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Veterans' Affairs (1995-96) Budget Measures) Legislation Amendment Bill 1995



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House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Veterans' Affairs

Commencement: As specified in the 'Main Provisions' section of this Digest

+=5"> Purpose

The Bill amends two Acts administered by the Veterans' Affairs portfolio, namely, the Defence Service Homes Act 1918 and the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986. For the most part the amendments give legislative effect to 1995- 96 Budget announcements. The major amendments:

. extend Defence Service Homes eligibility to full time members of certain Second World War women's services;

. allow the assignment of Defence Service Homes eligibility to providers of retirement village and granny flat accommodation;

. set a minimum age requirement for the partner service pension;

. extend income support supplement to war widows and widowers with pensioner partners; and

. extend treatment eligibility for veterans suffering post- traumatic stress disorder.

+=5"> Background

As there is no central theme to the Bill, a brief background to each major amendment is outlined below.

+=5"> Main Provisions

Main Amendments to the Defence Service Homes Act 1918

Housing assistance has been available under the provisions of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918 to certain men and women who have served Australia since 1918. As at June 1994, there were 107 124 persons in receipt of Defence Service Homes (DHS) assistance. 1 Assistance includes housing loan interest subsidies, comprehensive homeowners' insurance cover and home contents insurance. The maximum loan available is $25 000 repayable over 25 years. Under an arrangement between the Commonwealth and the Westpac Banking Corporation, the Commonwealth subsidises Westpac for low- interest loans it provides to eligible persons. 2

Extension of DSH eligibility to full time members of certain Second World War women's services

The main effect of item 12 of Schedule 1 is to extend DSH eligibility for women who during the Second World War were:

. a member of the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service, the Australian Women's Army Service or the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force;

. a member of the Australian Army Medical Women's Service, other than a member of the Australian Imperial Force; or

. a full- time paid member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment.

The proposed extension of DSH eligibility is a 1995- 96 Budget measure. The rationale given for the proposed extension in the Department of Veterans' Affairs Budget Review 1995- 96 was:

For fifty years, former members of the World War II Women's Services who did not actually serve overseas during war time have been excluded from Defence Service Homes benefits in contrast to many of the male volunteers.

This initiative redresses that situation and recognises the major contribution to the war effort made by thousands of female volunteers who joined the services on the same basis as their male counterparts. 3

An additional rationale for the proposed extension is given by the Government in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill. The rationale being:

A conciliation conference was held before the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, as a result of a complaint from a World War II Ex- Service Women's representative. The parties agreed that the present position is an issue of indirect discrimination and should be resolved. This proposal redresses that situation and recognises the major contribution to the war effort made by thousands of female volunteers who joined the services during World War II.

Item 12 of Schedule 1 will commence on 1 July 1995 ( clause 2).

Assignment of DSH eligibility to providers of retirement village and granny flat accommodation

The majority of the amendments to the Defence Service Homes Act 1918 proposed by Schedule 1 deal with the assignment of DSH eligibility to providers of retirement village accommodation and granny flat accommodation. The key amendment is the insertion, by item 35 of Schedule 1, of a new section 23A. In plain English, proposed section 23A gives the Secretary of the Department power to give permission to an eligible person (the assignor) to give their DSH eligibility to another person (the assignee). Permission, which takes the form of the issue of a certificate of assignment will only be given where certain conditions are met, including:

. the Secretary is satisfied the assignee owns or will own a retirement village that is mainly for the accommodation of eligible persons, or is a granny flat;

. the Secretary is satisfied the assignee will help the assignor get and keep a right of residence in the retirement village, if Westpac provides a loan to the assignee;

. a subsidised loan has not already been made to the assignor in relation to the certificate of entitlement; and

. the assignor and assignee have agreed to conditions specified by the Secretary [proposed subsection 23A(2)].

Proposed section 23A also provides the Secretary with the power to make determinations specifying conditions to which an assignor and assignee must agree before a certificate of assignment will be issued [proposed subsection 23A(3)].

A certificate of assignment must specify certain matters, including:

. maximum amount of the loan;

. the maximum term of the loan;

. the purpose of the loan;

. the rate of on the loan; and

. particulars of interest payable matters specified by the Secretary in a determination [proposed subsection 23A(5)].

Proposed subsection 23A(6) allows the Secretary to make determination on what matters are to be included in a certificate of assignment. Determinations of the Secretary, both under proposed subsections 23A(3) and 23A(6), are subject to disallowance by Parliament [proposed subsection 23A(7)].

Item 30 of Schedule 1 extends the proposed assignment right to widows and widowers.

