2023 Webinar Questions & Answers

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During the 2023 Legislation Reform webinars, questions were asked by the attendees. The questions have been grouped into categories and answered below.  Some questions have been amended for length and clarity.

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ADVOCATES – Advocacy Training and Development Program (ATDP)

Q: Will I need to undertake another ATDP training package for my accreditation?
A: Training is certainly something that will need to be considered as part of the larger implementation. However, at this early stage no decision has been made in regards the level of accreditation that may be required.

Q:  Is the ATDP going to be reviewed and transported into a more user friendly system?
A: There are a number of developments in the ATDP space:

The ATDP is in the planning stages of a workshop to refresh the program’s Continuous Professional Development offering.

Q: What support will be provided to advocates with regard to the new legislation provisions?
A: We are engaging through the ATDP team to ensure that advocates are aware of the proposed pathway and intend to consult further once draft legislation is available. Noting that for advocates a lot of this is actually quite straightforward in terms of the proposed model. The training packages will also be updated.

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Q: Why is the Veterans’ Review Board (VRB) process carrying over to the new process?
A: The VRB will be the first point of merit review for all decision making.

Q: What will the appeal process be under the proposed model?
A: Under the current proposal the appeal process will be the same as the current MRCA appeal pathway.  The appeal process will start at the Veterans' Review Board then the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (noting this will transition to a new federal administrative review body in the future).

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These questions relate to the case studies that were used during the webinars. The case studies are available on the Legislation Reform website. Please note that the case studies are hypothetical scenarios that have been prepared for illustrative purposes and are not to be taken as a definitive guide to outcomes.

Q: Are there any case studies where veterans are worse off?
A:  A principle behind the proposed single Act is that current payments and benefits are grandfathered. Therefore, no veteran should be worse off in their current circumstance.

However, there will be some circumstances where veterans may receive different outcomes in the future under MRCA compared eligibilities they may have received under VEA or DRCA. For example, the scenario of Roger shows under MRCA he would receive less permanent impairment than under DRCA, but he would receive a gold card.

Q: Will this proposal remove the current superannuation or super invalidity pension offsetting arrangements? 
A: This proposal does not change the current offsetting provisions in MRCA.

Q: Would the Roger case study also be eligible for incapacity benefits? 
A:  If Roger was incapacitated by his service-related conditions, a claim for incapacity benefits could be lodged.  A claim could be lodged under DRCA now or under MRCA post transition.

Q: In the Greg case study it appears that only a wholly dependant spouse qualifies. What is the impact if the partner earns an income?            
A: Compensation for death is not means tested. Only income support payments received by the spouse would be affected by income.

Q: Will there be further case studies added?      
A:  As the consultation period has ended, our focus is considering the submissions received.  As such, at this stage, no further case studies will be added. The case studies have been created as illustrative examples of the proposed model only. Individual circumstances will need to be considered when making a claim.

Q: What are the eligibility requirements for death benefits under MRCA?
A: Death benefits under MRCA are payable to a dependant spouse, child or 'other dependant' if the veteran was eligible for  Special Rate Disability Pension, assessed at 80 or more permanent impairment points or their death was related to service.

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Q: Has consideration been given to automatically accepting conditions listed during a medical discharge?          
A: After the transition date, the MRCA initial liability provisions will apply.  These provisions will, however, be improved by presumptive liability provisions. 

Q: All of my conditions are accepted under the DRCA. Will I get any benefits under the MRCA system? 
A: For many veterans, their DRCA accepted permanent impairment claims may trigger eligibility for a Gold Card under the new system – a benefit they were unable to receive under the DRCA. The Gold Card will enable veterans to receive treatment for all conditions, not just those listed on their White Card.

You will also be able to claim incapacity payments and permanent impairment compensation under the MRCA. Some veterans may become eligible for the Special Rate Disability Pension. 

Q: Is there still a dedicated Deseal Reseal team?              
A: The Deseal Reseal cases are now completed in our specialised case team in Melbourne. You are welcome to contact them via email at F111.TIER.REQUESTS [at] dva.gov.au (F111[dot]TIER[dot]REQUESTS[at]dva[dot]gov[dot]au).

Q: What is the difference in the process between compensation claims of the old Acts and MRCA?
A: Information on how to claim under each Act is available on the DVA website - https://www.dva.gov.au/

Q: Are there any liabilities that might have been accepted under old legislation that are unlikely to be accepted under MRCA?   
A: Under the proposed model single act (MRCA) all conditions will be assessed using the Statement of Principles (SOPs).

