Fight for justice on malaria drug

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Opinion - Ross Eastgate Townsville Bulletin 26 May 2016

Ross Eastgate

IT’S cold comfort for some Australian veterans but this week a British parliamentary report recommended Lariam be used as an antimalarial drug only in very restricted cases.

Produced by Swiss pharmaceutical conglomerate Roche, Lariam is the brand name for mefloquine, a known neurotoxin which has also been trialled on ADF personnel.

Lariam is now either banned or used as a drug of last resort by military forces in Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, and the US.

It remains the third drug of choice in the ADF.

Leading the British anti-mefloquine campaign was former UK Defence Chief General David Richards who as a brigadier commanded the UK Interfet contingent in 1999-2000.

Later in 2000 Richards twice commanded a UK joint taskforce in Sierra Leone where British military concerns were first raised about psychiatric side effects associated with mefloquine usage including psychotic behaviour and hallucinations.

At the same time the Australian Army Malaria Institute (AMI) was clinically trialling mefloquine on ADF personnel deployed to East Timor.

Perhaps “trying” is a better description because the formal requirements of a clinical trial including informed consent were not strictly adhered to according to those who participated, including many Townsville-based personnel.

The consequences for many of those original ADF trial participants and more tragically their families, have been appalling.

Of all organisations, AMI should have performed better but its approach to recent antimalarial clinical trials appears haphazard at best, criminally negligent at worst.

Originally established in Cairns in 1943 when malaria was still endemic in Far North Queensland, it looked to alternative treatments after Japan invaded Indonesia, quarantining the world’s primary source of quinine.

According to its website, AMI “is a world-recognised centre for malaria research and training.

“Its main mission is to ensure ADF personnel are able to have the best possible protection against malaria and other vector-borne diseases”.

In a proper clinical trial drugs are administered under supervision and monitoring by medically qualified personnel.

In army units it is the role of medically unqualified platoon sergeants to issue the drugs while recording that in platoon rolls.

Worse, AMI also decided to try tafenoquine, which the US Army Walter Reed Institute declared “more neurotoxic than mefloquine”.

Personnel participating in tafenoquine trials in Bougainville were warned of its possible adverse anaemic effects though not of its possible psychiatric effects.

Simply given the drug, they were sent unsupervised to their accommodation to record their reactions in log books. Most were too ill or psychologically affected to do so logically.

British troops may now be able to sue the British government for compensation.

Similarly affected Australian veterans have been told if they successfully sue, they may not only lose but could be required to pay back benefits already received.

While the ADF hierarchy continues to deny any culpability or malpractice, those permanently affected have a different view.

Those who died through their acquired toxicity are silent and survivors feel abandoned and betrayed.

They are determined like their now vindicated British counterparts for the truth to prevail.

Vets’ super pain as MPs cash up

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May 19, 2016 
ROSS EASTGATE Townsville Bulletin

Ross Eastgate

MILITARY pensioners who can afford such luxuries as daily newspapers may have read reports detailing retiring federal MPs’ superannuation payments.

One report suggested more than 30 Coalition MPs are entitled to indexed annual pensions starting around $200,000.

Nice work if you can get it and of course those supporting such largesse will argue they have earned it.

Short, intense, stressful careers with insecure tenure, long irregular hours, extended family absences, foregoing more lucrative alternative private sector employment opportunities for selfless public service, etc ... you get the drift.

You certainly get the drift if you served in the ADF because the same descriptions can be applied to military service with the added negatives of possible death or permanent disability either in training or on operations.

The same report suggested these generous political entitlements were thanks to former prime minister John Howard’s “loathing” of retrospective changes to superannuation.

“People who enter into an arrangement or part of their career on a certain basis are entitled to enjoy the entitlements of that arrangement as they entered into it,” Mr Howard told parliament in 2004 as he closed the generous defined-benefit parliamentary pension scheme for new MPs.

Mr Howard introduced the changes responding to public pressure over generous parliamentary pensions but refused to make them retrospective.

Those DFRDB military superannuants who struggle to survive on their meagre pittance must find that somewhat ironic, given the multiple, always retrospective, changes that scheme has endured since its inception.

Nor can they forget it was compulsory with a 5 per cent levy on salary, with no employer contributions and a minimum 20-year service period before members could draw a pension.

It was intended, they were told, to enable them to transition from military service at a relatively young age with a modicum of financial security.

It was to be indexed to maintain its purchasing power.

Members were able to commute a portion of future entitlements calculated at value on separation to be repaid with a reduced fortnightly pension calculated on life expectancy estimated at age 72.

On death, widows and dependent children would receive a reduced pension which was not to have been penalised by any commutation payment to the contributor.

The scheme was also self-funding until politicians decided it would be better rolled into later schemes designed for public servants employed under entirely different conditions.

It has been subject to different, lesser indexation assessments than other pensions such that its purchasing power has been considerably diminished over time.

Those superannuants who reach then pass the old life expectancy continue on a reduced pension although they have more than repaid their original commuted element.

To make matters worse widows’ DFRDB pensions are calculated on the reduced rate whether their spouse commuted or not.

As politicians push their snouts into parliamentary superannuation troughs, pleas by DFRDB superannuants simply for a fair hearing continue to fall on deaf ears while they struggle to survive on one tenth of the pensions paid to many politicians for far less service.

Former soldiers, families face military officials In Townsville over anti-malaria drug side effects

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Article by Jesse Dorsett

The military's top brass has come face to face with former soldiers and their families suffering depression and anxiety after being given controversial anti-malaria drugs
on deployment.
Key points:-
 2,000 ADF personnel given anti-malaria drug in East Timor over five years.
 Drug side effects include mood swings and suicidal thoughts.
 ADF says they did not know drugs would produce chronic problems.