Item 31 of Schedule 1 extends the proposed assignment right to loans for essential repairs.

The proposed assignment right is a 1995- 96 Budget measure. The rationale given for the proposed extension in the Department of Veterans' Affairs Budget Review 1995- 96 included:

As the veteran population ages their housing needs change and retirement village/granny flat accommodation is appropriate for many who have difficulty in living alone independently.

These arrangements will increase appropriate housing options and assist elderly clients to remain independently housed while encouraging them to move to accommodation more appropriate to their needs. As veterans age, existing accommodation may become inappropriate. Where this occurs and particularly where social isolation is also a factor, there is often increased demand for nursing and caring services that might be more effectively met in terms of cost and health outcomes in more appropriate accommodation. 5

Items 30, 31 and 35 of Schedule 1 commence on 1 July 1995 ( clause 2).

Main Amendments to the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986

Extension of pension eligibility

The effect of item 5 of Schedule 2 is to treat as operational service, and hence extend eligibility for a pension, to persons who performed continuous full- time service in Japan between 28 April 1952 and 19 April 1956. The Government's intention with this amendment, as stated in the Explanatory Memorandum, is to make eligible for a pension persons who were allotted for duty in Korea during the Korean War but who only served in Japan.

Item 5 of Schedule 2 will commence on 1 October 1995 ( clause 2).

Minimum age for partner service pension

The Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 allows a partner of a veteran to receive a partner service pension where they are married to, or in a marriage like relationship with, a veteran receiving an age or invalidity service pension.

The main effect of item 10 of Schedule 4 is to provide that a person is not eligible for partner service pension unless they have reached age 50 or have a dependant child when they make a claim for the pension. This exclusion will not apply in two circumstances, namely:

. to a claim made before 1 October 1995 by a person was eligible for a partner service pension; or

. a person determined by the Repatriation Commission before 1 October 1995 to be eligible for a partner service pension.

The proposed minimum age for the partner service pension is a 1995- 96 Budget measure. The rationale given for the proposed extension in the Department of Veterans' Affairs Budget Review 1995- 96 included:

It is generally accepted, however, that people under fifty years of age should not be expected or encouraged to retire. Payment of partner service pension to younger partners does not encourage those people to seek work in their own right and for many it is irrelevant as most partners today are in the workforce.

Future non- veteran partners under 50 who are not looking after a dependent child or severely handicapped veteran and are unable to obtain work may be eligible for Partner Allowance, Sickness Allowance or Disability Support Pension from the Department of Social Security. 6

Item 10 of Schedule 4 will commence on 1 October 1995 ( clause 2).

Extension of eligibility for partner service pension to certain non- veterans and widows and widowers

Items 5 and 9 of Schedule 4 extend eligibility for partner service pension to persons who:

. are a member of a couple;

. whose partner is a veteran; and

. qualify for an age pension under the Social Security Act; or

. a widow or widower of a veteran who has rendered qualifying service and who qualify for an age pension under the Social Security Act.

A widow or widower eligible for a partner service allowance will loose their eligibility where they remarry or enter into a marriage like relationship ( item 11 of Schedule 4).

The proposed extension of eligibility for partner service pension is a 1995- 96 Budget measure. The rationale given for the proposed extension in the Department of Veterans' Affairs Budget Review 1995- 96 included:

Currently, a partner of a veteran cannot apply for a partner service pension unless the veteran is receiving a service pension. Therefore, a partner, who is of pension age and married to a veteran below pension age, has to apply for a DSS pension and then transfer to a service pension later when the veteran becomes eligible.

This initiative enables DVA to support veterans' dependents even though the veteran does not receive a service pension or did not receive a service pension prior to his or her death. In addition, partners, widows and widowers may be entitled to receive a greater amount of pension than they would be entitled to from DSS because DVA does not assess disability pension as income. 7

Items 5, 9 and 11 of Schedule 4 will commence on 1 October 1995 ( clause 2).

Extension of income support supplement to war widows and widowers with pensioner partners

Basically, income support supplement is a payment in lieu of a social security payment and to qualify a person must be a war widow or widower, an Australian resident and either have reached retiring age, have a dependent child or be permanently incapacitated for work.

Item 1 of Schedule 5 inserts a new paragraph 45A(1)(b)(iv) in the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 that extends eligibility for income support to war widows or widowers who have a partner getting a pension.