Q: Will you introduce presumptive liability for Gulf war veterans?          
A: As outlined in the proposal, there will be a legal mechanism to have a causal connection presumed for certain commonly claimed and accepted conditions.  The classes of service that will be covered under these provisions are yet to be determined.

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CLAIMS – Applying 

Q: Will I still be able to apply under VEA and/or DRCA after the transition date? 
A: No. Under the proposed model any claims in progress at the transition date would be considered under the existing arrangements.  Any claims lodged from the transition date will be considered and determined under MRCA.

Q: Will a sequela injury for a VEA client be processed under VEA and potentially increase their rate of Disability Compensation Payment after the transition date?
A: No. Any claims lodged from the transition date will be considered and determined under MRCA.

Q: What happens to claims submitted before the transition date that haven't yet been actioned or determined?
A: Claims that are in progress as at the transition date would be considered under the existing arrangements. 

Q:  How will this help veterans like me to get their claims resolved? And will this create further delays?               
A: Claims that are in progress as at the transition date would be considered under the existing arrangements.  Simplification of legislation – from three Acts to one - will take effect at the transition date and all claims considered under MRCA which will provide easier claiming for veterans and their families as well as easier processing for DVA staff.

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CLAIMS – Benefits 

Q: Will the Government take this opportunity to refocus the legislation to one of wellbeing and away from welfare?                 
A: In August 2022 the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide released its Interim Report making 13 recommendations.  The Report confirmed that veterans’ legislation is complex and difficult.  Recommendation 1 of the Report states that "the Australian Government should develop and implement legislation to simplify and harmonise the framework for veterans’ compensation, rehabilitation and other entitlements".  The current proposal, with MRCA as the single act, addresses the need for simplified and harmonised veteran legislation.  MRCA is the most contemporary of the three existing Acts and was created to merge the DRCA and the VEA.  It is a wellbeing and rehabilitation focused Act.

Q: Does the proposed model include income support, vehicle assistance, treatment, travel for treatment, Booked Car With Driver (BCWD), home modification, etc?           
A: Yes. There are elements of the VEA that will continue to be operative and undisturbed or uninterrupted by the proposed new model.

Q: Will Non-Liability Healthcare arrangements or eligibility be affected by this proposal?             
A: Non-liability healthcare arrangements would not be affected by this proposal.

Q: What is the Acute Support Package and what are the timeframes on receiving services?
A: All clients who apply for the Acute Support Package (ASP) are connected with a DVA case manager, who will work to understand the client’s circumstances and support needs. This includes internal DVA supports and services, as well as community services. While ASP applications are underway, case managers continue to work with families to support them to achieve their goals.

As every family has unique circumstances, there is no average timeframe from referral to allocation of a case manager and grant of an ASP. This is because we work with each family to understand what supports and services are appropriate for each person included in the package. Some claims processes may take longer than others, especially if a client was not previously a registered DVA client, or when their circumstances may require additional information to be provided for consideration by a delegate.

Generally, once a family has been determined to meet package eligibility and ASP services are assessed as suitable for their needs, they can expect their package to be granted within two weeks.

Since commencement of the ASP in October 2022, 122 support plans have been put in place to assist 74 family units.

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CLAIMS – Investigation

Q: Will the claimant process be streamlined/simplified under the new model? E.g. lifting reports.
A: The existing requirements under the MRCA will continue under the proposed new model.  DVA welcomes suggestions about the services provided and how they are delivered.  Should you wish to provide feedback you can do so via the DVA website: https://www.dva.gov.au/about/feedback   

Q: Does the phrase "irrespective of when and where the individual served" mean that war-like, peacetime and non-warlike will be discarded? How does this impact personnel based domestically but engaged in offensive or defensive actions online?            
A: An injury recorded in ADF medical records does assist in the investigation of the claim however additional records may be required to establish the injury occurred in the course of military service. The service differential in the MRCA will be maintained.

Q: Will there be any changes to the weighting of evidence in the claims process to places higher levels of confidence on evidence provided by the veteran or the specialist rather than third-party advisers? 
A: DVA is currently reviewing the medical forms and information required from practitioners for the assessment of claims and impairment levels with a view to simplifying these, reducing complexity for doctors and ensuring the required information is obtained.

Q: Will the no onus provisions in VEA/MRCA remain in the new iteration of MRCA?        
A: Yes.