 A forum has been held in Townsville, in north Queensland, to give former soldiers, ex-service organisations and health professional the chance to discuss the effects of anti-malaria medication Mefloquine, as well as the drug Tafenoquine. 

Nearly 2,000 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel were prescribed Mefloquine, also known as Lariam, primarily in East Timor, between July 2000 and June 2015.
The drug is known to cause agitation, mood swings, panic attacks, confusion, hallucinations,aggression, psychosis and suicidal thoughts in a small number of patients.
Another 492 took Tafenoquine as part of a trial in 2000 and 2001
.
Lavina Salter, the organiser of the Townsville forum, fought back tears as she recounted her husband's mental health ssues after taking Mefloquine in the early 2000s.
"The man I married died a long time ago," MsSalter said."There is no sign on his head saying 'I'm depressed'. Some ights I cried myself to sleep not knowing what to do.
"I would go to the hospital every day to see him. I'd cry so much on the way home I'd have to pull over because I couldn't see the road through my tears.
"Our kids can't sneak up behind him. I dread the day they find out he's attempted suicide more times than I can count on my hand." "The man I married ded a long time ago."

Lavinia 1

'It's always a balancing act when we're looking at drug like this' Surgeon General of the ADF, Air Vice-Marshal Tracy Smart, said 63 members contracted malaria between the time the Army entered East Timor in 1999 and when the trials started. "The drugs we were using weren't working," she said. (Air ViceMarshal Tracy Smart ) She acknowledged the military knew the medication could cause side effects but assumed they would not be chronic. "Back when we were doing the trial in Timor there was an nderstanding that some people may have side effects, people were told about those side effects and told to stop the medication if they were getting those side effects," she said. "It's always a balancing act when we're looking at drug like this because first and foremost we want to protect our people from alaria. That's a disease that kills people around the world very day."

AVM Smart

 But Dr Remington Nevin, a leading expert on Mefloquine and Tafenoquine, told the audience via Skype that the side effects were "trivialised" and "minimised" when soldiers signed up for the trial.

"As time has gone by there has been more evidence that there has been long time effects," Air Vice-Marshal Smart said. "What we're trying to do is be as transparent as possible, put all of our cards on the table."

The American point of view.On Mefloquine

Mefloquine, sold under the brand names Lariam among others, is a medication used to prevent or treat malaria When used for prevention it is taken once a week and should be begun one or two weeks before potential exposure and continued for four weeks after potential exposure. It can be used to treat mild or moderate malaria but should not be used to treat severe malaria. It is taken by mouth.

Serious side effects include potentially long term mental health problems such as depression and anxiety and neurological side effects such as poor balance, seizures, and ringing in the ears. It is therefore not recommended in people with a history of mental health problems or epilepsy. Common side effects include vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, and a rash. It is not recommended in pregnancy unless other options are not available. It should not be used during breast feeding.

Mefloquine was developed by the United States Army in the 1970s and came into use in the mid-1980s. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most important medications needed in a basic health system. It is available as a generic medication.    

Adverse effects

Mefloquine is contraindicated in those with a previous history of seizures or a recent history of psychiatric disorders severe side effects requiring hospitalization are rare. Compared to other malaria prophylaxis regimens, mefloqinone may produce more side effects in non-pregnant travellers. In pregnant travellers, it appears to pose
minimal risk to the fetus.

Neurologic and psychiatric

In 2013 the United States Food and Drug Administration added a boxed warning to the U.S. label of mefloquine regarding the potential for neuropsychiatric side effects that may persist even after discontinuing administration of the drug. Psychiatric effects include nightmares,visual and auditory hallucinations, anxiety, depression, unusual behaviour, and suicidal ideations, among others.

Neurologic effects include dizziness, loss of balance, and tinnitus. The label warns that ild symptoms may presage more serious ones, and that the drug should be discontinued at the first sign of symptoms.

Mefloquine should not be used in people with a history of psychiatric problems. Central nervous system events requiring hospitalization occur in about one in 10,000 people taking mefloquine for malaria prevention, with milder events (e.g., dizziness, headache, insomnia, and vivid dreams) in up to 25%. When some measure of subjective severity is applied to the rating of adverse events, about 11-17% of travellers are incapacitated to some degree.

Cardiac
Mefloquine may cause abnormalities with heart rhythms that are visible on electrocardiograms. Combining mefloquine with other drugs that cause similar effects, such as quinine or quinidine, can increase these effects. Combining mefloquine with halofantrine can cause significant increases in QTc intervals.

Contraindications
Mefloquine is contraindicated in those with a previous history of seizures or a recent history of psychiatric disorders. Women should not become pregnant and should use effective birth control while taking mefloquine.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
A retrospective analysis of outcomes in more than 2,500 women found no evidence that mefloquine was associated with an increased risk of birth defects or miscarriages. The drug may be used during breastfeeding, though it appears in breast milk in low concentrations. The World Health Organization gives approval for the use of mefloquine in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy and use in the first trimester does not mandate termination of pregnancy. Please check it out on the internet ..The Australian Government, Dept f Health have a different focus of disorders including cataract, retinal disorders and damage to the optic nerve.

Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission Appointments

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Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Dan Tehan, today announced two appointments to the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC).
Air Vice-Marshal Tracy Smart AM and Rear Admiral Brett Wolski AM have been appointed to the MRCC.
“Under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004, two members of the MRCC, nominated by the Minister for Defence, must come from the Department of Defence or be permanent members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF),” Mr Tehan said.
“It has been practice to appoint people occupying the roles of Head People Capability and Commander Joint Health and Surgeon General ADF to the MRCC Permanent Forces positions because the roles and responsibilities of these positions complement the MRCC.
“Air Vice-Marshal Smart joined the Air Force in 1985, and has held roles responsible for major reform in health services in the ADF.
“In December 2015, she was promoted to Air Vice-Marshal, assuming the positions of Commander Joint Health and Surgeon General ADF, as well as being a member of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council for Veterans’ Mental Health.
“Rear Admiral Wolski has 30 years’ experience serving in the Royal Australian Navy and was promoted to his current rank and assumed the appointment of Head People Capability in December 2015.”
Mr Tehan thanked the outgoing members, Rear Admiral Robyn Walker and Air Vice-Marshal Anthony Needham for their service on the MRCC and wished them all the best for the future.
7 May 2016

Media enquiries:
Byron Vale (Minister Tehan’s Office): 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.

