On 9 September 2013, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) commissioned a study into firefighter exposures in response to health concerns voiced by ex-serving Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) firefighters and a concurrent legislated review of the Fair Protection for Firefighters Act 2011 by the Department of Employment. DVA and the Department of Defence have continued to liaise closely with firefighter representatives over the course of this and other related research into the firefighter occupation and fuel exposure.
The Firefighter Case File and Literature Review were carried out in two parts to address occupational health and compensation matters:
Firefighter Literature Review
Dr Tee Guidotti conducted the Firefighter Literature Review, which was a systematic review of international literature in relation to civilian and military firefighters. Specific consideration was given to occupational exposure of RAAF firefighters to chemical contaminants listed at the Point Cook fire training ground, as provided by Chief of Air Force.
Dr Guidotti is an international expert in the field of occupational health risks for firefighters and has published extensively in this field.
To guide the research, Dr Guidotti worked with Dr Graeme Peel, who undertook a compensation and health file examination of 71 cases of ex-serving or serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) firefighters. Dr Peel is a specialist in occupational and public health.
Dr Guidotti used a benchmark of “weight of evidence” to assess the literature. This is a concept that does not equate easily to the standards of proof in Australian legislation for veterans.
The report has been provided to the Repatriation Medical Authority, which indicated it would undertake routine monitoring of the medical literature to ensure further associations between firefighter employment and conditions can be identified.
In the mean time, firefighter group representatives and DVA are advising individuals to claim diagnosed conditions they believe may have been caused by their Defence service through DVA.
Case File Review
Dr Peel independently reviewed Defence service and medical records and DVA compensation files for 71 serving or ex-serving RAAF-trained firefighters or firefighters who served at Amberley. The reason for the review was to ascertain if there are any claims DVA had rejected that may now be recognised, if there are any decisions on claims that need to be reconsidered, and whether there are any previously unrecognised clusters or trends in conditions.
Firefighters should lodge claims to DVA for diagnosed conditions they believe may be related to their military service.