Q: The Productivity Commission recommended one type of Statements of Principles (SoPs), will the proposed model reflect this?        
A: The existing standards of proof under the MRCA will continue under the proposed new model.

Q: When is the department implementing the Productivity Commission's finding (9.5) relating to use of external medical advisers?           
A: Guidance regarding the use of Independent Medical Examiners has been provided to delegates as follows: Delegates will engage the services of an Independent Medical Examination Provider when:

  • Medical evidence isn't available from defence medical records and the veteran doesn't have a treating medical practitioner from whom to gather the evidence to process a claim;
  • The treating medical practitioner can't provide the medical evidence in a timely manner; or
  • There are discrepancies or gaps in existing medical evidence and an opinion from a further medical practitioner is required to reconcile the information in a timely manner.

Arranging an Independent Medical examination should be done with the agreement of the client. A treating doctor is preferable when requesting a medical review. A GP is the first preference where suitable medical evidence can be obtained, followed by other treating specialists and then independent providers.

Q: The date of onset in VEA for some conditions is considered to be the date of an x-ray (see Boys decision), will the date of onset be fixed to the date of injury?       
A: Clinical onset dates will continue to be determined as per current policy and case law.

Q: Why do veterans need to prove an injury when it is recorded in ADF medical documents?     
A: Not all conditions recorded in ADF medical documents are related to a veteran's service. A causal connection to service must be investigated and determined.

Q: Claims should be finalised prior to transition. Many veterans may give up on the claims process because of this reason. 
A: This suggestion has been forwarded on to the relevant area of the Department for consideration. Under current protocols agreed between the Department of Defence and DVA, DVA strives to determine all claims prior to a member's medical discharge wherever possible.

Q: Would it be simpler to remove Statements of Principles (SoPs)?         
A: Under the current proposal, SOPs will be retained.

Q: Is DVA going to align the clinical onset to meet that of the Repatriation Medical Authority (RMA)? If not, why not?       
A: Clinical onset dates will continue to be determined as per current policy and case law.

Q: Are there any plans to reduce the complexity of the current medical review acceptance process? Particularly for doctors who may be unfamiliar with the assessment requirements.
A: The Medical Forms Review Project, funded as part of the Modernisation Program announced in the 2022-23 budget, is aimed at improving the administration of the claims processing system and veterans’ services, by making it simpler and easier for veterans and families to lodge claims and access support and services.

A taskforce has been formed to accelerate the delivery of the first package of revised Compensation Medical Forms by 30 June 2023, which include the most commonly used form and hearing loss & tinnitus forms.

Q: MRCA treats everything as evidence, will this process address the issue of appropriately weighting different forms of evidence such as affidavits versus hearsay in the determination process.  
A: For the purposes of both Acts, evidence is defined broadly in DVA policy as “Evidence is material that tends to satisfy an inquirer that a fact exists.”  Evidence can take a wide variety of forms and claims assessors are required to consider and weigh the relative merits and veracity of the evidence before them.  While some forms of evidence may tend to be more reliable, this must be assessed on a case by case basis rather than through any strict or formal ordering where greater weight must be given to evidence of a particular type.  For instance, a plainly implausible affidavit may carry less weight than other evidence before the assessor.

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CLAIMS – Resources

Q: Will this encourage many DRCA and VEA clients to reapply under MRCA and impact claims processing times?                
A: We want to ensure that all veterans and their families are receiving all the supports and services they are entitled to. Simplification of legislation – from three Acts to one - will provide easier claiming for veterans and their families with less complexity leading to an easier and faster processing.

Q: Is DVA looking at caseload limits for delegates?          
A: A principle behind a single Act is to make it simpler for clients and delegates and therefore speed up the process for veterans.

Q: Is there an update on the 500 new delegates?
A: By the end of April, there has been a net increase of 266 full time equivalent staff commence in claims processing. Recruitment is continuing, with the aim of reaching 500 new staff by the end of June 2023.

Q: What is going to happen with the claims staffing levels?
A: Improving the timeliness of DVA claims processing has been a focus for this Government, which is investing heavily in increasing staffing levels and improving claims processing systems.  Funding of $298m was allocated in the last two Budgets to retain and recruit frontline staff over the next four years, and an additional $341m has been provided to improve the administration of the claims processing system, including modernising DVA IT systems. 

