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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 385

(Question No. 239)

Senator Macklin asked the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, upon notice, on 23 April 1985:

(1) Has the Minister for Veterans' Affairs been approached by the Blinded Soldiers of St Dunstan's, Australia, concerning the eligibility for service pensions of service personnel who are blinded in training.

(2) Does Recommendation No. 32 of the `Report of the Advisory Committee on Repatriation Legislation Review', which reads:

`(a) For the purpose of the Review the existing provisions relating to service pension be maintained except as provided below.

(c) The grounds for eligibility be age, permanently unemployable and permanently incapacitated. The age and permanently unemployable test be the same as prescribed in the existing legislation and permanently incapacitated be the test for invalid pension in Section 25 of the Social Security Act 1947',

indicate an addition to the eligibility for the service pension.

(3) Does the Minister believe that it was not the intention of the Review Committee that there be any exception to the Theatre of War criteria that would entitle an ex-serviceman blinded in training to a service pension; if so, why does he so interpret it.

(4) In 1939, was the total compensation for the blind ex-serviceman the same whether the serviceman was blinded in action or in training.

(5) In 1956, were ex-servicemen who were blinded in training granted a portion of the blind person's social security pension, given that no difference was made between those blinded on active service or in training.

(6) Do civilian blind, no matter what their income, still receive the full invalid pension, whereas ex-service personnel receive only part of that pension until they turn 70 years of age.

(7) Does the government agree that ex-servicemen blinded in training have the same problems as those who were blinded in action,

(8) Will the Government ensure that the anomaly referred to above is removed when the revised repatriation legislation is introduced.

Senator Gietzelt —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) Yes. Mr L. Greenham, the Vice President of the Blinded Soldiers of St Dunstan's, wrote to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs on 28 October 1984 concerning his interpretation of recommendation 32 of the Advisory Committee on Repatriation Legislation Review relating to service pension eligibility.

(2) No. The test for permanent unemployability at present applied is administratively the same as that for the invalid pension. The proposed change will give legislative authority to the practice.

(3) Yes. The Advisory Committee outlined in some detail its recommendations on `qualifying service', the term proposed to replace `theatre of war', in recommendation 32 (i). It was not proposed that the principle of restricting the service pension to veterans who have incurred danger from the enemy be changed. Further support for this view can be found at paragraph 10.14 of the Advisory Committee's report where it said `There is a need to ensure that a person served where there was some danger from hostile forces before being eligible for the service pension'.

(4) Yes. Disability pension compensation for blindness resulting from service does not depend on whether the veteran was blinded in training or not.

(5) No. In 1955 means test ceiling limits were eliminated for age, invalid and disability pensioners receiving disability pension. At the same time the ceiling limits were eased but not eliminated for blind age invalid and service pensioners who also received disability pension. There was no change to the requirement for veterans to have theatre of war service before being eligible for service pension.

(6) Yes. The rate of age or invalid pension for veterans may be reduced depending on the rate of disability pension received. Age or invalid pensioners with no disability pension are not subject to this limitation. These limitation provisions do not apply to veteran service pensioners.

(7) Yes. That is the reason why standard disability compensation, at the Special Rate of $175.75 per week, is paid to all veterans blinded as the result of their service, whether this occurred in training or not.

(8) The repatriation legislation will continue to provide disability compensation as outlined in the answer to Question 7. There will also be no change to the basic requirement that veterans must have experienced danger from hostile forces before being eligible for the service pension. This is in accordance with the recommendations of the Advisory Committee as explained in the answer to part (3) of the Question. There really is no anomaly. In the case quoted, the veteran does not have an entitlement to receive a service pension because he does not have the requisite service. Adequate compensation is available through the disability pension system.