Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Enhanced Family Support) Bill 2022

Bill home page  


Download WordDownload Word


Download PDFDownload PDF

 

                                              2019-2020-2021-2022

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

VETERANS’ AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (ENHANCED FAMILY SUPPORT) BILL 2022

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel, The Honourable Andrew Gee MP)

 





Table of Contents

 

 

Outline and Financial Impact

ii

 

Statement of Compatibility

v

 

 

VETERANS’ AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (ENHANCED FAMILY SUPPORT) BILL 2022

 

 

               

Short title

1

               

Commencement

1

               

Schedules

1

 

 

 

  Schedule 1-    

 

         Part 1 -   

Amendments     

 

Main Amendments

 

2

 

2

 

 

 

Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA)

 

Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA)

 

 

Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA)                                                              

 

2

 

4

 

8

 

         Part 2 -

 

Other Amendments

Income Tax Assessment Act 1997

 

Social Security Act 1991

 

 

 

11

11

 

12

 

 





VETERANS’ AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (ENHANCED FAMILY SUPPORT) BILL 2022

 

OUTLINE AND FINANCIAL IMPACT

This Bill extends and consolidates the initial response to recommendation 19 of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee report  The Constant Battle: Suicide by Veterans . It also responds to Recommendation 19.2 of the Productivity Commission’s report A Better Way to Support Veterans. This Bill implements a 2021-22 Budget Measure to provide more vulnerable veterans and their families, with more flexible support through an enhanced Family Support Package.  Pursuant to a subsequent decision of Government, it goes further than the Budget measure as announced  by extending to this wider eligible group the levels of financial support available through the current program.

 

The measures in this Bill will increase access to support when it is needed most. It will ensure support is provided on the basis of need rather than service type, supporting vulnerable veterans and their families to adjust to new life circumstances.

 

The Bill will amend the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 , Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 and Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 to extend eligibility to family members of veterans and other clients of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) covered by the three Acts, who are experiencing vulnerabilities that give rise to a need for support, whether or not the veteran is participating in a rehabilitation program or has rendered warlike service.

 

The Bill will provide for an instrument to be made under each Act which will contain additional eligibility criteria and financial caps on the total support that can be provided, while removing existing financial caps on individual types of services.  The intent is to provide choice and flexibility for families to access the help that will be most beneficial to them. A support plan, developed between the family and a Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ service coordinator, will set out the services on which the capped amount may be spent, based on individual family need.

 

Some services available to families under the Family Support Package, such as household assistance and counselling, may also be provided to veterans under separate legislative provisions.  This is an intended outcome of the Family Support Package, which is specifically designed to provide supports to the family unit as a whole, rather than specifically to the veteran.  DVA service coordinators will work with individual families to ensure there is no duplication of services under different legislative provisions.

 

Families will be able to access Family Support Package services for a period of time which will be specified in the instrument.  The intention of the Family Support Package is to provide short-term, targeted support to build the family’s ability to assist them to manage challenging situations, both at the time the support is provided and into the future.

 

The Bill will additionally expand the range of supports available under the Family Support Package. This includes child care, household assistance such as garden maintenance and meal preparation, and capacity building support in relation to financial literacy and mental health first aid. These additional supports will assist families to adjust to new or challenging life circumstances.

 

The key eligibility criteria and supports available under the Family Support Package program are contained in this Bill.  The instrument will contain additional eligibility criteria, specify financial and time limits for a family accessing support under these arrangements, and detail the types and limits of support.  These details will be contained in the instruments in order to maintain sufficient administrative flexibility and responsiveness to quickly adapt to the changing needs and experiences of veteran families.

 

Schedule 1- Amendments

 

Part 1- Main Amendments

 

The amendments proposed to be made in Part 1 make amendments to the three primary acts administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

 

The amendments proposed to the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) amend the Act by removing the requirement to have warlike service and be participating in a rehabilitation plan, extending support to more working age veterans and their families. The amendments also replace the current list of assistance or benefits that can be provided under the MRCA with a more extensive but not exhaustive list. This is to make it clear that the range of support and assistance that can be provided has been expanded as a result of these amendments.