The Government is also investing in DVA’s modelling capabilities, which will ensure that its future staffing meets demand.  While funding for DVA is ultimately a matter for Government, it is not expected that the number of processing staff would be artificially capped prior to any legislative change being implemented.

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CLAIMS – Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) / Special Rate Disability Pension (SRDP) 

Q: How does this affect veterans who failed the 'alone' test under the VEA and therefore unable to get TPI? Will they be able to apply for SRDP?
A: Veterans will be considered for SRDP (post-transition date) if they meet the eligibility requirements.

Q: Is the TPI work test under VEA (8 hours) going to brought into line with the SRDP under MRCA (10 hours)?   
A: In the proposed model there are no current plans to alter the eligibility requirements for the TPI in the VEA as any new claim would come under the MRCA and possibly SRDP, which is set at ten hours.

Q: Are the SRDP eligibility rules being brought into line with the TPI eligibility?
A: Under the current proposal, no changes to SRDP eligibility rules are being proposed.

Q: What is the equivalent of TPI under the MRCA?          
A: The Special Rate Disability Pension (SRDP) under the MRCA provides an alternative form of periodic compensation (instead of incapacity payments) for people whose capacity for work has been severely restricted because of conditions due to military service.  SRDP is payable indefinitely and results in a TPI gold card being issued.  There is no alone factor in SRDP eligibility.

Q: Is an increase in the maximum work hours being considered for TPI/SRDP?   
A: The proposed model does not change the number of hours in the SRDP eligibility, which is set at ten.

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Q: If a veteran has a grandparented rate of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) or Extreme Disablement Adjustment (EDA), and they decide to have a partner after the transition date does that impact of eligibility such as War Widow/ers pension, etc?  
A: It is anticipated that, under the new system, automatic grants of War Widow’s Pension will continue to be offered, just as they are now for spouses of TPI/EDA veterans.  Additionally, dependants would be able to claim benefits under the MRCA if the death was caused by a service-related condition.

Q: Can the pension paid to children of veterans be shifted from Services Australia to DVA?         
A: Any changes to the current arrangements, including DVA administering Social Security income support payments other than the Age Pension to veterans’ family members, would need to be considered by the Australian Government in the Budget context.  This is not being considered under the current proposal.

Q: If a veteran is covered under VEA, will MRCA disadvantage the veteran or their future spouse?
A: Under the proposed model automatic grants of War Widow’s Pension will continue to be offered, just as they are now for spouses of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) / Extreme Disablement Adjustment (EDA) veterans.  Additionally, dependants would be able to claim benefits under the MRCA if the death was caused by a service-related condition.

Q: For grandparented VEA Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) veterans who die after the transition date, how are dependants treated under new legislation?      
A: Under the proposed model existing auto-grant entitlement to your partner would continue including war widows pension and a gold card.

Q: Under VEA, funeral benefit is paid regardless of whether the death is accepted as service related, will this change under the proposed model?       
A: This is an issue that will be considered by the Government, taking into account any views received during the consultation process. 

Q: What is a realised amount paid to a widow who is 60 or 70 years old under MRCA?   
A: To calculate a lump sum payment for a widow/er under MRCA, the weekly amount is multiplied by an age adjusted conversation factor.  Payments would be between $347,246.71 (70 year old widower) and $520,200.50 (60 year old widow).  An additional payment is payable if the death was determined to be related to service which would be between $91,230.97 and $120,286.85. 

Q: Why can't children of a deceased veteran get the same benefits as a partner when there isn't a partner?
A: Although the amount of each payment is less, the dependent benefits available to an Eligible Young Person (EYP) are of an analogous type to the benefits available to the Wholly Dependent Partner (WDP) of a deceased veteran, including:

  • tax-free lump sum compensation payment;
  • weekly periodic payment;
  • veteran Gold Card providing free medical care; and
  • fortnightly MRCA supplement payment

It should be noted, in addition to these compensation payments, Education assistance under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act Education and Training Scheme (MRCAETS) is also available to an EYP.  This includes an annual education allowance for primary school students and a fortnightly amount for secondary or tertiary students. Note this is not available to a WDP.

If there is no WDP and the veteran was receiving periodic permanent impairment payments, special rate disability pension (SRDP) or incapacity payments immediately before death, an EYP who was wholly or mainly dependent on the veteran, is entitled to receive 12 weekly instalments of those payments (known as bereavement payments).

Any variation in benefits between a WDP and EYP reflect the different life stages and obligations of those dependants. For example, a WDP may have financial commitments that an EYP does not.

