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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 6337

Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (13:14): I rise to make a contribution in this debate on the Veterans' Entitlements Amendment Bill 2018. This bill seeks to re-insert an element, inadvertently removed in 1996, that deals with the provision of bereavement payments and recovery of an overpayment to the surviving partner. When a veteran passes away, the surviving partner is entitled to a bereavement payment, which is made up of 14 weeks of the partner's income support payment. This payment is to assist the individual with costs following the death of a partner and provide a period of time for the surviving partner to adjust their finances. However, during this time it is not uncommon for there to be a delay in advising the department of the death of the veteran, which results in an overpayment to the partner. In these circumstances, rather than send an overpayment notice, DVA instead deducts the overpayment from the bereavement payment account. This is consistent with similar processes of the Department of Social Services. While DVA has the legal authority to provide bereavement payments and the legal authority to recover the income support pensions paid to veterans after their death, the amendment in this schedule will confirm this authority and streamline the administrative process. Bereavement payments, and the way in which overpayments are recovered, are compassionate processes that have the support of the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations and their member organisations, the War Widows' Guild and Partners of Veterans Association of Australia, in particular. As such, Labor offers our support to this bill.