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Labor snubs veteran community and supports lawyers over veterans



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Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546)

Monday, 7 September 2015 VA094

LABOR SNUBS VETERAN COMMUNITY AND SUPPORTS LAWYERS OVER VETERANS

The Opposition’s stunning backflip on providing a streamlined single appeal pathway for appeals under veteran compensation claims is proof that Labor has abandoned the interests of Australia’s veterans and is now completely at the beck and call of backroom puppeteers.

In 2011, under the former Labor government, the Review of Military Compensation Arrangements was completed.

During the review process the ex-service community made it very clear that it wanted the current dual appeal pathway scrapped in favour of a streamlined, fairer and simpler single appeal pathway for clients who are covered by the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA).

The Bill debated in the Senate today will give clients covered by the MRCA access to the same appeal pathway as those clients who are covered under the Veterans Entitlement Act 1986, no more and no less. This is exactly what the veteran and ex-service community demanded through the review process.

In May 2012, Labor announced it would adopt these recommendations, the ones it has today sought to oppose.

Under the current system, some MRCA clients do not have access to the Veterans’ Review Board.

The new system will ensure that all MRCA clients have access to the Veterans’ Review Board, an independent appeal mechanism that does not require veterans to retain the services of a lawyer. Instead, veterans could be represented by a veteran advocate who provides services free of charge.

MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS

SENATOR THE HON. MICHAEL RONALDSON MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS MINISTER ASSISTING THE PRIME MINISTER FOR THE CENTENARY OF ANZAC

SPECIAL MINISTER OF STATE

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546)

This appeal process has stood the test of time and has the full support of the veteran and ex-service community. Importantly, the ex-service community has been constantly engaged in the development of these legislative changes since the former Labor government’s acceptance of the recommendation more than three years ago.

Until just yesterday, Labor continued to support these changes:

“It makes sense to have a single appeal pathway via the Veterans Review Board” (Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs David Feeney, 7 September 2015, News Corp article)

Schedule 2 of the bill will streamline the appeals process into a single pathway for reconsideration or review of an original determination under chapter 8 of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act. This amendment has the support of ex-service organisations and I commend the government for putting it in. (Former Labor Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Warren Snowdon, 20 August 2015, House of Representatives)

The changes to be made to the review process under this bill will streamline the process into a single pathway, and that is a good thing. This part of the amendment has the full support of the ex-service organisations. (Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney-General Graham Perrett, 20 August 2015, House of Representatives)

It is extremely disappointing to see that the Labor Party has now joined Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie in turning their backs on the veteran community by opposing these changes at the behest of compensation lawyers.

Compensation lawyers are opposed to this reform because by ensuring that all veterans have access to the Veterans Review Board, fewer cases will proceed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which in turn means fewer fees for lawyers.

The Government is united with the ex-service community in unanimously supporting the single appeal pathway - the only people who have spoken against its implementation are compensation lawyers and now the Labor Party and Senator Lambie.

The Abbott Government is putting the interest of veterans ahead of compensation lawyers. Jacqui Lambie and Labor ought to do the same.

Media enquiries: Minister Ronaldson: Mark Lee 02 6277 7820 or 0408 547 381