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ADF Military Compensation and sexual abuse claims

If you have been injured while serving in Australia's Defence Forces, you are almost certainly entitled to Military Compensation.

Military Compensation Law has undergone major periodic changes over the years, and compensation entitlements and eligibility criteria vary with each.

The spate of sexual abuse allegations within the Australian Defence Forces is also forcing the hand of authorities to pay particular attention to cases of sexual abuse within the military, cases which very often are only coming to light many years following the alleged offences. The DPA Piper Review into sexual abuse with the ADF is a case in point.

Ryan Carlisle Thomas are experienced Military Compensation lawyers, with a practice spanning over more than 30 years.

Just as importantly, we are also Australia's leading law firm in the investigation and prosecution of injury claims for the victims of sexual and institutional abuse, particularly among children in care.

The combination of skills and experience gathered in both Military Compensation and Institutional and Sexual Abuse areas of the law, uniquely qualify us to best represent you, justify your rights, and win for you the compensation that you deserve.

If you are a civilian employee of the Department of Defence, you will be covered by the separate Comcare compensation scheme.

Who is eligible to claim?

  • Members of the permanent defence forces, embracing the air force, the navy and the army, and all support personnel.
  • Members of the reserve forces including the Ready Reserves.
  • An officer or an instructor of cadets.
  • A cadet or member of the Australian Defence Force Academy.

What types of activity am I covered for?

You're covered if injured:

  • At work or on a normal break.
  • Travelling to and from work.
  • Doing physical training or approved sporting activities.
  • On exercise or overseas deployment.
  • As a result of an unintended consequence of medical treatment.
  • As a result of exposure to asbestos or other dangerous materials.

What are the main injury compensation schemes?

Members of the ADF are generally covered for injury compensation by one of two schemes, depending on the year in which the injury occurred.

  • If you've been injured on or after 1 July 2004, you will be covered by the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (Cwth).
  • If injured prior to that date, your claim will be covered by the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cwth), generally known as the Comcare scheme.

Other more specialist schemes of compensation are also available to members of the Australian armed forces which were set up to deal with specific conditions (an example of this is the Ex Gratia scheme for specialist compensation which was set up to compensate members injured whilst working on the F-111 Deseal/Reseal scheme.)

Further, if you have an injury or disease arising out of or aggravated by a period of continuous full time service after a qualifying period of 3 years in peacetime service to 7.4.94, or if you suffered injury during operational or war like service, you may qualify for a disability pension and medical treatment under the Veteran's Entitlements Act 1986 (Cwth).

Disability benefits are also available either under the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme (MSBS) effective after October 1991 and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme (DFRDB). You may be entitled to claim if you are medically discharged or your condition is such that at the time of discharge you would be regarded as being medically unfit.

Both schemes offer benefits related to the extent of disability subject to a minimum qualifying period and an absence of the condition prior to enlistment. Benefits are available irrespective of whether the disability is service related.

How do the various schemes affect each other?

Benefits payable under one source may affect the level of benefits available under another source:

A person cannot receive more than 100% of normal weekly earnings (NWE). A pension payable under VEA is therefore adjusted on a dollar for dollar basis so that the combined payments do not exceed 100% of NWE.

If you receive lump sum for permanent impairment, your VEA pension may be reduced, depending on the lump sum, the level of pension and your age.

If you receive a Comsuper invalidity pension or lump sum on the grounds of incapacity, the amount of compensation payments may also be affected.

Discharge

If you have been or will be discharged medically unfit you may wish to object to your discharge. If you wish to do so, you may make application for a Redress of Grievance. Assistance can be obtained from an Army Legal Officer of the Armed Forces Federation of Australia (ARFFA)

What are you entitled to?

Note: benefits and entitlements may vary depending on which scheme you are covered by.

Under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Scheme, you can lodge a claim for the following types of benefits:

  • Your normal wages, and field and other allowances, while you recover from injury;
  • Medical and care expenses;
  • Home help, gardening and modifications to your home or car;
  • Compensation for your spouse if they have to care for you.

If you are permanently injured, depending on the date of injury, you may be eligible for a lump sum payment either through the Military Compensation Scheme, Comcare, or separately under Common Law.

Types of benefits

Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Scheme benefits

The MRC Act adopts the Repatriation Medical Authority (RMA) Statement of Principles (SOP's). This means that if your injury or disease does not fit within these SOP's you may not be entitled to compensation even if you believe your injury was caused by your service.

If your injury or disease comes within the SOP's benefits available under the scheme include:

  • Payment of medical and like expenses.
  • Rehabilitation.
  • Lump sum impairment. Maximum compensation payable is $410,122.95 or a periodic payment of up to $309.27 per week (as at 1 July 2012). These payments are in addition to other entitlements payable under the scheme. You must have impairment of at least 10% except in cases of hearing loss where the minimum impairment is 5% or where you have lost a finger, sense of taste or smell.
  • Full pay for 45 weeks including allowances and 75% thereafter plus a special disability pension where capacity for work has been severely curtailed.
  • Compensation for dependents in cases of death.

Common Law benefits

Benefits are typically more substantial under a Common Law claim, where negligence is proven. Up to $110,000 may be awarded in compensation for pain and suffering.

What will it cost me?

Ryan Carlisle Thomas offers a free initial consultation and assessment.

Beyond that, if you wish to pursue a claim, you will likely be covered by our industry-leading No Win No Fee, OR Expenses fee policy. Which means you will not have to bankroll your claim, we will do that for you on any cases that we agree to undertake. You only pay our fees and expenses if you win. And if you loose, you don't pay anything, neither fees nor expenses, unlike many other firms.

What can I do if my claim is rejected?

You are entitled to a decision about your claim in writing. If you are unconvinced by the explanation, call our office and we will pursue an internal review, called a reconsideration, on your behalf.

Lump sum claims

You should call us immediately. This is a specialist area of the law and the stakes are high that you get it right. We can prosecute your case either through the Military Compensation Scheme, or through the courts, depending on which avenue offers you the best chance of compensation.

Sexual abuse claims in the ADF

If you were abused while serving with the ADF or the military, or as a cadet, you will likely be aware that yours is not an isolated case. Proving these cases is often difficult but it is in your interests to do so, both to seek compensation and recognition, and to bring the perpetrator to justice.

As this is a specialist area, please also read our information on Sexual and Institutional Abuse.

Where is the best place to start?

Our Military Compensation lawyers can give you an expert opinion immediately on how strong your claim to compensation is.

Whether it is a sexual abuse investigation that is required, or a claim for Military Compensation, you can call our team for a free, confidential consultation.

We may then send you a questionnaire that we can help you fill in. The questionnaire assists us in documenting the essential details of our claim and case, and enables us to further investigate your case if required.

Call 1300 366 441 or find us at an office near you to arrange a free and confidential appointment with one of our Military Compensation or Sexual Abuse legal team.