The rationale give by the Government in the Explanatory Memorandum for the extension of income support supplement is that:

The original intention of the income support supplement was to give all war widow/ers receiving a social security income support pension the option of receiving their income support payment under the VE Act. However, not all social security pensioners fall within the existing eligibility criteria for the income support supplement. War widow/er spouses of disability support pensioners and age pensioners are excluded. These amendments rectify this oversight. On equity grounds, war widow/er spouses of service pensioners are also given eligibility for the supplement. 8

Item 1 of Schedule 5 will commence on 1 October 1995 ( clause 2).

Extension of treatment eligibility for veterans suffering post- traumatic stress disorder.

Section 85 of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 deals with eligibility for medical and other treatment. Basically, to be eligible for treatment there has to be a determination in force providing that an injury suffered by a veteran is a war caused injury or that a disease contracted by a veteran is a war caused disease. Entitlement to treatment commences from the date:

. pension, or increased pension, is granted to a veteran for the injury or disease; or

. if the injury or disease is insufficient to grant eligibility for a pension or pension increase, the date the pension or pension increase would have been granted if the injury or disease was sufficient.

Under subsection 85(2) of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 a veteran is eligible for treatment for malignant neoplasia or pulmonary tuberculosis three months prior to the lodging of an application for treatment. In practical terms this subsection means that veterans suffering from malignant neoplasia or pulmonary tuberculosis do not have to go through pension claim procedures. The effect of item 1 of Schedule 6 is to extend subsection 85(2) eligibility to veterans suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder

The essential features of post- traumatic stress disorder include: rage, feelings of betrayal and guilt over having survived, confusion and memory problems, apathy, depression, anxiety, obsessive memories of combat experience, nightmares, insomnia, irritability, psychosomatic manifestations such as headaches, dizziness and stomach complaints, startle reactions, fear of losing control, panic attacks, emotional numbing and frequent denials of any problems. 9

The rationale give by the Government in the Explanatory Memorandum for the extension of subsection 85(2) eligibility is that:

Last year the Government initiated major extensions of treatment and support services for veterans suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder around Australia. Many veterans have directly benefited from specialised inpatient services.

This proposal will assure the provision of appropriate early treatment to veterans for psychiatric problems brought on by post- traumatic stress disorder. Such early intervention in post- traumatic stress disorder cases greatly increases the likelihood of successful treatment outcomes. 10

With respect to post- traumatic stress disorder, the Veterans' Compensation Review Committee's March 1994 report, A Fair Go - Report on compensation for veterans and war widows, recommended:

. the Department of Veterans' Affairs, in conjunction with the Department of Defence investigate ways of preventing post- traumatic stress disorder for future veterans following operational service;

. development of a strategy to diagnose, identify and treat veterans suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder; and

. investigate ways of improving the Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service to provide, in particular, maximum opportunity for veterans suffering post- traumatic stress disorder and other debilitating effects of war, to be returned to a full and normal lifestyle with enhanced employment opportunities. 11

In July 1994 the Minister for Veterans' Affairs announced that a National Centre for war related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder would be established at Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital in Melbourne. The Centre is intended to concentrate on best practice treatment methods in the area of veterans' mental health problems, collate international and domestic research and information, accredit private and public post- traumatic stress disorder around the country and gather statistical material for the Department of Veterans' Affairs. 12

Item 1 of Schedule 6 will commence on 1 July 1995 ( clause 2).

+=5"> Endnotes

1. The Annual Reports of the Repatriation Commission and the Department of Veterans' Affairs - 1993- 94, p. 27.

2. Ibid., p. 51.

3. Department of Veterans' Affairs Budget Review 1995- 96, p. 62.

4. Veterans' Affairs (1995- 96 Budget Measures) Legislation Amendment Bill 1995, Explanatory Memorandum, p. 6.

5. Department of Veterans' Affairs Budget Review 1995- 96, p 64.

6. Ibid., p. 36.

7. Ibid., p. 38.

8. Veterans' Affairs (1995- 96 Budget Measures) Legislation Amendment Bill 1995, Explanatory Memorandum, pp. 36 37.

9. Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment, Pesticides and the Health of Science and the Environment, First Report, November 1982, p. 119.

10. Veterans' Affairs (1995- 96 Budget Measures) Legislation Amendment Bill 1995, Explanatory Memorandum, p. 39.

11. Veterans' Compensation Review Committee's, A Fair Go - Report on compensation for veterans and war widows, March 1994, p. 103.

12. Minister for Veterans' Affairs, News Release, 18 July 1994.

Ian Ireland (06 2772438)

Bills Digest Service

21 August 1995

Parliamentary Research Service

This Digest does not have any legal status. Other sources should be consulted to

determine whether this Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

Commonwealth of Australia 1995

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