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EXTERNAL TO DVA – Other Commonwealth Agencies, State and Territory Governments etc

Q: Will the single Act harmonise state based entitlements for veterans?               
A: State-based entitlements are managed by each state and local government.

Q: Are you looking at bringing DVA processing into line with Services Australia to enable enhanced access to DVA Staff to improve processing as part of this new model?
A: Under the shared services arrangements DVA's ICT is managed by Services Australia and therefore has access to their ICT systems that can be integrated into our processing systems where appropriate.

Q: Will the Specialist Medical Review Council continue under the new MRCA?  
A: There are no changes planed for the Specialist Medical Review Council under the proposed model.

Q: Is the legislation going to be updated to allow MRCA TPIs to be recognised for disability support pension in terms of meeting the manifest medical conditions?     
A: This is a known existing issue. This issue is not driven by the veteran's legislation. DVA and the Minister are aware and working towards a solution to this issue with other relevant Government agencies.

Q: How will DVA legislative changes interact with ComSuper/ADFSuper etc? Why are they not considered as a whole 'system' but treated as totally separate? 
A: The current proposed model does not intend to change the interactions with ComSuper etc, however, the Department is engaging with all external organisations as they are likely to see an increase in claims in MRCA.

Q: Will the retrospective discharge pathway be effected? The Commonwealth Superannuation Corporate (CSC) administer it currently. 
A: The proposed pathway does not involve any change to the military superannuation legislation or administration.  If the Government decides to implement the proposed single-Act pathway, consideration of former members as being medically discharged for superannuation purposes would remain with the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (for recipients under Military Super and ADF Cover), or the Australian Defence Force (for DFRDB recipients).

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LEGISLATION REFORM – Date of Claim Approach

Q: MRCA has existed since 2004, the amount of VEA and DRCA claims must be declining so why is this single Act model needed? 
A: Recommendation one of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide Interim Report outlined that veterans’ legislation is complex and difficult and should be simplified and harmonised.  This reform aims to address issues that arise from administering three Acts and remove the complexity for  veterans, while grandparenting arrangements for veterans who are already receiving payments under existing legislation. The guiding principle of this work is to ensure that no one will lose any benefit that they are already in receipt of when the new arrangements commence.

Q: How will the Government pay for these legislative changes? Will there be funding allocated in this year's Budget, the Forward Estimates?                
A: Cost implications will need to be considered in the Budget context.

Q: What measures are there to stop Government amending legislation to reduce entitlements shortly after this proposal is enacted?      
A: The guiding principle of this proposal is to ensure that no one will have a reduction in any payment currently or previously received.

Q: Why have you chosen MRCA as the single Act as opposed to VEA?    
A: MRCA is the most contemporary of the three existing Acts and was created to merge the best elements of DRCA and the VEA. There will be an opportunity to suggest further improvements to the MRCA as the legislation process progresses.

Q: How long will payments be grandfathered for?          
A: There are no plans to change the cessation dates for any grandparented payments. Those that are paid for life will continue to be paid for life.

Q: How can we receive updates on the progress of this legislation reform work?             
A: While this round of consultation has finished there will be ongoing consultation throughout the legislative design process. We know that reform is urgently required and time is passing, and we are therefore keen to get the balance right between consultation and implementation over the year ahead. Updates on the work are regularly being made and uploaded to the Legislation Reform website.

Q: AFP officers who serve overseas in peacekeeping roles currently have eligibility under VEA, will this eligibility be transferred to MRCA?    
A: All those eligible to claim now will need to maintain a claims pathway under the date of claim model.

Q: Why is DVA ignoring Recommendation 8 of the Productivity Commission’s Recommendation?
A: At this time we are consulting on the proposed single Act model which builds on, and has been informed by, earlier consultation and feedback from the veteran community in response to findings from the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide and the Productivity Commission’s 2019 report into veterans’ legislation.

Q: Can you ensure this reform is 'veteran centric' and not just 'DVA focussed’?
A: The primary purpose of this proposal is to simplify legislation and streamline the claims process for veterans and their families. A secondary benefit of this proposal is faster processing times for DVA.

Q: Will the Government use the Australian Veterans’ Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Act 2019 as the key guiding principle document?     
A: The proposal put forward by Government does not anticipate any changes to the Australian Veterans’ Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Act 2019.  It would continue to complement the enhanced MRCA, which would be the sole Act under which compensation claims would be submitted going forward.

