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Government releases SAS health review.



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The Hon. Danna Vale MP Minister for Veterans' Affairs Media Release Tuesday 9 March 2004

VA019

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

The Hon Mal Brough MP Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence Minister for Employment Services Federal Member for Longman

The Hon Danna Vale MP Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Federal Member for Hughes

GOVERNMENT RELEASES SAS HEALTH REVIEW

The Federal Government has agreed to adopt all recommendations from a review of health concerns of current and former Special Air Service members.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Danna Vale today released the findings of an expert panel which contained 14 recommendations on ways to improve and monitor health risks inherent in serving in the SAS.

Mrs Vale said the panel, led by Repatriation Medical Authority chair Professor Ken Donald, had identified a number of potential health issues from exposures during SAS service. Where exposures had occurred, the available evidence suggests that they did not appear extensive, and that individuals had access to appropriate compensation and health care.

“The report has confirmed that SAS members are exposed to a level of health risk reflecting both defence service generally and the specialised nature of SAS training,” Mrs Vale said.

“The Panel found that most of these potential health exposures are covered by the existing compensation principles of the repatriation system. In a small number of cases, the Panel recommended revision of the existing arrangements. The Government accepts all of the Panel’s findings.”

Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence Mal Brough said the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs would work co-operatively to address the Panel’s findings.

“Many of the issues raised by the Panel are already being addressed through the Occupational Health and Safety strategy that is being be implemented across Defence,” Mr Brough said.

“In accepting and acting on these findings, the Australian Government maintains its commitment to meeting the health and safety needs of all defence personnel.”

The Ministers said key responses to the Panel’s findings would be the continued development of transition management services for ADF members receiving a medical

discharge, and long-term monitoring of the types and levels of exposure to different stresses during military service.

“This will be a significant undertaking that will take a number of years to realise, but will deliver major benefits in anticipating the health needs of current and future members of the SAS and the Australian Defence Force,” the Ministers said.

“SAS members should be reassured by the fact that the report gave no indication of a need for concern about the health of their families as a result of chromosomal damage.”

“I welcome the Panel’s advice that the SAS and their families have no cause for worry,” Mrs Vale said.

“While there is no indication of a need to test SAS members for chromosomal abnormalities, for further reassurance, the Government will meet the cost of counselling and, where appropriate, genetic testing for all current and former members of the SAS who have concerns.

“The Government has chosen not to limit the opportunity for testing and counselling to only those members and their families who have previously undergone such processes as suggested by the report. There must be peace of mind for all SAS on this issue.”

The Ministers thanked the SAS Association and SAS members for their support for the review.

The Government response to the findings of the Expert Panel are available on the DVA website at www.dva.gov.au/media/publicat/2003/SAS_Report/index.htm. The website also contains the Report from the Expert Panel.

Media contacts: Claire Bannon (Mrs Vale’s office) (02) 6277 7820 or 0423 781 896 Peter Gandolfi (Mr Brough’s office) (02) 6277 7540 or 0419 155 447