Anzac Day: Call to spend more money on young war veterans

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• Brendan Nicholson, Defence Editor The Australian, April 25, 2016 

Veterans of Afghanistan, Iraq and East Timor are questioning whether money spent commemorating World War I — estimated at more than $550 million — could bring on compassion fatigue and reduce the help available to those wounded in more recent ¬operations.

John Bale, the army officer and Afghanistan veteran who founded the military support group Soldier On, writes for The Australian today that the nation has spent more money and resources commemorating WWI than any other country.
To truly acknowledge the sacrifice of past Diggers, instead of building monuments the Anzac -effort needs to be refocused on veterans and their families who are suffering today, Mr Bale says.

Former army chief Peter Leahy backed Mr Bale’s call, saying the nation had to act quickly.

Now director of the National Security Institute at the University of Canberra, Professor Leahy said for some veterans it was already too late.
“They’ve lost their personal battle with despair and ¬depression,” he said. “It’s good for politicians to ¬attend the parades and opening ceremonies but I’d much rather see them right across the country on a regular basis reaching out every day to the veteran community.”

That would help the nation’s decision-makers gauge the extent of the depression, despair, homelessness, broken relationships, ¬imprisonment and suicide.

Mr Bale asks if the money has been spent wisely and suggests that Australia has missed an -opportunity to engage the community in creating a lasting legacy from the sacrifices of so long ago.
Younger veterans from ¬Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor and other conflicts are struggling to find their place in the Anzac tradition. “Worse, many veterans are not reintegrating back into our community after these conflicts, while some cannot shake off the trauma of what they experienced,’’ Mr Bale says.

“Most Australians feel after last year’s Gallipoli commemorations that the Anzac centenary is over. They have paid their respects and they have moved on.

“An apathy has grown around the continuing centenary of the World War I battles and contemporary veterans and their families are the losers.”
He says veterans and their families are struggling with physical and psychological issues while millions of dollars are being spent on memorials to World War I.

“Commemoration must be more than ceremony,’’ Mr Bale says.

“Its real value lies in a renewed commitment to enduring values.’’

“The best way to refocus the centenary of Anzac is to link it to support for those who have most recently served.
“Plainly, there is little point in vast expenditure to boost our knowledge of military history if we fail to support those who keep the Anzac tradition alive today: the people who put on uniforms and still go out into danger.’’

Figures compiled by the Honest History website last year put government spending on the commemoration at more than $470m from government and $80m from the private sector.

Anzac Day: Young diggers struggle with PTSD from recent conflicts

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ABC News article By Louise Merrillees Sunday 24 April 2016

As we remember the veterans from the great world wars, Korea and Vietnam on Anzac Day, are we forgetting the sacrifice of younger service men and women who served in more recent conflicts?

Young Australians who served overseas and return with physical and mental scars in wars are not being celebrated with the ceremony afforded to diggers from Gallipoli and the Western Front.

Many are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with some finding their so-called peacekeeping missions just as traumatic, or more so, than time spent in combat zones.

The article relates to the personal comments and experiences of three people.

Read More 

 

More must be done to help veterans suffering PTSD

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Sydney Morning Herald - 22 April 2016.

This Anzac Day, we salute the contribution and sacrifice of the men and women who have served Australia in the armed forces for the past 100 years.
For some, that sacrifice results in the devastating invisible wounds of poor mental health - posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, anger, aggression, alcohol and drug abuse, and thoughts of suicide.
This Anzac Day, let us make a commitment to those who are currently suffering, a commitment to improve the availability and effectiveness of interventions to help their recovery.
The majority of service men and women come through their military experiences with little or no long-term psychological problems. However, a substantial minority do develop devastating mental health problems which have a profound impact on the individual and their family.
We know that PTSD, the most common mental health disorder in veterans, is a serious and debilitating disorder. Symptoms include frequent flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, being constantly on the alert,and feeling emotionally numb. Other issues often occur alongside it, such as anger, aggression, depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.

Without effective treatment, the person can feel overwhelmed by their problems, isolated, unable to work, unable to find peace in the world, and unable to connect with their families.
In 2016, Australia's serving personnel and veterans have very good access to mental health care due to the commitment of both the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) to provide high quality evidence-based care and treatment. But the best treatments that we currently have only work for some, and only a third of PTSD patients fully recover.
We need to close that gap and research new, innovative treatments, and discover how to make existing treatments more effective and how to engage and intervene early. We also need to learn more about adjunctive therapies and activities that can support evidence-based treatment and improve quality of life. As understanding of PTSD grows, and research is undertaken to improve treatments, awareness and understanding is also increasing about the broader scars of war.
"Moral injury" is a term used to describe the potential impact of experiences in battle that challenge or transgress a person's deeply-held moral beliefs. The consequences of such an experience may extend beyond PTSD into guilt, shame, anger and aggression, and at times, self-destructive thoughts and behaviour.
While research in this area is in its infancy, the notion itself is not a new one. Helping a person who has suffered moral injury is not the domain of mental health researchers and practitioners alone; it requires a multidisciplinary understanding, including of the spiritual dimension.
Experts across Australia and internationally are examining ways to better understand and define moral injury and consider how best to support healing and recovery. It is critical that scarce research efforts and dollars are targeted to answer the most urgent questions and ensure that the research is then used to improve the lives of serving personnel and veterans.
Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, in collaboration with key partners around the country, is planning cutting edge research into new and innovative treatments, to help those people who do not benefit from current treatments. Already, in collaboration with DVA and ADF, a trial has commenced to test the effectiveness of delivering one of the most effective therapies for PTSD in a shorter, more efficient manner to make it more accessible to a broader range of veterans and serving personnel.
The rewards of increased research involving a collaboration of specialists and experts in military mental health will be benefits for not only service men and women and their families, but ultimately for all Australians who are affected by trauma, whether it be the result of a serious accident, sexual or physical violence, natural disaster, or war.
Professor David Forbes is the director of Phoenix Australia - Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry, the University of Melbourne. Phoenix Australia is a not-for-profit centre promoting recovery from trauma through research, policy and service advice, and education and training.