Q: Why is this work couched in terms such as 'proposed', 'considered' and 'can be', rather than 'will be'?
A: There has not been a decision made on this model by Government. It is not confirmed. This is a proposed pathway that's been put forward by the Government in response to the interim report from the Royal Commission. The proposal talks about what can be rather than what we will be, because there has been no formal decision taken by Government and there has been no formal action in the Australian Parliament to pass legislation to change the framework. This is genuine consultation. We need to hear from the veteran community about the things that impact them and what's important to them. The Government has put forward a framework - moving to a single act. That single act is the MRCA.

Q: Once a payment has been grandfathered, can it be changed - e.g. can the VEA TPI payment be increased after 1 Jul 25? 
A: While a person will have their rate of payment grandparented, the actual amount of the payment will still be indexed as per the current situation.

Q: Will the Date of Claim model cover all ex-service members? 
A: Yes. If you have an existing entitlement under VEA/DRCA, it will be grandparented and remain the same. If you lodge any new claim such as an aggravation or new condition under the Date of Claim model it would be reviewed under MRCA. Veterans who currently have MRCA only coverage (those who joined after 1 July 2004), will see no change in their claiming and treatment from DVA.

Q: Will the grandfathering provisions mean that the administration of the legislation will still be complicated? 
A: The Government will work to ensure any changes do not result in any individual veteran or family receiving a reduction in their existing benefits. It is acknowledged that these ‘transitional’ aspects of any legislative change will be among the most fraught and sensitive of the model going forward, and will therefore be a particular focus of consultation with the veteran community.

Q: Can you create a tool for people to use to work out which Act would provide the greatest benefit?
A: Thank you for your suggestion. Choosing the right Act for you depends on personal circumstances and is best discussed with an advocate, financial planner and delegate.

Q: Will there be a reduction in entitlements or will it take the most beneficial entitlements from each of the three Acts?     
A: Under the proposed model all future claims to be considered under one legislation (MRCA) with one assessment guide. The benefit structure that exists in the MRCA is already a conglomeration of the entitlements that exist under both the VEA and the DRCA. That will be the Act under which your claim is determined.

The guiding principle of this work is to ensure that no one will lose any benefit that they are already in receipt of when the new arrangements commence.

Q: Have you considered the mental health impact of this proposal?       
A: We are conscious that change can be stressful and we are taking this matter seriously. This is one of the reasons we having this consultation process. We also want to ensure that any change is made gradually so that people can seek assistance if needed. If you are finding this challenging and need support, please reach out to Open Arms who are available 24/7 on 1800 011 046.

Q: Will the Government use the Australian Veterans’ Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Act 2019 as the key guiding principle document?
A: The proposal put forward by Government does not anticipate any changes to the Australian Veterans’ Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Act 2019.  It would continue to complement the enhanced MRCA, which would be the sole Act under which compensation claims would be submitted going forward.

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LEGISLATION REFORM – Consultation, timeframe

Q: Who has already provided feedback on this legislation and how were they selected?               
A: On 16 February 2023, the Hon Matt Keogh, Minister for Veterans' Affairs, announced that the proposed veterans' entitlements legislation was open for public consultation. Submissions have been received from a range of stakeholders in the veteran community from individuals to ex-service organisations. 

There have also been a series of consultative forums hosted by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, the Assistant Minister for Veterans' Affairs, the Hon Matt Thistlethwaite and the Department of Veterans' Affairs that have taken place around Australia with various individuals and ex-service organisations.  These forums, alongside the webinars, have been opportunities for stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposal.

Q: Was this genuine consultation?          
A: Yes. We are consulting on the proposed single Act model, however it builds on, and is informed by, earlier consultation with the veteran community.  Written submissions for this round of consultation closed on 12 May. Consultation with the veteran community will be ongoing throughout the legislative design process.

This round of consultation was genuinely seeking your views on how we can build this model to ensure it meets the needs of veterans and their families. 

DVA has been exploring options to reform the current tri-Act framework of legislation for many years and in parallel with several Government-initiated external reviews.

We know that reform is urgently required and time is passing, and we are therefore keen to get the balance right between consultation and implementation over the year ahead. Updates on the work are regularly being made and uploaded to the Legislation Reform website.

Q: Has the drafting of the legislation begun?     
A:  At this stage, the Government is considering this particular proposal, and is seeking the views of stakeholders before it decides on a way forward.  As this is still only a proposal, no drafting of legislation has begun.

