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The Hon Dan Tehan MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
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Appeals process simplified for veterans
Veterans will have a simpler appeal system that still affords them access to legal assistance under amendments to the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) passed by the Senate, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan said today.
The amendments provide a single pathway for veterans covered by the MRCA to appeal decisions, first through the Veterans’ Review Board (VRB) — an independent statutory body comprising civilian and former military personnel — then, if necessary, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
Mr Tehan said veterans now had a simplified appeals process if they were not satisfied with a decision on a claim, starting with an internal review, followed by the VRB dispute resolution process or a full hearing, and, if the veteran was still unsatisfied, the AAT.
“Our focus is making the appeals process faster, simpler and less stressful for veterans,” Mr Tehan said.
“At a VRB hearing a veteran can have their ex-service organisation advocate present and they don’t need to go to the additional expense of engaging a lawyer to represent them. In fact, the VRB does not allow lawyers to represent at the hearing.
“The VRB gives our veterans access to a free, alternative dispute resolution model that has seen 85 per cent of applications finalised in just two months and without the need for a full hearing.
“This is good news for veterans as it avoids the need for a full hearing at the AAT. The aim is to speed up the appeal process and avoid unnecessary costs and delays, this is about improving the system for veterans – it is not designed to create more business for lawyers.
If a veteran does want to engage lawyers to represent them that option is available at the AAT.
“The national rollout of alternative dispute resolution will give veterans an opportunity to discuss their appeal with the VRB in a non-adversarial setting and at an earlier stage than is currently available.”
In the 2016–17 Budget, the Government allocated $2.7 million to the national rollout, which will allow the introduction of a new VRB case management system that will streamline processes and reduce backlogs.
Veterans will be able to lodge and manage appeals and monitor progress electronically in real-time. And in the event that an appeal still proceeds to the AAT, the MRCA will allow the award of costs in certain circumstances—an amendment that specifically addresses concerns raised during consultations.
The single path brings the MRCA appeals process into line with the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 appeals process. It applies to all MRCA primary decisions made on or after 1 January 2017.
Minister Tehan’s Office: Byron Vale, 0428 262 894
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203
Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.