 

The amendments proposed to the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA) amend the Act to create a new part in the Act to provide support for working age veterans covered by the DRCA and their families, including working age widowed partners of deceased veterans.  This support will mirror the support that will be available to veterans covered by the MRCA. The amendments will provide assistance with child care, counselling, household services and other support.  While there is some minor difference in terms, particularly in the use of the word ‘employee’, this is because the DRCA uses the word ‘employee’ rather than veteran or member. The DRCA defines the term ‘employee’ in subsection 15(1) to mean a member of the defence force.

The amendments proposed to the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 ( VEA) amend the Act to create a new part in the Act to provide support for veterans covered by the VEA and their families, including working aged widowed partners of deceased veterans.  Again the support available will be consistent with the support that will be provided under the DRCA and the MRCA. The amendments will provide assistance with child care, counselling, household services and other support.

These proposed amendments will provide additional types of support to those veterans and their families who are eligible for support under the MRCA. In addition they will extend that support to those veterans and their families who are eligible under the DRCA and the VEA. This ensures that no veteran or their family is unable to access the support solely because they are not eligible under the MRCA.

 

 

 

Part 2 - Other Amendments

 

The amendments proposed to be made in Part 2 ensure that any veteran or their family receiving assistance and support under this Bill will not be disadvantaged by ensuring that family support payments for veterans and their families are exempt from income tax and are not included as income for the purposes of social security law. This recognises that these payments are reimbursement for support provided under the legislation.

 

 

Financial Impact

 

The indicative cost of this measure is $30.2 million over four years.

 

 

 

 



 

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

 

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

 

VETERANS’ AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (ENHANCED FAMILY SUPPORT) BILL 2022

The Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Enhanced Family Support) Bill 2022 is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the Bill

The Bill will amend the Military, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 to extend eligibility to family members of working age veterans who are experiencing vulnerabilities that give rise to a need for support, whether or not the veteran is participating in a rehabilitation program or has rendered warlike service. The Bill will also make this support available for the first time to families of working age veterans whose service is covered by the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 .

 

 

The Bill will outline the key eligibility criteria and expand the range of supports available under the Family Support Package . This includes child care, household services such as garden maintenance and meal preparation, and capacity building support in relation to financial literacy and mental health first aid. These additional supports will assist families to adjust to new or challenging life circumstances .

The substantive measures in the Bill will commence on 1 July 2022.

 

Human rights implications

 

Right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living

The amendments proposed to be made by Schedule 1 engage both Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), specifically, the right to social security , and Article 11, the right to an adequate standard of living , of the ICESCR.

 

The right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living requires, amongst other things, the right to a minimum essential level of benefits to all individuals and families that will enable them to acquire essential health care, basic shelter and housing, water and sanitation and the most basic forms of education.

 

The purpose of the enhanced Family Support Package is to provide targeted, flexible support to families managing challenging life circumstances. It is intended to provide intensive support to families, complementing other services provided by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and other Government services.

 

The Bill will provide for an instrument under each Act which will contain additional eligibility criteria and replace prescribed financial limits on each service category with an annual financial cap to assist veteran families to navigate potentially complex life challenges.  The amendments will also allow for the support to be provided to some veterans and their families who are unable to access the support under the current eligibility criteria, for example veterans who have not rendered warlike service or whose service is covered under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 or the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 .

 

The amendments promote the right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living by financially supporting veterans and their families at risk or in crisis and providing further assistance complementing, but not duplicating, other services provided by Government.

 

Conclusion

 

This Schedule is compatible with the right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living as it will provide veteran families with additional support and assistance to manage challenging circumstances. It will also provide this support to a wider class of persons.

 

 

Right to work

 

The amendments proposed to be made by Schedule 1 engage Article 6 of the ICESCR, specifically, the right to work .

 

Article 6.1 of the ICESCR states that “ States Parties …recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right .”

 

Article 6.2 of the ICESCR further states that “ The steps to be taken by a State Party to the present Covenant to achieve the full realisation of this right shall include technical and vocational guidance and training programs, policies and techniques to achieve steady economic, social and cultural development and full and productive employment under conditions safeguarding fundamental political and economic freedoms to the individual .”

