They deserted him': Veterans' department accused of contributing to digger's suicide

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The family of an army veteran who killed himself believes the rejection of his compensation claim by the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) pushed him to take his own life.

Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans' Affairs Dan Tehan has told 7.30 he has now ordered the Defence Department and DVA to review their handling of the case.

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Jesse Bird, 32, took his own life last month, just weeks after losing a claim for permanent impairment he had been pursuing for almost two years.

The decision came despite DVA accepting initial liability, in August 2016, for Mr Bird's post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder and alcohol abuse.

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DVA Enews - A review of DVA's Newsletter "Vetaffairs"

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DVA e news

Read the latest edition here

A  Highlight item is DVA's invitation to you -  We’re conducting a review of Vetaffairs, and we’d like to hear from you!

Vetaffairs is DVA's newspaper, which is distributed quarterly to about 220,000 members of the veteran and ex-service communities. It includes articles about Government policies, programs and initiatives, with a strong emphasis on mental and physical health and wellbeing.

DVA is interested in how to make Vetaffairs more useful and relevant to the transitioning and contemporary ex-service communities. DVA would like to know what information you would find useful and how Vetaffairs could best deliver this to you.

The survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete and your responses are anonymous.

Take our short survey here

You can Vetaffairs current and past editions.online, visit www.dva.gov.au/vetaffairs.

To subscribe to the print edition or audio CD version of Vetaffairs, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Other items in this  e-news edition include:

Gold Cards for BCOF and BNT. As a result of a 2017–18 Budget measure, Gold Cards will be provided to both the surviving Australian participants of the British Nuclear Test (BNT) program in Australia, and Australian veterans who served as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) during the occupation of Japan immediately following the Second World War.

70 years of international peacekeeping.  In September this year, a National Service of Commemoration will be held in Canberra to mark 70 years of Australia’s involvement in international peacekeeping.

Tehan Media Release - International conference to focus on veterans’ mental health

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Ministers from five countries, including Australia, will meet in London this week to explore challenges faced by contemporary veterans, and how governments can improve support services to help them achieve a fulfilling post-service life.

Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Minister Dan Tehan said the International Ministerial Conference on Veterans’ Issues would provide an opportunity to gain insights, in particular, into how our partner nations – Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States – deal with mental health issues and suicide prevention.

“As well as learning from the experiences of other nations, Australia will contribute significantly to conference discussions, with presentations on the topics of Barriers to effective mental health care and Current rehabilitation initiatives and proactive intervention for veterans,” Mr Tehan said.
“Ensuring we meet the mental health needs of those who have served our country, and their families, is a fundamental priority for the Turnbull Government.
“We recognise the importance of veterans seeking treatment as early as possible to achieve the best recovery outcomes, which is why in the 2016 Budget the Government expanded eligibility for non-liability health care for certain mental health conditions, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, alcohol and substance abuse to anyone with one day of full time service in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).”

In the 2017–18 Budget the Turnbull Government expanded this to cover all mental health conditions.
These arrangements mean there is no requirement to establish a causal link between a person’s military service and a mental health condition. Treatment is available to anyone who has served one day full-time in the ADF.
Treatment is fully funded and uncapped – if an eligible veteran needs treatment, the Government will pay for it.
“One suicide is one too many and being transparent about the mental health challenges facing serving and ex-serving Australian Defence personnel is vital,” Mr Tehan said.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2015 there were more than eight deaths by suicide in Australia each day. Tragically serving and ex-serving Defence personnel are not immune from this.

In seeking to further address this issue, the Government commissioned the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to provide the first accurate, robust data ever produced on suicide among the serving, reserve and ex-serving populations.

This work was done independently of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and has produced figures on ADF and veteran suicide based on information provided by state and territory coroners.

The Government also commissioned the National Mental Health Commission to review the suicide and self-harm prevention services available to former ADF members and their families. This helped inform the allocation of new funding of $58.6 million in the recent Budget for a range of new mental health initiatives.

Mr Tehan said that as a result of these studies we have a greater understanding of where and how to help those who are struggling, but as always there is more work to be done.

Statistics relating to Australia’s approach that will be shared at the conference, include:
• Between 2001 and 2015 there were 325 certified suicide deaths among people with at least one day of ADF service. In 2015 there were 25 certified suicide deaths among ex-serving Defence personnel.
• Between 2001 and 2015, there were 166 certified suicide deaths among ex-serving Defence personnel. Ex-serving men aged 18–24 were at particular risk—two times more likely to die from suicide than Australian men of the same age.
• Service characteristics that may be associated with the higher rate of suicide in ex-serving men included: involuntary discharge—particularly medical discharge, short length of service (less than one year) and rank other than a commissioned officer.
• 4,414 veterans had access to PTSD treatment under non-liability health care provisions as at 31 March 2017.
• 1,599 veterans had access to alcohol dependence and abuse treatment under non-liability health care provisions as at 31 March 2017.
• With regard to Australia’s longest running military conflict, the war in Afghanistan, DVA has accepted the claims of 1,590 veterans with service-related PTSD since 11 October 2001. The total number of claims determined was 1,634.
• DVA has also accepted the claims of 543 veterans with service-related alcohol dependency and abuse since 11 October 2001. The total number of claims determined was 576.