 


.

The rewards of increased research involving a collaboration of specialists and experts in military mental health will be benefits for not only service men and women and their families, but ultimately for all Australians who are affected by trauma, whether it be the result of a serious accident, sexual or physical violence, natural disaster, or war.
Professor David Forbes is the director of Phoenix Australia - Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry, the University of Melbourne. Phoenix Australia is a not-for-profit centre promoting recovery from trauma through research, policy and service advice, and education and training.

 

Soldier on for shot at politics

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Opinion - Ross Eastgate. Townsville Bulletin 31 March 2016

Ross Eastgate

IN many democratic societies the path from military service into parliament is one well trodden.

Popular military commanders, particularly if they have been victorious have translated that success into political opportunity.

The Duke of Wellington enjoyed a long political association with both the Irish and English parliaments and was briefly prime minister.

General Eisenhower built on his reputation as supreme Allied commander in Europe in World War II to become a popular US president.

Australia’s first VC recipient Neville Howse served in Australia’s federal parliament, one of a number of Gallipoli veterans who became politicians, including British PM Clement Atlee.

Many Australian veterans of both world wars served in various parliaments and we are again seeing veterans making their political mark with varying degrees of influence and representing most political interests.

One whose political aspirations appear to have been temporarily stymied is former major general Jim Molan who has been relegated to the third probably unwinnable spot on the NSW Liberal senate ticket thanks to ongoing shenanigans in that party in that state.

Jim Molan

Anyone who knows Molan understands he is a considered but determined individual who would bring the same robust approach to politics he demonstrated throughout his military career.

Molan graduated from Duntroon just as what commentators are describing as The Long Peace began post-Australia’s Vietnam involvement.

He served as platoon commander in the Pacific Islands Regiment in PNG on the cusp of that country’s independence before training as a pilot in the mid-1970s when the army needed to fill a short-term capability gap.

Along the way he completed degrees in arts and economics.

Many thought then his infantry career had stalled when he also undertook Indonesian language studies at Point Cook in Victoria after completing his basic flying training at the same RAAF base.

Molan did not serve in an Australian regular infantry battalion until a senior captain and did not command a company, an unusual career path even in a peacetime army.

Those who wrote him off then underestimated his drive not to mention ambition.

Few officers of his generation have a better grasp of weapons and tactics but he also impressed as a military diplomat when posted to Indonesia.

He largely avoided serving in Canberra, regarded as a necessity for ambitious officers but commanded 6RAR, for which service particularly during the 1990 Charleville floods he was appointed member of the Order of Australia.

Molan commanded the 1st Brigade as it relocated from Holsworthy to Darwin before returning to Indonesia as defence attache during the period INTERFET deployed to East Timor.

After commanding 1st Division, Molan deployed to Iraq as Chief of Operations in the Multinational Force HQ.

Molan has been a vocal critic of defence policy since leaving the army and although aligned with the Liberal party, spectacularly resigned as an adviser to Liberal defence minister David Johnson, expressing dissatisfaction with the minister’s performance. 

Internal Liberal party machinations may have momentarily stalled his senate aspirations but no one should write him off just yet.

Ends

Comment Ted Chitham. Jim is a staunch and active supporter of the defence community especially on veterans' matters. His views are actively sought by the National media. See his recent appearance on last Tuesday's Sky News TV Richo + Jones program.

 

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Heads Up for the New Veterans' Minister

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Opinion Columnist - Ross Eastgate OAM 18/02/16

Ross Eastgate

 Of all the attributes applicable to those who serve, the most prized is loyalty. It is not given unconditionally but earned, and it is a two way street. It also starts at the top.

Leaders who are loyal to those they command will receive the same in return. The opposite is also true.

There are few if any veterans lamenting former DVA minister Stuart Robert's political demise for failing to properly declare a China visit while junior defence minister. 
Those who hoped having one of their own as minister would provide a sympathetic hearing and a strong advocate in government were subsequently disappointed as it became increasingly clear Robert had little real interest in those issues concerning veterans.

The wider veteran community quickly saw through Robert's disinterested facade of self-interest.

Nor were they impressed when he accepted both Human Services and DVA ministries.

Despite claims he was the most capable person for the dual role, veterans were concerned he would be the most acceptable if not malleable choice to ultimately merge the separate responsibilities to the detriment of veterans' needs.  Robert's acceptance was seen as disloyal.
 

Incoming minister Dan Tehan starts with a clean sheet.

Dan Tehan

David Hawker, his predecessor in the Victorian Mallee-based seat of Wannon demonstrated great empathy for veterans. The less said about their predecessor's interest in those who served the better.

Perhaps some gratuitous advice for the new minister might help him succeed in the role.
Firstly, listen to veterans.
They are trained to quickly condense complex situations into precise detail, draw conclusions, then make and give plans in short order.
Do not confuse their apparent bluntness with rudeness. It is simple honesty without obfuscation, embellishment or flourish.
They will ask you for no more than they believe they and their mates deserve, but they will ask with passion. The position they present is the position they have arrived at after careful consideration and from which they will usually not be swayed.
 