Q: Will we have the opportunity to review draft legislation? Any indication of timing?  
A: Once legislation is drafted it will be subject to standard Parliamentary processes. We will undertake further consultation on the draft legislation. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has already indicated his support for consulting on draft legislation itself.

Q: Will the proposed changes come into effect on 1 July 2025? 
A: We are currently working towards the date identified by the Royal Commission.  However, the timeframe associated with the proposal is subject to the outcomes of these consultations, consideration in the context of budgetary constraints and approval by Government.

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Q: Will the dollar amount for permanent impairment points be updated in the new Act?              
A: There is no proposal to increase rates of compensation payments under the MRCA at this stage.

Q: Will the new Act have a higher maximum payable permanent impairment compensation amount than the current MRCA maximum amount?         
A: No. There are currently no proposed changes to how the maximum payable permanent impairment rate is set or how the calculation is made.

Q: Are the maximum lump sum amounts reviewed and adjusted (increased) periodically? If so, at what interval?               
A: MRCA payments are usually indexed once per year. Various other payments are indexed at different intervals.

Q: Will incapacity payments be affected or reduced for members currently receiving them?      
A: No. There will be no impact to current serving members who are covered under MRCA receiving incapacity payments.  For those with DRCA coverage, DRCA will transition under MRCA.

Q: Are any payments to veterans going to be tax-exempt such as with disability  compensation payment?           
A: The current tax status of all payments will be retained.

Q:  Why is the 5% super contribution taken from DRCA incapacity payments, and what happens under MRCA? 
A: The 5% super contribution is not deducted from incapacity benefits payable under MRCA.

Q: Why are incapacity payments taxed whereas other forms of compensation are not taxed?   
A: Incapacity payments are not taxed where the compensable normal earnings are not taxed (e.g. Reservist salary).

Q: Will the Common Law lump sum alternative to PI still be available?  
A: The proposal under consultation does not change current Common Law options under the MRCA.

Q: Will fortnightly payments be standardized across all generations and would they be taxed under the new proposal?            
A: The proposed model will not make any changes to the composition of payments.

Q: Why aren't MRCA payments classed as tax-exempt and non-asset tested when they are tax-exempt and no method tested under VEA?         
A: Some MRCA payments are tax-exempt. For example, permanent impairment payments roughly equate to Disability Compensation payments under the VEA as they are not taxed. Nor are they held in means test assessments in the Social Security Act. What is different, under MRCA, are incapacity payments. Incapacity payments are economic loss compensation payments, which are calculated based on the veteran's pre-injury salary in most cases.

Q: If a VEA client puts in a claim after 1 Jul 25, how will MRCA assess 75% of what income for the incapacity payments?         
A: Incapacity payments are based on the veteran's pre-injury normal earnings minus any actual earnings they receive.  Further stepdown applies depending on the number of hours a week worked. The maximum stepdown of 75% will be retained.

Q:  Will offsetting continue under the proposed new legislation?             
A: Current offsetting arrangements will continue to be applied.

Q: Are there any plans in the new legislation to remove of the offsetting rules? 
A: No. At this stage there are no plans to make any changes to existing offsetting rules.

Q: What happens to incapacity payments being received under DRCA?
A: Under the proposed model, veterans on DRCA incapacity will be transferred onto MRCA incapacity payments.

Q: How will offsetting work if the client has grandparented payments under the VEA and/or DRCA?
A: Compensation Payments under the VEA that have been reduced due to a payment under the DRCA for an overlapping incapacity will continue to be paid at the reduced rate under the grandparenting arrangements.

The need for offsetting calculations will reduce prospectively as future claims are all considered under the MRCA, ceasing the current potential for dual entitlement under the VEA and the DRCA for the same incapacity.

Q: Would a change in Definition of Superannuation from an Income Stream to a Lump Sum (i.e. the Douglas Case), affect Veteran Payments or Cause further Offsetting?
A: The Federal Court decision in Commissioner of Taxation v Douglas [2020] FCAFC 220 (the Douglas decision) found that from 1 July 2007, in the context of taxation, certain invalidity pension payments for veterans and their beneficiaries are superannuation lump sums, and not superannuation income streams. As you may know, legislation to address the outcomes of the Douglas decision for tax purposes is currently before the Parliament. The Government is committed to ensuring that no veteran will be made worse off because of the Douglas decision.

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TREATMENT – Fees, Cards

Q: Will there be any changes to Gold cards?
A: Gold Card Eligibility rules under the MRCA will apply to all claims after the transition date.

