What to consider if you're looking for help?

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Learn about wellbeing and compensation advocacy

Veterans and families can choose to seek help in their interactions with DVA. This page contains information to help inform that choice.

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Wellbeing and Compensation Advocates

Veterans and families can engage with DVA directly by using MyService, visiting a Veteran Access Network or Services Australia shopfront, or through other nominated representatives to seek information about claims related to their service, seek reviews of decisions, or seek assistance for treatment.

For veterans and families who would like assistance, wellbeing and compensation advocates are available to assist them with part or all of preparing and lodging compensation claims and/or find and use Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) payments, and wellbeing supports and services.

Some advocates are free to use – see Free Advocacy Services below.  Other providers charge for their services.

It’s important to remember that DVA does not give any particular provider or advocate special access or treatment. Using a provider that charges fees for their services does not guarantee results or faster processing. DVA’s decisions are based on law, be wary of providers who promise you a certain outcome.

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Free ESO Advocacy services

Ex-service organisations (ESOs) provide free advocacy services to assist veterans and families with their wellbeing support and compensation claims needs (some may charge a small administration fee).

ESOs providing these services use advocates that have undertaken training in the Course in Military Advocacy through DVA’s Advocacy Training and Development Program (ATDP). The ATDP offers ESOs and veteran centres nationally consistent training in wellbeing support and claims assistance.

Free ESO advocacy services around Australia can be found on the Advocacy Register. ESO advocacy services operate under service delivery standards, have a code of ethics that can be found on the ATDP website, authorise advocates to work for them, and help advocates to undertake continuing professional development.

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Differences between ESO and for-profit services

Choosing to pay for claims assistance has no impact on the time it takes to have claims determined by DVA. Nor does paying for advocacy services guarantee the success of claims, reviews, reconsiderations, or appeals, and it does not ensure that the advocate is trained or experienced.

ESO advocates trained through the ATDP are experienced and connected with a network of peers. They provide a free service to support veterans and their families in navigating the DVA compensation claims process and to find or understand other wellbeing supports. These advocates are not employed by DVA or the Department of Defence. They are often members of the veteran community such as veterans and family members of veterans.

Some for-profit organisations and individuals provide claims assistance on a fee-for-service basis and may seek a percentage of the compensation amount received, or charge a fee. These are independent businesses, and the amount the veteran is charged by for-profit organisations is not regulated by DVA. For-profit organisations are not eligible to nominate advocates for training through the ATDP.

Differences between ESO and for-profit services
Feature ESO Advocates Providers that charge fees for their services
No fees for advocacy services
Advocates with qualifications through the ATDP
Provides wellbeing AND claims advocacy Varies between providers
Advocates expected to have professional indemnity insurance Varies between providers
Faster processing of claims guaranteed
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How a lawyer can assist with DVA claims

Veterans and families may also choose to engage a lawyer or legal service to assist with their DVA claim, or when seeking a review of a decision. Lawyers usually charge fees. If a veteran or family member decides to engage the services of a lawyer they should be provided with documentation from the lawyer about the fees that will be charged and how they are calculated. 

Lawyers are not regulated by DVA or Defence. Each state and territory has an organisation that regulates lawyers. If someone is unsure whether a person is a qualified lawyer they can contact the Law Society in their state or territory. The Law Society will also be able to explain how a complaint about a lawyer, or a person who is falsely claiming to be a legal practitioner, can be lodged.

Legal Aid in each state and territory is also able to provide some free legal advice and assistance to eligible veterans and their families when claiming entitlements from DVA, or seeking reviews of decisions about DVA entitlements. There are restrictions on eligibility for legal aid and the rules are different in each state and territory. Please refer to Appendix 1 for more information about Legal Aid for veterans in each state and territory.

Choosing to engage a lawyer has no impact on the time it takes to have claims determined by DVA, and does not guarantee the success of claims or reviews, reconsiderations, or appeals. 

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Professional indemnity insurance

Professional indemnity insurance protects veterans and their families. If incorrect or inappropriate advice is given that results in a financial loss, the veteran can make a claim for that loss against the advocate that gave the advice. Providers of professional indemnity insurance generally require the advocate to ensure their training and knowledge is current. Not all advocates are covered by professional indemnity insurance.

DVA suggests veterans raise this with any advocate they are seeking to engage to understand whether or not they are covered by insurance of this nature.

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Important questions to ask

When deciding to seek assistance with a claim there are factors that should be taken into consideration.

  • If the advocate charges a fee, what is their fee structure and service standards, and what are their qualifications? 
  • How frequently does the advocate communicate with clients, the method used, and how do they advise of progress on claims or advocate absences? 
  • How does the advocate manage their risks around the service they provide? Do they have professional indemnity insurance?  What arrangements are in place if the advocate/organisation ceases to operate? 
  • How can clients provide feedback on the way the advocate works? 
  • How will the advocate support the veteran or family member to prepare and lodge claims? Do they offer support on repeated occasions or once only? Do they work electronically? 
  • Can the advocate offer additional services or supports, for example acting as a support person in non-DVA matters, and how would these be agreed between advocate and veteran or family member?

Important things to sight when choosing a free or low-cost ESO advocate include:

  • A current Letter of Authorisation issued by the ESO showing they represent that ESO
  • A Statement of Attainment confirming an advocate’s qualification from the Course in Military Advocacy relevant to the type and level of assistance sought
  • Evidence of current professional indemnity insurance

Note - Only people who are appropriately qualified can provide legal and financial advice, the CiMA does not provide these qualifications.

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