Do not dismiss them out of hand. Respond to all their requests and keep them informed. Be honest in return. They are nothing if not persistent if they feel their requests have been unduly neglected or dismissed.

Respect them for who they are and what they have done. Like loyalty, respect will be returned in spades.
 

Engage with them at every opportunity. You will develop their trust if you listen, discuss, argue by all means but respond to what they say.
Promise no more than you can realistically offer but in turn engage ruthlessly with soulless bureaucrats who will always attempt to argue for less than the lowest common denominator.

They may not vote in your electorate, but they vote, they care and they lobby among themselves.
It's a team thing and the team is central to the ADF ethos.
All for one and one for all.

The veteran community is currently bruised and angry by what they see as unconscionable disloyalty from some of their own.
 

Trust, respect, listen, empathise, and loyalty will be your reward.

This article was first published in The Townsville Bulletin

National Servicemen's Day - 12 February

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The Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), Simon Lewis PSM, today paid tribute to the young men who took part in the National Service scheme. “Today, National Servicemen’s Day, we recognise and remember the service and sacrifice of thousands of men who were called upon for National Service, Mr Lewis said.

Australia has seen four periods of compulsory military service, with the last two schemes, 1951–1959 and 1964–1972, seeing tens of thousands of National Servicemen, or ‘Nashos’ serve our nation.

Under the National Service Act 1951, all young men turning 18 on or after 1 November 1950 were required to register for the scheme. For those who went into the Navy or Air Force this meant a commitment of 176 days standard recruit training. For the majority, who went into the Army, it meant a period of 98 days in the Regular Army followed by 78 days in the Citizen Military Forces. National Servicemen were then required to remain in the Reserve for five years. More than 33,000 men trained annually in the Army, Navy or Air Force during the period 1951–1957, after which the yearly intake fell to 12,000 before the scheme was discontinued in 1959, Mr Lewis said.

The last National Service Scheme was introduced in 1964 in response to Australia’s growing involvement in South East Asia. “From 1964 to 1972, men aged 20 years or older were required to register with the Department of Labour and National Service. A draw, known as the ‘birthday ballot’ then determined which men would be called up for service,” Mr Lewis said. “More than 804,000 men registered during the period 1964–72, of whom more than 63,000 were called up to serve in the Army. “The National Service scheme ended in December 1972 following the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam.

“Nashos are an important part of our military history and Australia owes a great debt to these men who underwent training and served our nation, many on foreign soil. “I would encourage all Australians to reflect on the efforts of these men and ensure their sacrifices are not forgotten,” Mr Lewis said.

Nasho Logo Line Art

Read about The National Servicemen's Association here

 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 4546)

Veteran Suicide: The False Narrative of the Number “22”

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2013-03-12-Loss USA Suicide

 

This is an article on a USA website by Wes O'Donnell, Managing Editor, InMilitary.com.
Wes is a Professor of Leadership and Predictive Analytics at Baker College. He is also a documentary filmmaker. Wes is a veteran and believes that when all 21.8 million of us are united, we can change the world. It is reproduced here because of its relevance to other Armed Forces. 

There is one number that defines the way many Americans think about military veterans. That number is 22 per day, as in, 22 veterans commit suicide daily in the United States.
This number has been blasted across the outlets of the mainstream media as a call to action for the advocates of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans; the group that seems to be the most at risk. In addition, several non-profit organizations with the number "22" in their name, have sprung up to assist this group and draw national attention to this crisis.
The problem is that the number 22 is built on a false narrative.

First, this number is based on a Veteran Affairs report from 2012 using numbers reported from only 21 states from 1999 through 2011. This represents only 40% of the U.S. Population. The other states, including states with massive veteran communities, like California and Texas, don't report suicides to the VA. As you can deduce, we should be using the number "22" as a starting point or bare minimum.

Second, the entire generation of veterans that have been implicated in "22", that is, the Post-9/11 or Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, are NOT the group that is committing suicide. In reality, only about 1 veteran from that group takes their own life daily, (which is still 1 too many). But if the media and charitable organizations are going to focus on this number, they need to make sure that they are targeting the right generation.

According to the report, the majority of veteran suicides are committed by Vietnam-Era veterans, yet the media is surprisingly quiet on this point.

The question is "why?" Vietnam-Era veterans need outreach, education, prevention and treatment just as much as the younger generations, and when we hide them in the numbers, they may not be getting the help that they need.

Furthermore, there is another harmful side-effect. Having such a big, inaccurate number attached to the younger generation of veterans perpetuates a destructive stereotype about Iraq and Afghanistan vets: That they are somehow broken, and unable to compete for meaningful opportunities in the civilian world.
Admittedly, even the Veteran's Affairs authors of the report caution against using the number 22 as a solid metric. The issue is how a number of media organizations, as well as some members of Congress, twist the number to meet their own agendas.

"Having such a big, inaccurate number attached to the younger, post 9/11 veterans perpetuates a destructive stereotype: That they are somehow broken"

 
Thankfully, a more accurate report is on the horizon. According to the LA Times, a massive new data trove is being assembled by the Pentagon and the VA. Known as the Suicide Data Repository, it links national death records to military and healthcare data. This should eliminate at least some of the "fog of war", and allow for a more detailed accounting.

Until then, the number "22" is a great starting point to raise awareness about this ongoing crisis, but let's make sure that we report it accurately and responsibly, and in the process, honor our nation's heroes.

ROYAL COMMISSION PROPIAS APPVA

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This Opinion article by Columnist Ross Eastgate was originally published in the Townsville Bulletin, 28 Jan 2016.

Ross Eastgate

NEVER ask a question to which you do not already know the answer.

