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Defence personnel given medical discharges plan class action claiming diagnoses were incorrect or never notified.

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Tuesday, 27 April 2004




TONY EASTLEY: There are more problems this morning for the embattled Australian Defence department. Hot on the heels of the Lance Collins affair, Defence is now being accused of mistreating other former and serving personnel in the ADF. The group, including members of the Navy, Army, Air Force and the SAS, say they were diagnosed with false medical conditions in an effort to silence or to get rid of them. For many, the diagnosis was later challenged by civilian doctors.


The ADF denies it is using the medical discharge process to force personnel to quit but, as Sarah Clarke from the ABC’s investigative unit reports, up to 200 are now considering a class action.


SARAH CLARKE: After 19 years with the Army, Major Maryanne Martinique(?), was medically discharged from her unit. She received a commendation for her work and was second-in-charge of her regiment, but she blew the whistle on what she believed was misconduct in the military, and in 2000 she was dismissed on medical grounds.


MARYANNE MARTINIQUE: So I’ve had to guess what that is because it took me up until August last year to get my entire medical records. I wasn’t able to take it to any doctor for a second opinion.


SARAH CLARKE: In August last year, she got access through a freedom of information request; even then, she says, there was no specific medical diagnosis.


MARYANNE MARTINIQUE: My medical records, in my opinion, were adjusted to suit a medical discharge, and because they were adjusted in that way, to suit a medical discharge, I was discharged.


SARAH CLARKE: It appears Maryanne Martinique is not the only case. The ABC’s investigative unit has been told by members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and the SAS, who claim they have been medically discharged on false grounds.


Warren Leplastrier(?) served in the Navy for five years, and was described by his senior naval commanders as ‘a superior able seaman’. He was then told he had the sleep-related condition, narcolepsy, a diagnosis that was rejected by two civilian doctors and later overturned by the Navy.


WARREN LEPLASTRIER: Twelve months ago it was overturned because they said, ‘our case appears to be weak’.


SARAH CLARKE: His father, Peter Leplastrier, is now laying the grounds for class action with a number of former and serving members claiming unfair dismissal.


PETER LEPLASTRIER:   I’ve had in excess of 200, probably close to 250 calls; they just believe they were wrongfully discharged, along the same lines as Warren.


SARAH CLARKE: And Major Maryanne Martinique says the case is gaining momentum.


MARYANNE MARTINIQUE: With all this publicity about Lieutenant Colonel Collins, there are more cases coming to light. If this goes ahead there are going to be thousands, not hundreds. I think there will be thousands.


SARAH CLARKE: So far Defence says it is unable to tell the ABC how many personnel have been medically discharged and how many may have been wrongfully dismissed.


TONY EASTLEY: Sarah Clarke with that report.