Q: Has there been consideration to separate healthcare from claims?    
A: Treatment for certain conditions, including mental health care and treatment for cancer and pulmonary tuberculosis, is already provided to eligible veterans without the need to prove the condition was caused by service.  The Government’s proposal does not envisage extending this or changing the current pathways for accessing clinically required healthcare treatment under the Treatment Card regime.
Q: Why don’t you give gold cards to all serving personnel?         
A: Under the current proposal, gold card eligibility will be assessed under the MRCA.  Any expansion would need to be considered in the Budget context.

Q: Can the Government look at providing gold cards to the spouse of a Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) veteran as that would significantly help with the cost of living, and stress on relationships?       
A: The current model is not proposing any changes to gold card eligibility. It will, however, move veterans with DRCA coverage under the MRCA where they can be tested against current eligibility.

Q: Why aren't ADF members given a DVA White Card on enlistment for use on base so that all medical records are automatically stored and easily available on discharge? 
A: This suggestion has been forwarded on to the relevant area of the Department for consideration.  MRCA precludes DVA treatment cards for serving members.  DVA treatment cards are for accessing DVA treatment arrangements.  Current serving members receive treatment from Defence who monitor their treatment for their employment status.

Q: Will 60 impairment points for MRCA Gold Card eligibility be retained under the proposed model?
A: The current arrangements under the MRCA will continue under the proposed new model.

Q: How will this impact pre 1972 and 1984-94 veterans with respect to Gold cards, payments and SRDP?             
A: All veterans, including those pre 1972, will fall under the single Act (MRCA) and where eligible would have access to Gold Cards and Special Rate Disability Pension (SRDP).

Q: What is DVA putting in place to ensure the veteran's gold card actually covers procedures?  
A: DVA’s fee schedule arrangements are designed to facilitate funding of health care services, including general practitioner (GP) and medical specialist consultations, through a nationally consistent framework to meet the needs of DVA clients across the country.  

Under Veteran Card arrangements, DVA funds treatment based on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) to ensure treatment is safe, effective and evidence based.  In general, DVA pays a rate higher than the equivalent MBS fee, however, the exact percentage varies depending on the service.  In return for these higher rates, providers are not permitted to charge Veteran Card holders a gap fee.  These fees are indexed annually on 1 July, in line with the indexation rate applied to the MBS.  Any decision to amend fees paid through these arrangements is a decision taken by the Australian Government in the context of the Budget process. 

DVA is aware that some health care providers either do not have capacity to take on more patients, or have indicated they are unwilling to accept DVA payment rates and will instead charge veterans under MBS arrangements, which may incur a gap fee.  While this is regrettable, it is a business decision for the individual provider concerned.  

There remains many thousands of health care providers in Australia, including medical specialists, who continue to accept the Veteran Card for full payment of their services.  DVA is encouraged that there were over 35,000 GPs and 38,000 medical specialists who provided more than 3 million services to 169,988 Veteran Card holders in the 2021-22 financial year.   
Veterans are encouraged to contact their health care providers to determine whether they accept DVA Veteran Cards, prior to attending an appointment or undergoing a surgical procedure.  If a DVA client is having difficulties finding a health care provider, they can contact DVA for assistance.  DVA can help them find an appropriate provider; arrange transport to alternate health care providers; or, where there is a valid clinical need, fund services above the DVA rate.  DVA clients who need assistance are encouraged to contact DVA on free call 1800 VETERAN (1800 838 372). 

As you may be aware, the Australian Government has been responding to the recommendations of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce through the upcoming 2023-24 Budget.  The Prime Minister recently announced a $2.2 billion investment in Medicare which will have positive flow-on effects for DVA clients accessing services under DVA’s Veteran Card arrangements, with further announcements expected as part of the 2023-24 Budget. 

Q: Will DRCA clients need to lodge a new claim to receive a gold card?  
A: At this stage, the Government is considering this particular proposal.  As this is still only a proposal all the finer details will need to be identified and worked through.

Q: How many additional gold card holders do you expect?         
A It is estimated that there could be over 1,000 current DRCA veterans who may meet the MRCA gold card eligibility threshold of 60+ overall impairment points (as assessed under MRCA).

Q: All veteran cards should have a marker which easily identifies those with qualifying service. This makes it easier to demonstrate to other Government agencies if required.        
A: This suggestion has been forwarded on to the relevant area of the Department for consideration.

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