Calls by some veteran groups, particularly the Australian Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Veterans Association (APPVA) for a royal commission into the Department of Veterans Affairs have not received universal support from the wider veteran community.

Specifically the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations (ADSO) and the RSL have rejected calls to support a change.org petition proposing such a commission.

The issue was first raised in 2014 by then rookie Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie whose strident denunciation of all things hierarchical in the wider defence organisation echoed the hollowness of most PUP pronouncements.

Lambie has since deserted that sinking ship but has continued to make outrageous, exaggerated and mostly unsubstantiated threats and claims on a variety of defence matters.

APPVA and others supporting a royal commission into DVA have also made wild allegations of gross mismanagement, time delays, removal of treatment paths, adversarial practices and even corruption by DVA and its staff.

ADSO's decision not to support a royal commission was based on the APPVA's refusal to supply specific details substantiating such allegations - supposedly on legal advice - and its further failure to demonstrate it has analysed the issues in depth, articulated an objective, developed a structured strategy and analysed the implications of embarking on this action.

ADSO would also be mindful royal commissioners operate under strict terms of reference set by the appointing government, have wide coercive powers and operate within a set time frame.

As ADSO spokesman David Jamison said in a letter widely circulated throughout the defence community, royal commissions are not instigated lightly and often have wider, unintended consequences. Recent examples have clearly demonstrated that latter concern.
Any terms of reference could also look into counter-allegations that elements of the veteran community encourage false claims, coach veterans to present with conditions they do not have, and persistent, deliberate fraud.

Royal commissions into defence matters last century included Liverpool military camp during 1915, Navy and Defence Department administration (1917-1919) and assessment of war service disabilities (1924-25). Two royal commissions into the 1964 Melbourne-Voyager collision have still not produced satisfactory outcomes for all those involved.

ADSO's opposition also relies on continuing existing consultative processes between ex-service organisations and DVA.

No doubt ADSO also fears unforseen outcomes from answers to questions no one has yet considered.

There are already concerns the government and more importantly its bureaucratic advisors would be happy to be rid of DVA as a separate body and have all its matters handled by CentreLink and Medicare.

Indeed, the appointment of a single minister to oversee both portfolios, although himself a veteran, is already signalling terrifying alarms among those with the experience and foresight to expect the worst when it comes to veterans' entitlements and superannuation.
 

Strident, populist politics rarely succeed, no matter how well intentioned.
 

Obtaining appropriate outcomes for all those damaged by their military service will be best achieved by those prepared to argue in a united, calm and rational manner.

Politician’s lack of action is damning veterans

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This is an Article written by Graham Richardson (Political Columnist) and printed in The Australian 29 January 2016
graham richardson

I have no idea as to who wrote the immortal words "old soldiers never die, they just fade away" but he or she got it half-right and half-wrong. While spending a month in Townsville over Christmas, it wasn't only the dastardly deeds of Clive Palmer at the local nickel refinery¬ that piqued my interest.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill introduced me to a group of leather-clad, tattooed, motorcycle club members. This was not a group set up to run criminal enterprises. Rather, it was an attempt by some army veterans to give structure and purpose to the lives of some of their mates who were struggling to survive.

These blokes have a clubhouse in suburban Townsville and they had a party one night. About 100 people were in attendance. There was a barbecue and a live band. One thing struck me immediately about the function — everyone was in a good mood. No matter how much grog was being consumed, there were no fights or argu¬ments.
What was so impressive about this was the fact that too many of those assembled had real troubles in their personal lives with alcohol abuse and violence. They were coming together with their mates, the people who understood them and accepted their failings and foibles. When you hear some of their stories you come to realise why they feel abandoned, forgotten and look so forlorn.

A few days after the party I sat down with a few of the Diggers Club members and listened to their stories.
One bloke — who had tried serious¬ self-harm on too many occasions¬, had significant difficulty with alcohol and was leading a pretty solitary existence — recounted¬ his attempt to gain a Totally and Permanently Incap¬acitated Gold Card. What follows is a damning example of callous, sloppy bureaucratic bungling.
Before being granted the card, with all of its attendant pension and benefits, this man was told he had to complete a rehabilitation program. During April, May and June of 2012 he completed the program designated by the Departme¬nt of Veterans Affairs.
In December 2013, there was a hearing of this veteran's application. There was, however, no record of his participation in or completion of the rehabilitation course. Either the company conducting the course had not submitted a report to the department or the department itself had received¬ and then lost the report in the bowels of a government body still using paper files and not putting reports on computer.
And here was I thinking I was the last of the Luddites, as I handwrite this column.
The application was knocked back on the grounds that the rehabilitation course had not been completed. You would be entitled to wonder why no one involved on the department's side had the wit to ring the company conducting the course at the not-too-shabby sum of $13,000 a pop.
If that is not bad enough, the appeal against this decision was not heard until September 2014. It took 10 minutes and the original decision was set aside and allowed to "just fade away". There have been too many suicides and too many lives busted wide open by this kind of treatment.