 

This schedule is in accordance with the right to work and will significantly bolster employment opportunities for veteran families. Expanded support under the Family Support Package includes services to build capacity such as financial literacy training. These kind of educational tools provide veteran families with access to a greater range of employment opportunities. Similarly, added support such as child care and household services may enable some veteran families to more effectively balance the competing demands between employment and family responsibilities, particularly in times of crisis.

 

 

Conclusion

 

This Schedule is compatible with the right to work as it assists veteran families to improve their skills which may increase their chances of finding work, and provides support which may assist with retaining work when the family unit is at risk of, or experiencing, crisis.

 

 

Right to protection and assistance to the family

 

The amendments proposed to be made by Schedule 1 engage Article 10 of the ICESCR. Article 10 of the ICESCR states that “The widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family…”

 

The enhanced Family Support Package will improve health and wellbeing by significantly broadening the scope of support available to veteran families. Additional support such as child care, household services and academic support for children are intensive supports that are often critical to a veteran and their family when a veteran is transitioning to civilian life or experiencing a challenging life situation. The Bill provides for an instrument which will replace prescribed limits on each service category with an annual cap.  This provides families with the additional flexibility to access the most relevant supports, and choose the help they need.

 

Conclusion

 

This Schedule is compatible with the right to protection and assistance to the family as the enhanced Family Support Package will ensure that veteran families are able to access flexible support mechanisms which will assist veteran families. It will also make the support available to more families.

 

 

Right to health

 

The proposed amendments also engage Article 12 of the ICESCR, which refers to the “ right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”.

 

The primary purpose of the enhanced Family Support Package is to support veterans and their families to adjust to new or challenging circumstances. Military service is unique in nature, and the mental health impacts of service on the veteran family can be complex. The enhanced Family Support Package will provide for clinical counselling which may not be available under other Department of Veterans’ Affairs arrangements.

 

The extended eligibility requirements will ensure that these critical supports are available to a larger subsection of veteran families.

 

Conclusion

 

This Schedule is compatible with the right to health as the support provided will include support for mental health issues. Providing such support will facilitate improved health for veterans and their families and will now be available to a greater number of veterans and their families.

 

[Circulated by authority of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel, The Honourable Andrew Gee MP]



VETERANS’ AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (ENHANCED FAMILY SUPPORT) BILL 2022

 

This Explanatory Memorandum uses the following abbreviations and acronyms:

 

Abbreviation

Definition

ADF

means the Australian Defence Force

Commission

means the Repatriation Commission

Commissioners

means members of the Repatriation Commission

Defence

means the Department of Defence

DRCA

means the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988

DSS

means the Department of Social Services

DVA

means the Department of Veterans’ Affairs

FSP

means the Family Support Package

MRCA

means the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004

MRCC Commissioners

means members of the MRCC

MRCC

means the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission

Social Security Act

means the Social Security Act 1991

social security law

has the same meaning as provided in subsection 23(17) of the Social Security Act 1991

VEA

means the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

Clause 1 sets out how the new Act is to be cited - that is, as the Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Enhanced Family Support) Act 2022 .

 

Clause 2 provides a table setting out the commencement dates of the various sections in, and Schedule to, the new Act. The amendments set out in Schedule 1 will commence on 1 July 2022.

 

Clause 3 provides that each Act that is specified in a schedule of the Bill is amended or repealed as set out in that Schedule, and any other item in a Schedule to the Bill has effect according to its terms.

 

 



 

SCHEDULE 1 - AMENDMENTS

 

Part 1—Main amendments

 

Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004

 

Item 1 amends section 3 which is the simplified outline of the Act. It omits the words ‘counselling or’ and substitutes the words ‘counselling and’ in the description of ‘certain assistance’. The amendment makes it clear that the assistance that is available to specified persons under the Act is varied and not limited to one type of assistance.

 

Item 2 amends Section 268A (Simplified outline of Part 1 of Chapter 5A) by omitting the words ‘counselling or’ and substituting the words ‘counselling and’ in the description of ‘certain assistance’.  The amendment makes it clear that the assistance and benefits that are available to specified persons under Chapter 5A - Family support of the Act are varied and not limited to one type of assistance or benefits.

