Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 27 August 1997
Page: 5885

(Question No. 692)


Senator Woodley asked the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, upon notice, on 9 July 1997:

(1) What appeal mechanisms are currently available for those people who apply for payments from the department.

(2) What is the normal process through which appeals would be conducted, for example, departmental review officer first, followed by an external body.

(3) For the past 5 years, if figures are available: (a) how many appeals have been made against decisions of the department; (b) how many were resolved in the department's favour; (c) how many were resolved in the clients' favour; (d) is there some breakdown as to the nature of the appeals; and (e) at what level in the review process were the appeals finalised.

(4) Does a representative of the department physically appear before review bodies or does the department simply submit written submissions.

(5) Does the Repatriation Commission have any involvement in the appeals process.

(6) Has any research been undertaken as to whether people view the appeals process as adequate; if so, what were the findings of that research.

(7) Are there any imminent changes to the process.


Senator Newman —The Minister for Veterans' Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) & (2) Claims for pensions, allowances and benefits are determined by delegates of the Repatriation Commission.

Where a claimant for compensation (disability pension or war widow(er)s' pension) is dissatisfied with a decision of the delegate, he or she can appeal to the Veterans' Review Board (VRB). If the person is dissatisfied with the VRB's decision,

he or she can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

Where a claimant for income support (service pension, partner service pension or widow(er)s' pension) is dissatisfied with a decision of the delegate, he or she can request a review of the decision by a senior delegate. If the claimant is still dissatisfied, he or she can appeal to the AAT. The VRB has no jurisdiction in these cases.

A further right of appeal on a question of law lies to the Federal Court and then to the High Court in both compensation and income support matters.

The Repatriation Commission has the power to review its own decisions on compensation under s.31 of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986, while under s.57 of the legislation a person can request the Commission to review its decision on an income support matter. The powers under s.31 and s.57 are delegated to certain officers of the Department. The aim of these reviews is to get decisions right at the primary level and to reduce appeals to the next tier of determination; that is, to the VRB on compensation matters and to the AAT on income support matters.

From 1995/96, the Repatriation Commission commenced reviews by delegates of all appeals on compensation matters lodged with the VRB.

(3) (a), (b) and (c)

Table 1—VRB Appeals

1992/931993/941994/951995/961996/97
(a) Appeals lodged against Repatriation Commission decisions7,6158,0448,16210,0487,937
(b) Decisions resolved in Repatriation Commission's favour5,4264,6914,8484,5095,757
(c) Decisions resolved in client's favour2,5032,8252,9182,0172,100

Table 2—AAT Appeals

1992/931993/941994/951995/961996/97
Appeals lodged against Repatriation Commission/ VRB decisions*1,6781,6631,8501,7211,824
(b) Decisions resolved in Repatriation Commission's favour594411394592637
(c) Decisions resolved in client's favour 1,3271,2671,4291,114995

*   Repatriation Commission decisions refer to income support matters and VRB decisions to compensation matters.

Table 3—Federal Court Appeals **

1992/931993/941994/951995/961996/97
(a) Appeals lodged against AAT decision3728313835
(b) Decisions resolved in Repatriation Commission's favour613121423
(c) Decisions resolved in client's favour13127119

**   In a number of the cases in which clients were successful the courts remitted the matter for re-hearing by the AAT on narrow points, yet, in effect, maintained the Parliamentary intent as submitted by the Repatriation Commission. Upon re-hearing in the AAT, the clients have not necessarily succeeded.

Note:   In the above tables, statistics for appeals lodged and withdrawn before decision are not shown.

3 (d) Statistics by nature of appeal are not recorded.

(3) (e) Appeals can be finalised at each level of the reviews process. For example, if an appeal is accepted by the VRB then the appeal is finalised at the VRB level. However, if the appeal is rejected by the VRB, the claimant can appeal to the AAT. If the appellant is dissatisfied with the AAT's decision, he or she can appeal to the Federal Court, but only on a question of law.

(4) A representative of the Department does not usually appear before the VRB. The Department provides written submissions on behalf of the Repatriation Commission.

The Department appears or is represented by legal counsel, on behalf of the Repatriation Commission, before other appeal bodies.

(5) The Department acts on behalf of the Repatriation Commission.

(6) The Department is not aware of any such research. However, the Repatriation Commission and the Department receive regular feedback from the ex-service community on the determining system through various forums with ex-service organisation representatives and communication with individual veterans and dependants on their cases. While the Department does receive some criticism of the system from time to time from individual veterans, the veteran community as a whole is generally happy with the system.

(7) The Attorney-General has announced that the Government has agreed in principle to amalgamate several merit review tribunals. The present Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Social Security Appeals Tribunal, Veterans' Review Board, Immigration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal are to be merged to create a single tribunal to be called the Administrative Review Tribunal.