I want to finish off this column by printing in full a letter from one of the veterans I met in Townsville. It explains all that is wrong with the system far better and far more eloquently than I ever could.
I'm writing to you today in relation to our conversation we had in Townsville recently. I have served my country for near twenty years with multiple deployments from hearts and minds to front line. I, like so many of my peers, were lifetime soldiers — career oriented, very focused¬ on our task at hand, which meant our personal lives took a back seat on many occasions. That was Defence life.
I didn't just wake up one morning and feel the way I do, it's been going on for years, and like many others I abused alcohol to the point where friends and family were concerned for my health.
This was my escape from reality¬, heavily intoxicated in my own world. Not seeing how this was impacting others around me and at times unable to get out of bed, I continued to ready myself for the next deployment by trying to erase the last and just moving on. It was my closest friends who got me help and through a very low point in my life. After seeking professional advice and guidance, I informed my chain of command that I was diagnosed with PTSD, and that I would be taking medication to assist with my anger, anxiety, hyper vigilance and inability to sleep.
I was requested by my chain of command to get a second and third opinion with an assessment by a Defence Psychologist. I complied with the requests and all came back the same. One Defence Psychologist said this behaviour should have been "red flagged" years ago but apologised for "falling through the cracks". To me they're just words to a systematic problem within the Defence Force. These words didn't give me any assistance or solution to the problem.
After 19 months of uncertainty with my career, it was over. Many Defence members refer to getting help as career suicide as you're no longer an asset and now have become a burden. I've heard many individu¬als referred to in many terms and I knew I would be put into this category by my chain of command. This was extremely disheartening and I spiralled out of control with high anxiety and depress¬ion.
After getting assistance for these issues I'm gradually getting better, at least I'm six feet above. There are so many ex-service personal that are doing well, let's not forget those that struggle daily.
SGT A

On Richo on Sky News on Wednesday night I interviewed Stuart Robert, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. I provided him with this material but I did not make this a political issue. Neither side of politics have distinguished themselves on the way they treat veterans so I don't care about the politics, I care about results. Stuart¬ Robert has questions to answe¬r and so does Marise Payne.

ADSO COMMENT ON THE PROPOSED ROYAL COMMISSION INTO DVA

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22 January 2016

Dear ADSO Members and Friends,

 

ADSO1 is an alliance of some of the most long-standing defence and ex-service organisations in Australia. Each in their own right has strong ties to both their inservice ADF constituencies and to the veterans with whom they once served and counted as colleagues. Collectively, they now number over 90,000 members.

 

Recently a number of member organisations have been approached by the Australian Peacekeeper & Peacemaker Veterans' Association (APPVA) to support a call for a Royal Commission into the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). The call has been based on claims of gross mismanagement, time delays, removal of treatment paths and adversarial practices by DVA which it is claimed is now causing increased numbers of homeless veterans, increased suicides and family breakdowns. Royal Commissions are not instigated lightly and inevitably have wide and unintended consequences.

 

Bearing this in mind, the call has been declined for a number of reasons:

1. Firstly, requests to APPVA and its Royal Commission Working Group for specific details substantiating the allegations have been rejected supposedly on advice from their legal representatives and on grounds of confidentiality requiring commitment of an ESO before disclosure of any details.

 

2. Secondly, APPVA has failed to raise its concerns that would warrant such a serious step through its participation in the well established DVA/ ESO consultative process, specifically The ESO Round Table (ESORT) and The Younger Veterans - Contemporary Needs Forum (YVF).

 

3. Thirdly, the APPVA has shown no evidence that it has analysed the issues in depth, articulated an objective, developed a structured strategy and analysed the implications of embarking on this pathway to itself and other associations joining the venture but more importantly to the veteran community at large.

 

Finally allegations that ADSO and its member organisations do not represent the veterans of more recent conflicts could not be further from the truth. ADSO member organisations have strong ties to current members of the ADF and more recent veterans and they are as much a focus as those of previous conflicts.

 

Indeed, much of the ADSO membership comprises serving ADF members as well as discharged veterans of the more recent deployments and many of the recent ADSO initiatives have been directed at their needs.

 

ADSO fully acknowledges that there are issues in the way support is provided to serving and former ADF members and is working to address them through the well-established consultative process.  ADSO believes the call for a Royal Commission would hinder rather than help improve this support.

 

Yours sincerely,

David Jamison

 

 

 

 

David Jamison

National Spokesman

Alliance of Defence Service Organisations

 

ADSO Comprises:

The Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA), Naval Association of Australia (NAA), RAAF Association (RAAFA), Royal Australian Regiment Corporation (RARC), Australian Special Air Service Association (ASASA), Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia (VVAA), the Australian Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex-Service Men and Women, the Fleet Air Arm Association of Australia, Partners of Veterans Association of Australia, Royal Australian Armoured Corps Corporation (RAAC), the National Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association Australia (NMBVAA), the Defence Reserves Association (DRS), the Australian Gulf War Veterans Association, Military Police Association Australia (MPAA) and Australian Army Apprentices Association. .

 

ADSO Update - 2015 The Year in Review

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In this non election year, ADSO concentrated its lobbying on improving its relationship with the Government, Opposition and all political parties and independent MPs and Senators, the media and Australian people to keep our issues alive. This was achieved primarily by our Canberra Lobby Team's regular meetings and briefing with the appropriate Ministers, politicians and media complemented by ADSO's individual partners' direct access to the Government/Parliament and its relevant Departments (Defence, Veterans' Affairs, Social Services and Health) and participation in DVA's Consultative Committees - Ex-Service Organisations Round Table (ESORT), Prime Minister's Advisory Council (PMAC) , Younger Veterans – Contemporary Needs Forum) and National Aged & Community Care Forum.

In the main, ADSO performed successfully, particularly by way of its active participation in achieving positive outcomes affecting the ADF's serving and younger veterans' communities. In that regard, the many thousands of ADSO Partners' members in the veterans family and in many cases a direct association with the serving ADF Services (Navy, Army and RAAF) and Units (RAR, RAAC, SAS, etc) and DFWA's in-service virtual members played a key part in that success. That is because of the feedback many of them provided on the issues that concerned them most. It brought into stark relief that all ADF members and their families do have a voice and, when mobilized, decision-makers in Parliament are left with little option but to listen and take notice.Increasingly they and the media have come to accept ADSO as a major representative voice of the Defence Family.

Despite these successes in 2015, many of our objectives are still works in progress and remain to be resolved. The barriers we face with the Government/Parliament are in the main disagreements either in principle or facts, their financial austerity restrictions and/or higher national priorities.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016
In this election year we will return to Fair Go Campaigning along similar operational lines we successfully applied in the 2013 Federal election. That means the re-activation of our Action Groups and public awareness promotions in all Federal electorates.