 

Item 3 amends Section 268A (Simplified outline of Part 1 of Chapter 5A) by removing the words ‘The member, former member or deceased member must have rendered warlike service on or after 1 July 2004’.

 

Prior to this amending Act the simplified outline of this Part in Section 268A made it clear that the Commission could only make a legislative instrument to provide assistance to members, former members, related persons of a member and deceased members if the member had rendered warlike service on or after 1 July 2004.

 

By omitting the words ‘The member, former member or deceased member must have rendered warlike service on or after 1 July 2004’ the limitation is removed from the simplified outline found in section 268A. The removal of the limitation will have the effect that this Part of the MRCA will now enable the MRCC to make a legislative instrument providing for assistance or benefit such as child care, counselling and household services to members or former members of the Australian Defence Force, or to a related person of a member, former member or a wholly dependent partner of a deceased member, who has not rendered warlike service on or after 1 July 2004.

 

Item 4 amends subsection 268B(1) by repealing the current paragraph 268B(1)(b) and substituting a new paragraph 268B(1)(b) which now includes the words ‘to assist the person to adjust to new or challenging life circumstances.’ The amendment now means that family support will only be provided in the above circumstances and provides a limitation of consideration by the Commission that the support must meet the objective of the provision of family support under Chapter 5A of the Act. 

 

Item 5 repeals current subsections 268B(2) and (3) and substitutes them with new subsections (2) and (3). The current subsection (2) makes it clear that the instrument must not provide for the granting of assistance or benefits unless the member or former member, or deceased member has rendered warlike service on or after 1 July 2004.

 

New subsection 268B(2) will extend eligibility for the family support by removing the need for the member, former member or deceased member to have rendered warlike service on or after 1 July 2004. At the same time it provides a list of persons (including related persons) that are eligible and can be granted assistance or benefits provided for in the legislative instrument. New paragraph 268B(2)(a) provides eligibility criteria for the member or former member. New paragraph 268B(2)(b) provides for eligibility criteria for a related person of a member or former member. New paragraph 268B(2)(c) provides eligibility criteria for wholly dependent partners of a deceased member.

 

For a member or former member to be eligible for family support they must satisfy all the criteria in paragraph 268B(2)(a). These criteria are:

 

(i)        the person is under 65 years of age at the time the assistance or benefit is granted;

 

(ii)        the person is receiving or is eligible to receive compensation for incapacity under Part 3 or 4 of Chapter 4 or a Special Rate Disability Pension;

 

(iii)       the Commission is satisfied that the person, or a related person, is experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, crisis.

 

For a related person of a member or former member to be eligible for family support they must satisfy all the criteria in paragraph 268B(2)(b). These criteria are:

 

(i)        the related person is under 65 years of age at the time the assistance or benefit is granted;

 

(ii)        the member or former member to whom the person is related must be receiving or be eligible to receive compensation for incapacity under Part 3 or 4 of Chapter 4 or a Special Rate Disability Pension;

 

(iii)       the Commission is satisfied that the related person, is experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, crisis.

 

For a wholly dependent partner of a deceased member to be eligible for family support they must satisfy all the criteria in paragraph 268B(2)(c). These criteria are:

 

(i)        the person is under 65 years of age at the time the assistance or benefit is granted;

 

(ii)        the deceased member’s death must be related to service rendered by the member.

 

New subsection 268B(3) replaces the current subsection 268B(3). New subsection 268B(3) provides more clarity in the types of possible assistance and benefits that the eligible persons under subsection 268B(2) can receive as provided for in the legislative instrument. New subsection 268B(3) provides for examples of the kinds of assistance or benefits that may be granted to members, former members and related persons. The list is inclusive and serves to provide some examples but does not limit the types of support that can be provided under section 268B. Limits (including financial limits and periods of support being provided) on the types of support that can be provided will be included in the legislative instrument. This approach allows the necessary flexibility for the type of support provided to change as feedback is received from those who access the support. It is anticipated that there will be a need to do some fine-tuning to the types of support available to make the support as relevant and effective as possible. To prescribe these limits in the legislation may hamper DVA’s ability to provide relevant and effective support that ensures the best outcome to those persons who are in need in accordance with the objectives of the provision of family support under Chapter 5A of the Act.

