"VERC OUTCOMES FOR PEACEKEEPERS"

    A summary of the Veterans' Entitlement Review Committee (VERC), chaired by Justice Clarke, QC, with Air Marshall Doug Riding and DR Rosalky.
 
    The APPA Submitted the following:
 
    1.    That disability pensions be considered as compensation by Centrelink (i.e. not counted as assessable income for Centrelink purposes).
 
    2.    That any benefit received from the Military Compensation and Rehabilitation Service or the Military Compensation Scheme be deemed compensation for an accepted disability or disabilities.
 
    3.    That a new, low-interest home loan scheme be introduced, and the existing Defence Service Home Loan scheme be reviewed.
 
    4.    That the Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service be renamed.
 
    5.    That children of all veterans with psychosocial illnesses be provided with counselling services.
 
    6.    That all veterans be allowed to participate in DVA-funded health and care programs (for example, Heart Health).
 
Rehabilitation - the APPA recommended:
 
    1.    creation of a younger veteran career incentive scheme that helps younger veterans gain qualifications and prospective employment, is not time restrictive, does not restrict veterans' income from VEA benefits, is Commonwealth funded, and provides the younger veteran with self-esteem and personal pride;
 
    2.    allowing younger veterans who are unable to function in employment to return to the special rate disability pension with no detriment; and
 
    3.    a wealth-creation education program for younger veterans, to give them incentives to fund their own retirement and to allow them to independently and actively plan for life after 65 (off the service pension).
 
    The Recommendations by the VERC IRT Rehabilitation was the following:
 
    1.    The aim of rehabilitation is to restore veterans to their optimal level of function commensurate with their service-related disabilities in order to provide them with better quality of life, maximised vocational outcomes and reduced dependency on financial disability compensation;
 
    2.    Veterans' participation in rehabilitation assessments and, where appropriate, rehabilitation programs is an integral, obligatory part of the disability compensation provided under the repatriation system; and
 
    3.    DVA has a responsibility to provide suitable and comprehensive rehabilitation to veterans who require it as a result of service-related disabilities.
 
    Post World War II issues.
 
    1. Butterworth.  It was contended that service in Butterworth be Active Service from 1970 - 1989 (non-APPA submission).
 
    Recommendation:  No further action be taken in respect of peacetime service for Butterworth after the cessation of Confrontation.
 
    2.    Reclassification of all Peacekeeping Operations.  The APPA submitted that all PKO be reclassified to allow improved entitlements such as Service Pension.
 
    Recommendation:  Although the VERC agreed with the APPA that service within PKO was indeed hazardous it was contended that because PKOs are not armed with a clear given military objective with the use of force, the reclassification was not valid.  The VERC recommended that no change be made to the eligibility provisions of the VEA for Peacekeeping Service.
 
    3.    UNMOGIP be reclassified to Active Service during the second India-Pakistan war over Kashmir from the period August 1965 to January 1966 (non-APPA).
 
    Recommendation:  The VERC recommend that no change be made to the eligibility provisions of the VEA for service with UNMOGIP.  The decision was made in line with the PKO reclassification.
 
    4.    Police Serving on UN Operations (AUSTCIVPOL Assn and Australian Federal Police).  Although the committee agreed that the service that police provide as part of the Commonwealth's commitment to world peace, the reclassification for Schedule 2 was refused.  It was also noted by the VERC that the police have their own superannuation fund, along with a police compensation scheme in which the Police are eligible for all three (inclusive of Schedule 3 entitlements).
 
    5.    Service with Operation Habitat (2 individual submissions).  It was argued by the individuals that their service in Northern Iraq be counted as Qualifying service.  The VERC determined that the operation was humanitarian, with not specific rules of engagement to actively purse military objectives.  The ROE were defensive only.  A comparison was made with the UNTAG operation in which it was determined as inappropriate because the two operations were conducted under different operational circumstances.
 
    Recommendation:    The VERC recommended that no change be made to the eligibility provisions of the VEA relating to service providing humanitarian relief to the Kurds as part of Operation Habitat in 1991.
 
    6.    Reclassification for the UNMCTT PESHAWAR (Pakistan).  The submission claimed that they were given permission by the Australian Government to observe and monitor Mine Clearing operations in Afghanistan and that they should be entitled to Active Service benefits.  The VERC determined that although Hazardous, the ASC UNMCTT was not armed with a clear military objective as described in "War-Like" Operations.
 
    Recommendation:  Therefore the VERC recommended no change to entitlements for the Australian Contingent to the UNMCTT PESAHAWAR.
 
    7.    SPECIAL OPS.  The Submarine service disclosed that they were involved in Special Operations during the period 1978 - 1992.  In addition, personnel involved in covert Intelligence or Covert Signals Operations were also discussed, however due to the high-grade secrecy behind these operations, they could not be discussed.  The APPA did place a submission asking for a review into Special Operations since 1953.
 
    Recommendation:  The VERC recommended that:
 
            a.    Service on submarines during special operations is not warlike service for the purposes of the VEA;
 
            b.    Service on submarines during special operations be deemed non-warlike hazardous for the purposes of the VEA;
 
            c.    That the Department of Defence further reviews the activities of personnel undertaking covert intelligence gathering, or involved in covert signals operations, to determine their operational status for benefits under the VEA.
   
SUBMISSIONS OUTSIDE THE TERMS OF REFERENCE.
 
    The APPA submitted the following:
 
    1.    That the ASM Clasp RWANDA be upgraded to the AASM Clasp RWANDA.
 
    2.    Issuing of a Military Combat Badge for Active Service.
 
    3.    A number of matters relating to the issue of medals to peacekeepers.
 
    Recommendation:  The VERC invited the authors of the submissions raising those matters to have their correspondence referred to the Department of Defence (the responsible agency), for consideration and reply.
 
    Action by APPA:  To compile and comprehensive submission and submit this submission to the Department of Defence for consideration and reply.  (Gavin Lee Victoria Branch).
 
    That is all at this present time - I invite all addressees to read the latest document from the VERC and see where it potentially may affect you.  Many more issues were raised by the APPA, however in light of the Current New MCS Working Group in Canberra (the one we are not allowed to be involved with), the VERC stated that the improvements for future military compensation will be adequately covered in the New MCS.  The intention is to moth-ball the current VEA and MCRS - that means that anyone with current qualifying service for these schemes will be entitled to claim under both or one or the other.  They will remain in force until a "Major Mobilisation".  The New MCS will concentrate on Rehabilitation and will provide severely injured personnel with better financial coverage.  The approach will also be generous toward those with various medical conditions.