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War vets doubt changes to compo scheme -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government is facing anger from returned servicemen over its treatment of
war veterans and their families.

Australia's Defence Association says the Government's military compensation schemes are inadequate,
outdated and overly complicated.

And it is highlighting the situation of pregnant war widow Breanna Till, whose husband was killed
in Afghanistan six months ago.

The Government has ordered a review of the Till case but there are already government reviews into
three different compensation schemes in Australia and veterans say they're not optimistic that this
will achieve much.

Emily Bourke has our report.

EMILY BOURKE: The recent case of war widow Breanna Till has raised complex questions about how
families are compensated when soldiers are killed or wounded.

There are three different schemes that span different periods of time that determine the amount and
type of compensation paid to defence force families.

While there are demands for payments to be more generous there are also complaints about
inconsistencies and flaws in the system and calls for departmental red tape to be slashed.

David Jamison is an ex-serviceman who served in Vietnam and is now the national president of the
Defence Force Welfare Association.

DAVID JAMISON: We should have one overall, all encompassing compensation scheme that covers our
people both while they are serving and when they have been discharged. It should be as simple as
possible, explained simply, easy to access and with sufficient flexibility built into it to ensure
that nobody falls through the cracks the way they are at the moment.

EMILY BOURKE: How are they falling through the cracks?

DAVID JAMISON: First of all some people particularly with mental health issues, just don't have the
capacity to go and seek support. They don't know how to do it sometimes.

EMILY BOURKE: Veterans or their families?

DAVID JAMISON: Both and these issues are then sort of faced by ex-service people particularly
without the support that they need.

EMILY BOURKE: Are you seeing this with veterans from current conflicts, from recent conflicts?

DAVID JAMISON: Yes indeed and I think we are going to see this as an increasing component of the
problems that we have to deal with, particularly with Reserve people coming back from operations.
They are put back into the community and they don't have the network of support that sometimes is
available to the regulars.

NEIL JAMES: If the nation decides to go and fight a war then the nation has a responsibility to
look after families of those members of the Defence Force who are killed and wounded in action.

EMILY BOURKE: Neil James from the Australia Defence Association says compensation arrangements for
returned soldiers and their families are out of date.

NEIL JAMES: The underlying philosophy is basically industrial-age warfare where we have large
numbers of members of the Defence Force killed and wounded and in this day and age that doesn't
necessarily apply, although it may in the future. And also compensation for deaths from civil
industrial accidents, say, has improved dramatically over the last couple of decades and the
compensation that we pay the families of deceased Defence Force people hasn't and we believe that
is becoming a serious anomaly.

EMILY BOURKE: But he's not especially critical of the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

NEIL JAMES: Over recent decades most of their clients have been elderly veterans from World War
Two, Korea and even now Vietnam veterans are getting quite old. The department has to shift its
focus a little bit and in a way it is good if the department isn't handling this well because it
means we haven't had large numbers of causalities in our current wars with lots of young widows and
young families. So you can understand why they are a bit rusty in this regard.

EMILY BOURKE: The Australian Government is currently reviewing rehabilitation and compensation
arrangements.

Neil James argues without significant changes, the Defence Force will struggle to recruit.

NEIL JAMES: If you don't compensate people well enough, it will eventually have quite a serious
effect on recruiting and retention for the Defence Force. So even apart from all the moral and
ethical issues involved, there will be a strategic and operational downside unless some reform
occurs.

EMILY BOURKE: A spokeswoman for the Veterans Affairs Minister has told the ABC the review is
designed to look at whether the compensation mix is right and that there must be flexibility so
that the needs of individuals and their families are met.

But David Jamison from the Defence Force Welfare Association is worried about the Government's
review.

DAVID JAMISON: We do have concerns as well about the make-up of the steering committee for the
review. There are no representatives from those that have to access the support provided. In other
words there are none from the ex-service community, none from the serving community, apart from the
departmental representative.

So when you look at it, you can only conclude that this is skewed in favour of government budgetary
problems rather than looking for a fair outcome for our people.

EMILY BOURKE: You don't sound very optimistic about what the review might achieve?

DAVID JAMISON: No I don't and if I look at the history of government reviews for support for
ex-service people and serving people, I think I have got some legitimacy in that cynicism. The
Government is gradually reducing the level of support it gives to its service people and its former
service people.

More and more it is imposing normal community standards that simply do not recognise the vocation
of serving the nation in the military and the additional risks and dangers that our people are put
in.

ELEANOR HALL: That's David Jamison from the Defence Force Welfare Association speaking to Emily
Bourke.