 

The support that may be granted by the MRCC under the instrument includes the following:

 

(a)        child care (including home-based care, centre-based care, family day care, occasional care and outside school hours care);

 

(b)        counselling (including financial counselling and other life skills counselling);

 

(c)        household assistance (including meal delivery, meal preparation, cleaning and household and garden maintenance);

 

(d)       services to build capacity (including in relation to financial literacy, relationship skills, cooking lessons and mental health first aid);

 

(e)        academic and extra-curricular support for children (including in relation to tutoring, music lessons and sporting activities).

 

It is emphasised that the assistance and benefits are provided to assist the person to adjust to new or challenging life circumstances, and that they are not intended to be provided long term.

 

Item 6 amends paragraph 268B(4)(a) by removing the word ‘the’ and substituting it with ‘additional’ which reflects the fact that the Act already specifies some eligibility criteria as to the list of persons that can be provided support. The intention is that the instrument will provide additional limitations on the people that are eligible for a specified support or assistance, the types of specific support available and will include financial and time limits on the support that can be provided. An example would be in relation to child care in relation to a member, former member or dependant person - who would be eligible to access child care, the types of child care and the amount of financial support available.

 

Item 7 inserts a new subsection 268B(4A), to the effect that without limiting the additional criteria in paragraph 268B(4)(a), meeting the criteria may depend on the MRCC being satisfied of one or more specified matters set out in the legislative instrument that are required to be met, have been met, in order for a person to be eligible to receive the specified benefits or assistance.

 

The current instrument made under subsection 268B(4), the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation (Family Support) Instrument (No.2) 2018 includes criteria that the MRCC need to be satisfied of in order to grant assistance or benefits under the provision.

 

Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988

 

Item 8 inserts a definition of ‘related person of an employee’ to subsection 4(1) (Interpretation section). The term ‘employee’ is already defined under subsection 5(1) of the DRCA as meaning a member of the defence force. This is based on the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 which is an Act to provide compensation and rehabilitation to Commonwealth employees. 

 

The new definition provides that a related person of an employee includes:

 

a)         any of the following persons:

            (i)         the spouse of the employee;

 

            (ii)        a parent or step-parent of the employee;

 

            (iii)       a parent or step-parent of the partner of the employee;

 

            (iv)       a grandparent of the employee;

 

            (v)        a child or stepchild of the employee;

 

            (vi)       a child or stepchild of the partner of the employee;

 

            (vii)      a grandchild of the employee;

 

            (viii)     a sibling or half-sibling of the employee; or

 

(b)        a person in respect of whom the employee stands in the position of a parent; or

 

(c)        a person who stands in the position of a parent to the employee.

 

This definition is needed as the support will be available to either an employee or a related member of the employee. The definition of the terms “spouse” and “child” is provided in subsection 4(1) of the Act.

 

Family Support

 

Item 9 inserts a new Part IIIA titled ‘Family Support’ after Part III.

 

This part consists of a new section 41B titled ‘Family support’ and mirrors the Family Support provisions under the amended Chapter 5A of MRCA.

 

New subsection 41B(1) provides that the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC) may by legislative instrument provide for and in relation to the granting of assistance or benefits of a specified kind to a person:

 

(a)        who is an employee; or

 

(b)        who is or was a related person of an employee or deceased employee.

 

The subsection states that the purpose of the support is to assist the person to adjust to new or challenging life circumstances. This provides a limitation on when the provision of the support can be made available to eligible persons listed in new subsection 41B(2).

 

A note to the subsection provides that the meaning of ‘related person’ can be found at subsection 4(1) (refer to Item 8). 

 

New subsection 41B(2) provides for some eligibility criteria that must be met for the person to be eligible for any support to be provided under new Part IIIA.

 

If the person is an employee (member of the Defence Force) they must satisfy all the criteria set out in subparagraphs 41B(2)(a)(i) to (iii). These are that:

 

(i)       the person is under 65 years of age at the time the assistance or benefit is granted;

 

(ii)     the person is receiving or is eligible to receive compensation under Division 3 of Part II of the Act; and

 

(iii)   The MRCC is satisfied that the person, or a related person, is experiencing, or is at risk of experiencing, crisis.

