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Tuesday, 29 November 1983
Page: 2969

Question No. 326

Senator Mason asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 6 September 1983:

(1) Is a Corporal A. J. Kingdom who was wounded by a landmine in Vietnam in 1970 and who now has to wear calipers on both legs, not being granted the Defence Force Retirement Benefits invalidity pension to which he is entitled, if so, when will Corporal Kingdom receive the benefits to which he is entitled.

(2) Will the Government make an ex-gratia payment for the tax penalty he will suffer because of the mistakes and delays of the bureaucracy.

(3) Why has there been an unreasonable delay in correcting this obvious mistake .

(4) Will the Minister for Defence take appropriate action towards the authorities involved so that such delays do not occur in the future.

(5) Can the Minister give an assurance that the case of Mr Barry Roe, another Vietnam veteran in almost identical circumstances who was recently referred to the RDFWA, will not suffer the same bureaucratic shuffling and delay.

(6) Will the Minister investigate a system of proper legal advice and assistance for servicemen upon discharge so that such situations do not arise in future.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's questions:

(1) Mr Kingdom was discharged on 31 August 1971 having completed his period of National Service. Under the Defence Force Retirement Benefits legislation and Death Benefits legislation no invalidity benefit can be paid unless the member is medically discharged. Mr Kingdom brought his situation to the attention of Army Office in February 1983. Army Office has now informed the DFRDB Authority that at the time Mr Kingdom was discharged, grounds existed on which he could have been retired on the grounds of invalidity. This opens the way for the Authority to now consider the grant of an invalidity benefit and the level of benefit. The matter will be considered by the Authority as quickly as possible.

(2) Should Mr Kingdom qualify for an invalidity pension benefit with considerable retrospectivity, my Department will examine the case of some form of compensation in recognition of any increase in the amount of tax payable by Mr Kingdom.

(3) The Army had no cause to review the ex-member's reason for discharge and the error remained dormant until brought to attention in Feburary this year. Investigation involved several Directorates in the Army and the office of the DFRDB Authority. Regrettably, the cumulative effect of their actions has contributed to the delay in processing Mr Kingdom's enquiry.

(4) Revised procedures have been implemented to ensure that such delays do not recur.

(5) Mr Barry Edward Roe was discharged from the Army on 21 April 1972, the reason supplied to the Office of the DFRDB Authority being 'AMR 176 (1) (A) having requested his discharge', and was advised on 23 May 1972 that he was entitled to a refund of contributions and a gratuity.

These entitlements were authorised for payment to him on the same date. No further correspondence or representations from or in relation to Mr Roe have been received.

(6) No. Discharge procedures are designed to ensure that the rights and interests of members are protected. The procedures include a review by a senior medical officer of the final medical board findings. No change to discharge procedures is considered necessary.