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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 843

(Question No. 1626)

Senator Walters asked the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, upon notice, on 19 February 1987:

(1) Are war widows now required to notify the Veterans' Affairs Department every quarter regarding reimbursement of travel costs incurred when visiting their doctor.

(2) Are war widows now applying annually told that they will receive only the last quarter's expenses thus losing three quarters of their entitlement.

(3) Why did the Department of Veterans' Affairs fail to notify war widows of entitlement for reimbursement of travel expenses.

(4) What are the additional costs incurred by the Department of Veterans' Affairs as a result of processing these travel entitlements quarterly rather then annually.

Senator Gietzelt —The answer to the honour- able senator's question is as follows:

(1) Yes. With the introduction of the Veterans' Entitlements Act on 22 May 1986 all Repatriation beneficiaries have been required to lodge claims for reimbursement of travel expenses within 3 months of the completion of that travel.

(2) The application of this limitation would hinge entirely on the circumstances of each individual case and acceptance of the claim may vary depending on whether or not there exists an ongoing need for specific treatment involving travel.

(3) This policy will be administered sympathetically and compassionately taking into account the general thrust of the Veterans' Entitlements Act.

(4) On 9 February 1983, I announced the formation of the Advisory Committee on Repatriation Legislation Review to present the views of Veterans and their dependants. The Committee included representatives of the major ex-service organisations including the War Widows Guild of Australia. It was the recommendation of this Committee that travel expenses be accepted only if claims were lodged within 3 months of the expense being incurred.

Prior to the introduction of the Veterans' Entitlements Act, the Department of Veterans' Affairs undertook an extensive publicity campaign to enable the ex-service community to be aware of the provisions of the Bill and to give them an opportunity to comment.

(5) There are some minimal direct costs involved in administering the 3 months' time limitations but these are off-set by the savings in the extensive administrative effort involved in verifying claims submitted for travel undertaken many months, and sometimes years, earlier.