 

If the person is a related person of an employee they must satisfy all the criteria set out in subparagraphs 41B(2)(b)(i) to (iii). These are:

 

(i)       the employee is under 65 years of age at the time the assistance or benefit is granted;

 

(ii)     the employee is receiving or is eligible to receive compensation under Division 3 of Part II of the Act; and

 

(iii)   the MRCC is satisfied that the person is experiencing, or is at risk of experiencing, crisis.

 

If the person was the spouse of a deceased employee immediately before the employee’s death and was wholly or partly dependent on the employee at the date of the employee’s death they must satisfy all the criteria set out in subparagraphs 41B(2)(c)(i) to (ii). These are:

 

(i)       the person is under 65 years of age at the time the assistance or benefit is granted;

 

(ii)     the deceased employee’s death resulted from an injury.

 

The definition of term “injury’ is provided for under section 5A of the Act, and noting that the injury must be employment related consistent with the definition provided for in that section.

 

New subsection 41B(3) provides for examples of the kinds of assistance or benefits that may be granted to employees and related persons. The list is inclusive and serves to provide some examples but does not limit the types of support that can be provided under section 41B. Limits (including financial limits and periods of support being provided) on the types of support that can be provided will be included in the legislative instrument. This approach allows the necessary flexibility for the type of support provided to change as feedback is received from those who access the support. It is anticipated that there will be a need to do some fine-tuning to the types of support available to make the support as relevant and effective as possible. To prescribe these limits in the legislation may hamper DVA’s ability to provide relevant and effective support that ensures the best outcome to those persons who are in need in accordance with the objectives of the provision of family support under new Part IIIA of the Act.

 

The kinds of assistance or benefits that may be granted under new subsection 41B(3) include the following:

 

(a)        child care (including home-based care, centre-based care, family day care, occasional care and outside school hours care);

(b)        counselling (including financial counselling and other life skills counselling);

(c)        household assistance (including meal delivery, meal preparation, cleaning and household and garden maintenance);

(d)       services to build capacity (including in relation to financial literacy, relationship skills, cooking lessons and mental health first aid);

(e)        academic and extra-curricular support for children (including in relation to tutoring, music lessons and sporting activities).

 

It is emphasised that the assistance and benefits are provided to assist the person to adjust to new or challenging life circumstances, and that they are not intended to be provided long term.

 

New subsection 41B (4) provides that in relation to assistance or benefits, the instrument may provide for and in relation to the following:

(a)        additional eligibility criteria for the assistance or benefits; and

(b)        the conditions on which the assistance or benefits are granted; and

(c)        limits (whether financial or otherwise) on the provision of the assistance or benefits.

 

Paragraph 41B(4)(a) reflects the fact that while the legislative instrument will include additional eligibility criteria, the Act itself as proposed to be amended, already includes eligibility criteria.  The intention is that the instrument will provide additional limitations on the people that are eligible for a specified support or assistance, the types of specific support available and will include financial and time limits on the support that can be provided. An example would be in relation to child care in relation to a member, former member or dependant person - who would be eligible to access child care, the types of child care and the amount of financial support available.

 

New subsection 41B(5) has the effect that without limiting the additional criteria in paragraph 268B(4)(a), meeting the criteria may depend on the MRCC being satisfied of one or more specified matters set out in the legislative instrument that are required to be met, have been met, in order for a person to be eligible to receive the specified benefits or assistance.

 

Item 10 inserts new subsection 61(1B) which would allow for the Consolidated Revenue Fund (the CRF) to be appropriated for the purposes of paying assistance or benefits made under section 41B.  There is no need for a similar amendment to the MRCA as paragraph 423(bb) of the MRCA already provides that the CRF is appropriated for the purposes of paying assistance or benefits granted under section 268B.

 

Veterans Entitlements Act 1986

 

Item 11 inserts a new paragraph 5H(8)(zze). Subsection 5H(8) of the VEA provides an extensive list of payments and amounts which are excluded from being considered income in relation to a person for the purposes of provision of payments under the VEA.  Paragraph 5H(8)(zze) is added to ensure that any money paid to a person as family support under this amending Act is not considered income in relation to the person receiving the support. This provision ensures that no recipient will be worse off by being required to declare any amount provided for support as income.