Mr Tehan said continuing research and engagement across Australia with ex-service organisations, Defence organisations and with partner countries was an important part of the Government’s action on improving veterans’ mental health and reducing the incidence of suicide among current and former members of the ADF.

“The Government is committed to addressing suicide and the devastating impact it has on our community. We all have a role to play in encouraging anyone, including our ex-serving men and women, to seek assistance when they need it,” Mr Tehan said.

Note: An individual can submit a claim for more than one condition. There is an overlap between claims for PTSD and alcohol dependency.

18 July 2017

Media enquiries:
Minister Tehan’s Office: Amelia Gard, 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 and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 45 46). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.

VIDEO - #VETERANS CLAWBACK - MILITARY SUPERANNUATION INVALIDITY TAX ISSUE

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The background to this matter and subsequent developments can be followed here:

#VETERANS CLAWBACK - MILITARY SUPERANNUATION INVALIDITY TAX ISSUE

TAX TREATMENT OF VETERAN INVALIDITY BENEFIT PAYMENTS – DOES IT AFFECT YOU?

#VETERANS CLAWBACK - ABC RADIO INTERVIEW OF COL RAY MARTIN (RETD) BY STEVE AUSTIN. This includes call backs from  effected veterans

#VETERANS CLAWBACK - ABC RADIO INTERVIEW OF DAVID JAMISON (DFWA) BY STEVE AUSTIN. This includes call back from others including the DVA Minister. 

COALITION MEDIA RELEASE - TAXATION TREATMENT OF SUPERANNUATION INCOME STREAMS

The DVA Minister has briefed the ALP's Shadow Minister on the matter. We await the ALP's response

Forces gear up to combat regional terror threats

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Forces gear up to combat regional terror threats

RORY CALLINAN The Australian July 14, 2017

It’s the largest amphibious assault for Australian troops since WWII but the generals are hoping Exercise Talisman Sabre 2017 delivers another first in proving capability to deploy an emergency “9/11” style force to respond to insurgencies or other regional emergencies.

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Australian troops hit the beaches during Exercise Talisman Sabre, at Shoalwater Bay, in central Queensland.

With a deadly battle raging in the southern Philippines between government troops and Islamic State fighters, and North Korea’s military reach increasing, the joint exercise is a dry run for the Aust­ralian military to deploy a force modelled on US Marines expedit­ionary units.

Says Major General Fergus “Gus” McLachlan: “This is the sort of capability that government could deploy around the region.

“So instead of just flying in a small training team, we can take a combat team and trail alongside our partners Malaysia, Singapore and up into Hawaii, and so we will be able to bring a capacity into the region that is unprecedented.”

Asked if the operation was a reaction­ to trouble spots such as The Philippines, Major General McLachlan said it was not his place to say but it was about having options. “All I can say, and my job is the force generator for the army, (is) that what things like The Philippines remind us of is that there is still a business model where you need a modern, well-equipped army with a range of capabilities,” the head of Forces Command said during a briefing at the exercise site at Shoalwater Bay, about 80km north of Rockhampton.

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Australian troops hit the beaches during Exercise Talisman Sabre, at Shoalwater Bay, in central Queensland.

“How a government chooses to use that strategy is their business but it’s our job to give them a range of capability.” He stressed the increasing threats facing the region.

“Your adversary is getting more and more dangerous. The things that only used to be accessible to states at the high end of cyber capability, highly precise letha­l weapons, are now available to everybody,” he said. “Sadly, we are in a competition where the ­adversary gets more capable.

“Even ISIL (Islamic State), we call them hacker makers. They already­ operate in cyber space, not at a sophisticated level but at a mid level that can disrupt operations, they can make armed UAS (unmanned­ aerial systems) that can drop bombs, they have effect­ively created precision weapons.

‘‘So that’s a hybrid non-state adversary.”

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Australian troops hit the beaches during Exercise Talisman Sabre, at Shoalwater Bay, in central Queensland.

While part of the joint US, Australian and New Zealand exercise is based around a field training ­exercise, with a force assault from the ocean to take on an enemy based on land in a conventional format at Shoalwater Bay, the planners have added an asymmetrical aspect including cyber warfare, potential insurgents ­hidden among a civilian popul­ation, and civilians being used as shields.

The exercise involves 33,000 Australian and US military personnel undertaking a series of training exercises involving special forces operations, amphibious landings and maritime operations, and runs for more than a month.

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