Reviewing VEA Disability Pension decisions

Last updated: 
16 January 2020

This page explains how you would go about requesting a review of a decision made by the Repatriation Commission (the Commission) under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA).

It also describes what process is involved for a section 31 review, and what assistance can be sought in preparing an application to be reviewed by the Veterans' Review Board (VRB).

What types of reviews are there?

There are three types of reviews available under the VEA:

  • a review under section 31 of the VEA;
  • a review under section 115 of the VEA; and
  • a review by the VRB under section 135 of the VEA.

What is a section 31 review?

A review under section 31 of the VEA is a request for the Commission to review its own decisions.

Where there is a current application to the VRB for review for the same matter, and it is still within the time limits for application, and the VRB has not yet made a determination, a section 31 review can be undertaken.

A section 31 review can also be conducted for any decision the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) can review, provided it is still within the time limits for application, and the AAT has not yet made a determination.

It should be noted that there is no right to seek a review where the review officer has decided not to intervene as a result of a section 31 review. If you are dissatisfied with a section 31 review that decision can be reviewed by the VRB or AAT if the Commission cancels, or suspends the pension or attendant allowance, or varies the decision it reviews.

What is a section 115 review?

A review under section 115 of the VEA is an internal review by the Commission for certain allowances that are not covered by the VRB.

What is a section 135 (VRB) review?

The VRB is an independent statutory authority that has the power to review decisions made by the Commission on claims for disability pension, war widow(er)'s pension, orphan's pension and attendant allowance. There are VRBs in each State capital city and in Canberra.

What decisions can be appealed to the VRB?

If you are unhappy with a decision made by a delegate of the Commission in relation to a claim for disability pension, you can request a review of that decision by the VRB. You may appeal against decisions to the VRB on:

  • whether or not you are a veteran;
  • whether or not your disability is war-caused or defence-caused;
  • the assessment of your disability pension;
  • diagnosis or date of effect of disability;
  • whether or not you are entitled to war widows(er)'s pension;
  • whether or not you are entitled to orphan's pension; and
  • whether or not you are entitled to attendant allowance.

When can I request a review by the VRB?

There are time limits for lodging an application for review which may affect the amount of pension back payment if your application is successful.

Entitlement claims

You must make an application for review within three months following your receipt of the Commission's decision to ensure you can be considered for the maximum possible back payment of pension. It is possible to seek review after three months, but there is an absolute limit of twelve months. If the application is lodged after three months and within twelve months, you may receive a maximum of six months back payment from the date the application for review is received.

Pension assessment or attendant allowance applications

There is an absolute period of three months for seeking review following your receipt of the Commission's decision.

How do I apply to the VRB for a review of the decision on my claim?

To apply for a VRB review of the decision on your claim, please fill out DVA Form D7524 and return to DVA.

This form is also available from the VRB, your local ex-service organisation; or you can write a letter to the Department asking for the VRB to review the delegate's decision.

Whether you apply for a review on a form or in a letter, you must state clearly the decision, or part of the decision, you want reviewed. You should also state whether or not you want to be represented at the hearing of your application, and by whom. If you want to be represented, make sure that you check with your representative before you nominate them.

If you are not sure about whether to apply for a review, or if you need help in preparing the application for review, you should contact your local ex-service organisation (ESO). Many ESOs have experienced pensions officers, case officers and advocates who can help you to prepare your application and represent you at the hearing. They can also help you to find additional evidence to support your application.

What happens when I lodge an application for review?

The Department will prepare a report of the evidence that was considered by the delegate in determining your claim. In doing so, the Commission may decide to conduct its own review of the decision on your claim under section 31 of the VEA.

A report of evidence (section 137 Report) will be prepared and sent to you, and you will be given a period of 28 days to look at the report and make any comments you wish on the evidence. If you send any comments back to the Department, these will be added to the report and the application will then be sent to the VRB.

If you do not wish to make any comments, or if you do not respond after the 28 days has expired, the Department will send your application on to the VRB.

What will the VRB do when they have received the application?

The VRB will write to you, or your representative if you have nominated one, and ask if you are ready to proceed to a hearing (i.e. a Certificate of Readiness). You will also be asked to tell the VRB how you would like your application to be heard.

The VRB holds a hearing to review every case. In most cases, the hearing is before a panel of three Members - a Senior Member, a Services Member, and one other Member.

All hearings are held in private and the VRB encourages every applicant to take an active role in the hearing. You do not have to attend the hearing, but the Members usually find it helpful to talk to you.

Can a solicitor or barrister help me with my application for review?

Yes. A solicitor or barrister can certainly help you to prepare your application for review and to find additional supporting evidence. However, under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 a legal practitioner cannot represent an applicant at a VRB hearing.

If you decide to use a legal practitioner to help you to prepare your case, keep in mind that most charge a fee for their service. It would be in your interest to ask about fees before making this decision.

Will the Repatriation Commission be represented at the hearing?

Under the VEA, the Commission can be represented at a hearing, but not by a legal practitioner. In most cases, the Commission chooses not to be represented at the hearing.

What happens when my application for review has been decided?

The VRB will mail the decision and reasons to you as soon as possible after the hearing, usually within a few weeks. If you were represented at your hearing, a copy of the decision and reasons will be sent to your representative. The letter telling you about the decision will also tell you what to do if you are not satisfied that the VRB has made the correct decision.

What if I am not satisfied with the VRB decision?

If you are not satisfied with the VRB decision, you may then appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). If you are unhappy with the decision of the AAT, you can appeal on questions of law to the Federal Court of Australia and then, by special leave, to the High Court of Australia. The Commission can appeal against decisions of the VRB to the AAT or against AAT decisions to the Federal Court or High Court.

VRB decisions relating to a pension rate, cancelling or suspending a pension or fixing the date of re-commencement of a suspended pension are all binding on you and the Commission for six months from the date of decision and cannot be reviewed under section 31. Decisions of the AAT relating to a pension rate are also binding for six months from the date of decision.

How can I seek review of decisions not covered by the VRB?

Under section 115 of the VEA, if a person is dissatisfied with a decision of the Commission they may request the Commission, in writing, to review the decision (i.e. an internal review by the Commission). Following an internal review, if the person is still dissatisfied they have recourse to the AAT under section 175(4) of the VEA.

This applies to applications for:

  • clothing allowance;
  • funeral benefits under sections 99 or 100;
  • decoration allowance;
  • Victoria Cross allowance;
  • recreation transport allowance; and
  • loss of earnings allowance;

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