Item 12 inserts a new Part VIC titled ‘Family Support’ after Part VIB and mirrors the Family Support provisions under the amended Chapter 5A of the MRCA and Part IIIA of the DRCA.

Part VIC introduces a new section 115S titled ‘Family support’.

New subsection 115S(1) authorises the Commission (being the Repatriation Commission), by legislative instrument, to make provision for and in relation to the granting of assistance or benefits of a specified kind to a person:

 

(a)        who is a veteran; or

 

(b)        who is or was a related person of a veteran or deceased veteran.

 

The subsection states that the purpose of the support is to assist the person to adjust to new or challenging life circumstances. This provides a limitation on when the provision of the support can be made available to eligible persons listed in new subsection 115S(2), they are the veteran, related person of a veteran, or a war widow of a veteran.

 

New subsection 115S(2) sets out the eligibility criteria that must be met for the specified persons to be eligible for the support to be provided for them under Part VIC.

 

If the person is a veteran they must satisfy all the criteria set out in subparagraphs 115S(2)(a)(i) to (iii). These are that:

 

(i)       the person is under 65 years of age at the time the assistance or benefit is granted;

 

(ii)     the person is receiving, or is eligible to receive, a pension at a rate provided for by section 23, 24 or 25 or a veteran payment;  and

 

(iii)   The Commission is satisfied that the person, or a related person, is experiencing, or is at risk of experiencing, crisis.

 

If the person is a related person of a veteran they must satisfy all the criteria set out in subparagraphs 115S(2)(b)(i) to (iii). These are:

 

(i)       The related person is under 65 years of age at the time the assistance or benefit is granted;

 

(ii)     the person is receiving, or is eligible to receive, a pension at a rate provided for by section 23, 24 or 25 or a veteran payment; and

 

(iii)   the Commission is satisfied that the person is experiencing, or is at risk of experiencing, crisis.

 

If the person is a war widow or war widower they must be under 65 years of age at the time the assistance or benefit is granted (refer to paragraph 115S(2)(c)).

 

It is emphasised that the assistance and benefits are provided to assist the person to adjust to new or challenging life circumstances, and that they are not intended to be provided long term.

 

New subsection 115S(3) provides examples of the kinds of assistance or benefits that may be granted to veterans, related persons and war widows. The list is inclusive and serves to provide some examples but does not limit the types of support that can be provided under section 115S. Limits (including financial limits and periods of support being provided) on the types of support that can be provided will be included in the legislative instrument. This approach allows the necessary flexibility for the type of support provided to change as feedback is received from those who access the support. It is anticipated that there will be a need to do some fine-tuning to the types of support available to make the support as relevant and effective as possible. To prescribe these limits in the legislation may hamper DVA’s ability to provide relevant and effective support that ensures the best outcome to those persons who are in need in accordance with the objectives of the provision of family support under new Part VIC of the Act.

 

The kinds of assistance or benefits that may be granted under new subsection 115S(3) include the following:

 

(a)        child care (including home-based care, centre-based care, family day care, occasional care and outside school hours care);

(b)        counselling (including financial counselling and other life skills counselling);

(c)        household assistance (including meal delivery, meal preparation, cleaning and household and garden maintenance);

(d)       services to build capacity (including in relation to financial literacy, relationship skills, cooking lessons and mental health first aid);

(e)        academic and extra-curricular support for children (including in relation to tutoring, music lessons and sporting activities).

 

New subsection 115S(4) provides that in relation to assistance or benefits, the instrument may provide for and in relation to the following:

(a)        additional eligibility criteria for the assistance or benefits; and

(b)        the conditions on which the assistance or benefits are granted; and

(c)        limits (whether financial or otherwise) on the provision of the assistance or benefits.

New paragraph 115S(4)(a) reflects the fact that while the legislative instrument will include additional eligibility criteria, the Act itself as proposed to be amended, already includes eligibility criteria. The intention is that the instrument will provide additional limitations on the people that are eligible for a specified support or assistance, the types of specific support available and will include financial and time limits on the support that can be provided. An example would be in relation to child care in relation to a member, former member or dependant person - who would be eligible to access child care, the types of child care and the amount of financial support available.

