Assessing the impact of service

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DEFENCE and the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) are calling for members and their families to participate in the Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme.

The programme is the largest and most comprehensive study undertaken in Australia to examine the impact of military service on the mental, physical and social health of serving and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families.

If you are a serving ADF member, have transitioned out of full-time service since 2010, or have a family member who meets this eligibility criteria, you may have been or may be contacted to participate.

The Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies (CTSS) at the University of Adelaide is leading a team of researchers to complete the Mental Health and Wellbeing Transition Study and the Impact of Combat Study.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies will conduct the Family Wellbeing Study.

The Service Chiefs have approved the programme, which is looking at mental health and wellbeing after transition, the impact of combat, as well as family wellbeing, in three separate studies.

Data collection began in early June and will end in November. Up to 50,000 serving (including 11,000 reservists) and ex-serving ADF members, and up to 35,000 family members, will be invited to participate in the different components of the programme -- more than 50,000 of these invites have already been sent.

Data collection will be via surveys and some individuals have or will be invited to participate in telephone interviews and physical tests, including neurocognitive assessments.

Commander Joint Health RAdm Robyn Walker said if you had been invited to participate, but had not yet completed the survey, the team still needed your help.

"Although participation numbers have been high, the programme team still needs your help to reach their goal of a 50 per cent response rate," RAdm Walker said.

"So far we've had the highest number of survey completions from Air Force. Members from Navy and Army are not that far behind and the survey will remain open until October 30 if you would like to get involved." Participants are also reminded to nominate their family members for the Family Wellbeing Study. Only family members nominated by serving or former ADF members will be invited to participate.

If you have not yet been contacted by CTSS and wish to participate, register your interest HERE




ADF Super new scheme

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THE Senate passed legislation on August 20 that will establish a new superannuation scheme for members of the ADF.

The new military superannuation scheme, to be known as ADF Super, fixes one of the longest running grievances of the veteran and ex-service community, namely the lack of flexibility and portability of a member's superannuation benefit when they leave the ADF.

ADF Super will, for the first time, give ADF members the option to select any complying superannuation fund to invest their superannuation benefit. It enables ADF members to choose their financial future.

In recognition of the unique nature of military service, ADF Super members will receive a community leading employer contribution rate of 16.4 per cent, regardless of the superannuation fund they choose.

ADF Super will apply to ADF members who join on and after July 1, 2016.


Military Mental Health - Confronting the Issue

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CDF ACM Mark Binskin delivered the fifth Order of Australia Association ADF Oration at Russell Offices in Canberra on July 20.

ACM Binskin's talk, Military mental health -- from shell-shock to PTSD and beyond, addressed the incidence of PTSD among ADF members and the ADF's determination to tackle the issue.

According to ACM Binskin, for much of the past century mental health professionals have struggled to understand the complex consequences of military service on the human psyche.

"Everyone who goes to war is changed by the experience," he said.

"Extreme fatigue and stress, combined with sustained attack or threat, can have a dramatic affect on a person's mental health and wellbeing.

"These stressors are not just confined to land battles or even combat.

They apply equally to air and maritime operations, as well as non-warlike operations, where exposure to the devastating effects of natural disaster or human suffering can be equally onerous for military personnel." ACM Binskin said historically commanders had faced a dilemma -- preserve manpower or preserve the man and, in the current context, woman.

"That is the tension between the need to maintain a fighting force and the desire to look after an individual's welfare," he said.

"In the immediate thrust of battle and under attack, the unit's collective ability to fight off the enemy and defend itself will likely override any one individual's needs. But in a long game, the individual's welfare must come first. This hasn't always been the case, particularly during WWI when shell-shocked soldiers who succumbed to their psychological distress were branded as weak and cowardly." ACM Binskin said he was aware one of the major barriers preventing people from seeking treatment was the misbelief a diagnosis of a mental health disorder such as PTSD would mean the end of their career in the ADF.

"Unfortunately, the problem is the longer someone hides their symptoms and avoids treatment, the greater the risk for this to occur," he said.

"We are gradually seeing examples where people who have undertaken rehabilitation are returning to work in the ADF.

"From July 2013 to June 2014, 813 people undertook the ADF Rehabilitation Program after being diagnosed with a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety disorders, including PTSD. There is no shame in seeking help." ACM Binskin said there had never been a time in the ADF's history when so many resources had been invested into understanding and improving mental health and welfare.

"Further research, including longitudinal studies, is required to ensure we do not underestimate the risk or cost to our personnel. We need to work collaboratively beyond the ADF to build a greater understanding of military mental health." SO1 Mental Health Lt-Col Andrew Cohn said the oration by CDF highlighted the significant cultural shift in society's attitudes towards the mental health consequences of war since WWI.

"As the Chief emphasised, though, we still have a long way to go to eliminate stigma about mental health problems," he said.

"There is a lot of work being done to confront this issue and provide the best possible support to members."

 reaching out

ADF Super Scheme & ADF Cover

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ADF Super is the new military superannuation fund proposed to be established from 1 July 2016.

ADF Super will be the default fund for anyone joining the permanent ADF for the first time.

ADF Super is a fully-funded accumulation plan with an employer contribution rate of 16.4 per cent.

ADF Super is underpinned by a new death and invalidity scheme – ADF Cover that continues to recognise the unique nature of military service.


ADF Super Scheme - Update

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Since the new ADF Super scheme was first announced in the 2014-15 Budget, ADSO has been making strong and persistent representations during extensive discussions with the Government to improve the scheme from its original design.

These discussions have centred on the rate of employer contributions, portability provisions, governance and dispute resolution. As a result, we believe ADF Super and its accompanying ADF Cover provisions will incorporate our suggested changes and result in legislation that far better benefits the majority of ADF members than otherwise would have been the case.

We have been assured by the Government that the employer contribution rate will recognise the uniqueness of ADF service and will not equate to other Commonwealth schemes of a similar nature. In addition, transfer to the new scheme has the potential to remove the detrimental impact of the MBL for current long serving ADF members.

Initial evaluation of the ADF Super provisions being considered by the Government indicate that while the vast majority of members may be better off, the ADF Super outcomes for future ADF members who serve for extended periods may not be as beneficial as MSBS.

Current ADF members will need to carefully consider the actual details of the Government's Legislation in making their decision on whether to transfer or not.

We await the Government's announcement and tabling of its Legislation before seeking further comment from ADF members and making further representations to the Government.

The new ADF Super Scheme is expected to be tabled in Parliament shortly. Its implementation date is 1 July 2016.

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