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Subject: Factory deaths pay better than war widow pensions
Volkodav    9/29/2009 4:42:03 AM
Siobhain Ryan | September 29, 2009 Article from: The Australian SOME families would be left financially better off if their loved ones died in an industrial accident than in armed service for their country. Australia Defence Association executive director Neil James said yesterday that soldiers traded away many of their compensation rights in court when they chose to put their lives on the line in the defence force. In doing so, they risked leaving themselves or their dependents out of pocket if killed or injured. "Under our system of law, you can't sue the government for wartime death and injury. You can, of course, sue in civil situations," Mr James said. He was speaking amid continued controversy over the treatment of pregnant war widow Breeanna Till and other service personnel under Canberra's military compensation system. More than 50 submissions have been lodged with the ongoing government review of the payment regime, most critical of the gaps and inconsistencies in the way claimants are treated. At least three different acts govern the delivery of military compensation, with the latest - the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 - lauded by the previous government as a vast improvement on its predecessors. Law firm Slater and Gordon warned that the latest bid to provide adequate compensation for service personnel had not lived up to its promise. "It has been our experience that benefits under the (Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Scheme) do not 'at least match' those provided under the Veterans Entitlement Act and the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act. In many (but not all) cases, benefits and rights have been substantially eroded or abolished," it said in its submission. Instead, soldiers had been denied access to rehabiltiation and compensation, including medical treatment and incapacity payments, which would otherwise have been granted. Concerns over legislative flaws had been compounded by problems of administration. RSL national president Ken Doolan called for a "one-stop shop" to help families of servicemen hit by tragedy. He said the RSL supported better co-operation between government agencies and families. "The bridge between when people are in service and out of service and these sorts of things is, unfortunately, a little too bureaucratic and we would certainly encourage a one-stop shop." War Widows' Guild of Australia (NSW) chief executive Patricia Campbell said the laws needed reviewing to take account of the needs of younger dependants of servicemen killed or seriously injured on duty. For example, young widows such as Mrs Till, with children, could face extra housing costs that some of their older peers did not.
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Volkodav    Digger's widow Breeanna Till gains powerful ally over pension   9/29/2009 5:03:15 AM

Siobhain Ryan | September 29, 2009

Article from:  The Australian

AUSTRALIA'S military compensation system is failing Diggers' families, with more than 30 official complaints over its slow, fragmented payment system lodged last financial year alone.

Commonwealth Ombudsman John McMillan has joined pregnant war widow Breeanna Till in criticising the gaps in the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004, which accounted for one-fifth of the 162 complaints lodged with his office about the Department of Veterans' Affairs last financial year.

"The crossover and complexity of the legislative scheme is one of the most marked features of military compensation for our office," he said in a submission to an ongoing review of the scheme.

"It is certainly reflected in the complaints made to our office."

The flaws in the compensation system were pushed to the fore last week when Mrs Till told a committee meeting of the review that her husband's pay ceased a fortnight after his death, leaving her reliant on a $305 weekly pension for her imminent confinement.

Mrs Till, who lost her husband, Sergeant Brett Till, to a bomb in Afghanistan six months ago, is due to give birth to their baby within weeks and already cares for his two other children from a previous relationship. Her parents yesterday sought to shield her from the media storm over her evidence to the committee, refuting claims she was penniless or abandoned.

"They are loved, cherished and supported by family, friends and total strangers," Kerrie and Peter Barclay said in a statement issued by their local MP, Scott Morrison.

But they stood by Mrs Till's call for authorities to be more responsive to the needs of blended families and to ensure soldiers' pay packets were not stopped before their families started receiving DVA compensation for the deaths.

"The various bureaucratic departments need to liaise seamlessly with each other ... rather than have the grieving family try to work through the muddle and make sense of what is needed to be done while in a confused state of mind," their statement read.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Alan Griffin, who has ordered an urgent investigation of Mrs Till's case, yesterday acknowledged the compensation system had been designed for an earlier generation.

He agreed with the assessment that his department excelled in helping war widows - if they were 80 years old.

"Some of the bureaucratic issues around how that has been handled obviously haven't been done well," Mr Griffin said.

The review into the current scheme is due to report in the first half of next year.

War Widows Guild of Australia (NSW) chief executive Patricia Campbell said the Rudd government's decision to revisit the act's operations was timely.

"A lot of our ladies now are in their 70s, 80s, 90s, they're World War II widows. They're not making mega bucks but most of them are OK with what they've got," she said.

"But for the younger ones with children, that's where I think it's a different issue."

Additional reporting: AAP

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