 

New subsection 115S(5) has the effect that without limiting the additional criteria in paragraph 268B(4)(a), meeting the criteria may depend on the Commission being satisfied of one or more specified matters set out in the legislative instrument that are required to be met, have been met, in order for a person to be eligible to receive the specified benefits or assistance.

 

New subsection 115S(6) provides a definition of a related person for the purpose of subsection 115S(1). It provides that the following persons would be a related person of the veteran:

(a)        any of the following persons:

            (i)         the partner of the veteran;

            (ii)        a parent or step-parent of the veteran;

            (iii)       a parent or step-parent of the partner of the veteran;

            (iv)       a grandparent of the veteran;

            (v)        a child of the veteran;

            (vi)       a child of the partner of the veteran;

            (vii)      a grandchild of the veteran;

            (viii)     a sibling of the veteran; or

(b)        a person in respect of whom the veteran stands in the position of a parent; or

(c)        a person who stands in the position of a parent to the veteran.

 

New subsection 115S(7) provides that for the purposes of subparagraphs 115S(6)(a)(i) and (iii), the partner of a veteran is a person in respect of whom at least one of the following circumstance is applicable:

(a)  if the veteran is a member of the Aboriginal race of Australia or a descendant of Indigenous inhabitants of the Torres Strait Islands—the person is recognised as the veteran’s husband, wife or spouse by the custom prevailing in the tribe or group to which the veteran belongs;

 

(b)  the person is legally married to the veteran;

 

(c)  a relationship between the person and the veteran (whether the person and the member are the same sex or different sexes) is registered under a law of a State or Territory prescribed for the purposes of section 2E of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 as a kind of relationship prescribed for the purposes of that section;

 

(d) the person (whether of the same sex or a different sex to the member):

      (i)   is, in the Commission’s opinion, in a de facto relationship with the veteran; and

      (ii)  is not an ancestor, descendant, brother, sister, half-brother or half-sister of the veteran.

 

New subsection 115S(8) provides that without limiting who is a child of a person for the purposes of subparagraph 115S(6)(a)(v) or (vi) each of the following is the child of a person:

(a)        an adopted child, step-child or foster-child of the person;

(b)        someone who is a child of the person within the meaning of the Family Law Act 1975 .

 

Item 13 inserts a new paragraph 199(e) after paragraph 199(da) . This new paragraph provides for the Consolidated Revenue Fund to be appropriated for the purposes of paying assistance or benefits granted under an instrument made under new section 115S.

 

Part 2—Other amendments

 

Part 2 makes necessary amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 and the Social Security Act 1991 to ensure that family support payments for veterans and their families are exempt from income tax and from being assessed income for the purposes of the Social Security Act 1991.

 

Income Tax Assessment Act 1997

 

Item 14 inserts a new item in section 11-15 of the Act. Division 11 deals with kinds of non-assessable income. Section 11-15 of the Act is a guide to the legislation and includes a table of ordinary or statutory income that are exempt from income tax. The amendment inserts (after the table item headed ‘family assistance’), a new heading ‘Family support for veterans and their families’. Insertion of this term updates the guide and directs a taxpayer to the operative provision at section 52-185 of the Act as inserted by item 15 of the amending Act.

 

 

Item 15 inserts a new section 52-185 at the end of Subdivision 52-H of the Act. Section 52-185 of the Act provides that payments under an instrument made under the following:

 

(i)             section 268B of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 ;

(ii)           (ii) section 41B of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 ; and

(iii)         section 115S of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986.

 

are exempt from income tax.

 

Item 16 provides that the amendments made by items 14 and 15 of this Schedule apply for the 2022-23 income year and later income years.

 

 

Social Security Act 1991

 

Item 17 would insert new paragraph (zsa) after paragraph 8(8)(zs). Subsection 8(8) is titled ‘Excluded amounts - general’ and lists amounts that are not income for the purposes of the social security law.

 

New paragraph (zsa) would provide that a payment under an instrument made under the following:

 

(i)             section 268B of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 ;

(ii)           section 41B of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 ; and

(iii)         section 115S of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986.

 

are not income for the purposes of the social security income test .