Our ADSO team, now numbering 13 ESO member organisations, is finalising its 2016 campaign strategy and operational plans. A key plank of the strategy is to continue to protect and where possible improve entitlements and to foster the wellbeing of serving and former ADF members and their families. In this we will: seek to be inclusive and work with other national ESOs; remain non-partisan; and provide an independent and unified voice on behalf of our Defence Family.

In broad terms our targeted objectives are outlined. Specific policies and plans for each Objective and relevant Fact and Briefing Sheets are being prepared for release in late January 2016.

READ MORE

 

ADSO Update 2015

 

THANK YOU

Without your support, ADSO would not exist to provide a collective voice that even the most senior of decision makers within Government concedes is not only loud and powerful but is reasoned at the same time. Increasingly they and the media have come to accept that ADSO is a major representative voice of the Defence Family.

Your feedback and willingness to be an advocate for our objectives and, most importantly, to join our Action Groups will be critical in 2016 when we engage with all the sitting MPs and those candidates standing for election. Please encourage others in your family and social networks to support us in any one or all of these ways: keeping in touch, volunteering and/or donating to the Campaign.

Stay in touch with the latest ADSO information here or at DFWA here.

 

Who to Call? Anyone needing help now or at any time of the year should immediately contact a 24-hour telephone counselling hotline (some detailed below), or you can request a welfare check to be conducted for a friend by contacting your local police station.
• Veterans and Veterans Families Counseling Service (VVCS): 1800 011 046 or (International: +61 8 8241 4546)
• Lifeline: 13 11 14
• Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
• 'MensLine' Australia: 1300 789 978
• Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
• Emergency Line: 000 or call 112 on a mobile phone
• Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36

ADSO Comprises:
The Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA), Naval Association of Australia (NAA), RAAF Association
(RAAFA), Royal Australian Regiment Corporation (RARC), Australian Special Air Service Association
(ASASA), Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia (VVAA), the Australian Federation of Totally and
Permanently Incapacitated Ex-Service Men and Women, the Fleet Air Arm Association of Australia, Partners
of Veterans Association of Australia, Royal Australian Armoured Corps Corporation (RAAC), the National
Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association Australia (NMBVAA), the Defence Reserves Association (DRS), and
the Australian Gulf War Veterans Association.

Minister for Veterans' Affairs - Move to improve Veterans’ Affairs systems

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Driving information and communications technology (ICT) and systems improvements to help reduce claim processing times for veterans is a priority for the Australian Government.

STUART ROBERT
Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, Stuart Robert, said improving the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) computer systems would have tangible benefits for veterans.

"Ensuring DVA's ICT infrastructure is up to the task of supporting veterans is one of my key priorities," Mr Robert said.
"DVA's computer systems are at the centre of everything we do and modern, more agile systems will significantly improve claim processing times and open up new avenues to interact with younger veterans."

As part of DVA's ICT improvement program, the majority of Canberra-based DVA ICT staff will co-locate with Department of Human Services (DHS) ICT staff in Tuggeranong early in 2016.

The co-location will build on the ICT shared services arrangements that have been in place since 2010 and will allow the two departments' ICT teams to work more closely and collaboratively together.

The existing agreement between DVA and DHS covers a wide range of ICT services including support for desktop, mid-range and mainframe infrastructure as well as storage.

"Co-locating DVA's ICT staff with DHS allows DVA staff to access the most modern and up to date ICT systems to provide the best possible support to veterans," Mr Robert said.
"This is a sensible approach to driving systems improvements and ultimately improvements for veterans accessing DVA services. DVA will remain a standalone agency and there will be no job losses for either department associated with this move."

DVA ICT staff will move during the same time period as DVA relocates its head office from Woden to the Gnabra Building in Civic in January 2016.

Media enquiries:
Richard Briedis (Minister Robert) 0477 391 174
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 4546)

VETERAN SUPPORT SERVICES CONTINUE OVER THE CHRISTMAS PERIOD

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Support services for veterans will continue to be available throughout the Christmas period, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA), Simon Lewis PSM, said today.

"Many people, including veterans, do it tough over Christmas, and I want to reassure veterans that should they need it, help is available over the holiday period," Mr Lewis said.

"While DVA offices will close on Friday, 25 December 2015 and will reopen on Monday, 4 January 2016, veterans and their families can continue to access key DVA services."

These include:

• Crisis counselling – The Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) offers 24-hour crisis counselling. This service is available toll free on 1800 011 046 to veterans of all conflicts and their families.

• Access to DVA's online mental health information and support – Veterans can visit DVA's At Ease mental health portal http://at-ease.dva.gov.au/.

• Transport - if transport is required during this period but has not been pre-booked, DVA clients can pay for the transport up front and seek reimbursement when offices re-open. Alternatively transport can be booked and reviewed, and travel expenses can be claimed online through DVA's MyAccount at https://myaccount.dva.gov.au/.

• Hospital admissions – Doctors can admit DVA patients into hospital and request retrospective approval for the admission, where required, when DVA re-opens.

• Defence Service Homes Insurance – help with policy and claim enquiries is available 24-hours a day on 1300 552 662. Payments can be made on 1300 304 989 or via the DSH website http://www.dsh.gov.au/.

Mr Lewis said it was also important to note that pension payments that would normally be paid on Thursday, 24 December will be paid into bank accounts on Wednesday, 23 December 2015. The first pension payment in 2016 will be made on schedule on 7 January 2016.

"On behalf of the Department, I extend my best wishes for the festive season to all members of the veteran, defence force and ex-service communities and their families," Mr Lewis said.

MEDIA INQUIRIES:
Department of Veterans' Affairs Media 02 6289 6203

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line 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 4546).

 

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