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Wednesday, 10 December 1986
Page: 3693


Senator DEVLIN —The Minister for Veterans' Affairs will be aware of the lengthy delays in the pensions determining system at the Veterans' Review Board level and of concerns being expressed by the ex-service community in having the backlogs reduced. What action is the Minister taking to reduce the delays? Can he also advise whether the claimants themselves are contributing to the delays, and, if so, what steps he would like them to take to speed up the system?


Senator GIETZELT —The Senate will be aware that it is almost two years since the new determining system came into operation. It was designed to reduce the delays in dealing with pension applications. Whilst there has been an appreciable reduction, we have found that, due to a number of circumstances beyond our control, the earlier aims will not be realised. It needs to be recognised that one of the reasons that this problem exists is the large number of applications outstanding before the Veterans' Review Board flowing from the inability of the advocates appearing on behalf of the applicants, the veterans, to be ready to bring their cases before the Board. This is understandable because the applicants rely upon and feel the need for advocate assistance in presenting their case. A very high rate of adjournment has been noted in recent times in relation to these matters that are before the Veterans' Review Board.

As a result of this, about 30 per cent of such cases in which a certificate of readiness has been prepared and with which the Board is ready to deal, are then withdrawn because of problems associated with the case and the advocate's not being ready to proceed. That, of course, creates a difficulty from the applicant's point of view as well as for the work output of the Veterans' Review Board. We have had discussions with the principal member of the Veterans' Review Board and he has taken the matter up with the veterans organisations, which generally provide this service on a voluntary basis. We are very appreciative of that, but it breaks down at that point, when they indicate that they are prepared to proceed and then, for some reason, they are not able to proceed-an option that is available to them. This causes considerable delay in dealing with the applicant's case.