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Monday, 4 June 2001
Page: 27229

Mr Kerr asked the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, upon notice, on 26 February 2001:

(1) Must Tasmanian recipients of Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) pensions pay to undergo a driving assessment by Rehabilitation Tasmania, while recipients of Centrelink pensions are provided the service free of charge.

(2) How many Tasmanian recipients of DVA pensions have had to pay $400 to undergo a driving assessment in the last three years.

(3) On what basis does his Department consider this service to be a non-medical service.

(4) Based on current figures, what would be the anticipated cost to the Commonwealth per annum to reimburse DVA pensioners in Tasmania for this cost.

(5) Does the Commonwealth propose to take action to address this problem.

Mr Bruce Scott (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) and (3) Under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA), the Repatriation Commission is required to provide treatment services and rehabilitation services in accordance with the Act. The Repatriation Commission is assisted in the administration of the VEA by officers from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA). The treatment services provided under Part V of the VEA can include driving skills assessments. However, the VEA provides that DVA is only able to pay for driving skills assessments if the beneficiary is suffering from a medical condition that is war-caused and the medical condition gives rise to the need for the driving skills assessment. In addition, under Part VIA of the VEA, DVA is also required to provide rehabilitation services to assist specified classes of veterans to find employment and to continue in employment. Part of an appropriate rehabilitation program can include a driving skills assessment. If the above circumstances exist, then DVA is able to meet the costs of the driving skills assessments. However, unless the above legislative criteria are met, then there is currently no legal authority enabling DVA to meet the costs of driving skills assessments provided by “Rehabilitation Tasmania” to pensioners and beneficiaries in receipt of pensions, benefits or allowances under the VEA.

(2) DVA records do not disclose the number of DVA pensioners that have paid for driving skills assessments in Tasmania. Due to the fact that DVA can only fund driving assessments for pensioners with a war-caused medical need, DVA does not record the number of DVA pensioners with non-war caused medical needs who may have been required to pay for their driving skills assessments.

(3) There are no records of the number of DVA pensioners with a need for a modified vehicle which in turn would require, as a pre-requisite, a driving skills assessment.

(4) There is currently no proposal to alter the VEA to widen the range of DVA pensioners who would be eligible for a funded driving skills assessment.