temporary absence overseas and immediately for permanent departures.
Statute Update (Winter 2017) Bill 2017 This Bill would amend the Compensation (Japanese Internment) Act 2001 to remove a redundant reference to the Administrative Review Tribunal.
  1. The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation Amendment (Defence Force) Bill 2016 was passed by the Parliament on 7 September 2017 and received Royal Assent on 14 September 2017. The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 commenced on 12 October 2017.

The following information about legal services expenditure is required to be published under paragraph 11.1(ba) of the Legal Services Directions 2017 issued by the Attorney-General under section 55ZF of the Judiciary Act 1903.

In 2016–17, DVA spent a total of $10.27 million on legal services, compared to $10.62 million in 2015–16. Expenditure included external and internal legal services.

In 2016–17, DVA spent $7.24 million on external legal services, compared to $8.16 million in 2015–16. Included were disbursements and the engagement of counsel who advised on litigation, procurement, contracting and management issues.

In accordance with Guidance note 8 to the Legal Services Directions, Table 36 shows expenditure on total external legal services and details the number of male and female counsel briefed and the value of this work in 2016–17.

Table 36—External legal services expenditure (GST exclusive) and number of male and female counsel briefed 2016–17
Type Value ($m)
Solicitors   6.101
Counsel Female (42) 0.113
  Male (57) 0.219
  Total (99) 0.332
Other disbursements1   0.806
Total   7.239
  1. Costs incurred for goods and services that are not counsel or professional fees (e.g. filing fees, costs for expert witnesses and costs of administrative tasks such as photocopying).

DVA provides internal legal services in areas such as:

  • legislation administered by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs
  • management of the Minister's legislation program
  • drafting of legislative instruments and related documentation
  • legal advice on DVA's portfolio legislation
  • conduct of all non-military compensation litigation at superior courts for matters involving claims under the VEA.

The VRB also has internal staff who provide services of a legal nature.

In 2016–17, the total direct salary and overhead cost for DVA legal services was $3.03 million, compared to $2.46 million in 2015–16.

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