Why the ‘lifestyle rating’ is critical to Defence veterans’ claims
Defence veterans risk so much for their country. When they are injured while serving and suffer a permanent impairment, one of the biggest tolls they pay is that on their lifestyle. Relationships, recreation, mobility and employment prospects are all affected by injury, but how do you put a value on that when making a compensation claim? TGB senior associate Brianna Tapscott explains.
Assessing the impact an accepted injury has on a Defence veteran’s lifestyle is a very important component when assessing a veteran’s permanent impairment entitlement under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA).
When determining a veteran’s permanent impairment entitlement, the permanent impairment rating of the physical or psychological injury and the Lifestyle rating are taken into account.
What can create some confusion is how a Lifestyle rating is assessed.
There are three options as follows:-
Option 1: Self-assessment by a veteran using the Lifestyle rating form. This means the veteran themselves completes the form and rates each lifestyle effect using the scale 0-7 (0 being the lowest impact; 7 being the highest impact). It is very important that when a completing the Lifestyle rating form, the veteran considers the impact of all accepted service related injuries on their life and the ratings identified are accurate and broadly consistent with the level of impairment.
Option 2: This is used if a veteran does not choose either Option 1 or 3, then a Delegate of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) will allocate a Lifestyle rating for a veteran’s level of medical impairment in accordance with the Guide for the Assessment of Rates of Veterans’ Pensions (GARP).
Option 3: A veteran can nominate the DVA assess a Lifestyle rating upon receipt of a completed Lifestyle Questionnaire from a veteran. The questionnaire allows a veteran to describe in their own words and in detail the impact their injury has with respect to each lifestyle effect. The DVA will then use that information to assess a Lifestyle rating for the veteran.
What are Lifestyle effects?
By definition, a lifestyle effect is “a disadvantage resulting from an accepted condition that limits or prevents the fulfillment of a role that is normal for a veteran of the same age without the accepted condition”.
Lifestyle effects are assessed with reference to the following four components of a veteran’s life rated on a scale of 0 – 7 except the employment component which has a scale of 0-5:-
This component refers to the veteran’s ability to take part in and maintain social, sexual and interpersonal relationships with others.
The following are examples from the GARP rating:.
Nil – No or negligible effect on personal and social relationships. Relationships are satisfying, with full participation in social and personal activities;
Three – Moderately affected personal and social relationships. Relationships usually confined to family, close friends, colleagues and neighbours. Unable to relate to casual acquaintances;
Seven – Unable to relate to anyone. All relationships are prevented.
This component refers to the veteran’s ability to move about effectively in carrying on the ordinary activities of life. As well as the more obvious restrictions to physical impairment, psychological impediments to mobility are also to be taken into account within this section ie. agoraphobia, claustrophobia, dementia, anxiety or sensory deficits such as hearing loss and reduced vision.
GARP rating example:
Nil – No or minimal restrictions of mobility ie. full mobility.
Three – Moderately reduced mobility:
- Mobility curtailed or diminished because of frailty, lack of confidence or agoraphobia;
- Travel as a passenger in private and public transport possible in most circumstances without undue difficulty;
- Dependent on walking stick or similar device. Independent in leaving home and reaching destination, but has some difficulty.
Seven – Restricted to room or chair:
- Severe agoraphobia permanently confines veteran to home;
- Dependent upon others or hoists or similar appliances for getting in and out of bed.
Recreation and Community activities
This refers to the veteran’s ability to take part in any activities of the veteran’s choosing.
GARP rating example:
Nil – Able to undertake the full range of usual recreational pursuits and community activities;
Three – Unable to continue some recreational pursuits and community activities for example –
- Competition sporting activities but is still able to enjoy most other activities;
- Unable to perform some community or voluntary activities involving physical activity but is still able to participate in most other activities including welfare work and fundraising work;
Seven – Unable to take part in any recreational activities.
Domestic and Employment activities
Domestic activities refer to the veteran’s ability to sustain effective routines in a domestic environment.
GARP rating example:
Nil – Able to sustain any usual activities;
Three – Unable to perform heavy activities but able to carry out lighter household tasks, taking breaks during sustained activity for example mowing the lawn, washing the car, performing light maintenance or gardening activities if working at own pace., taking breaks as necessary;
Seven – Total dependency upon others for domestic tasks.
Employment activities refer to the Defence veteran’s ability to work for remuneration and should take into account any changes or modifications to the employment or workplace post injury.
GARP rating example:
Nil – Able to engage in usual employment;
Three – Unable to follow accustomed employment without modification to workplace, provision or aids or restructuring of tasks;
Five – Unable to work.
How to turn Lifestyle effects scores into a Lifestyle rating
Once the lifestyle effects scores have been obtained for each component, the scores for Personal Relationships, Mobility, Recreational and Community Activities and the higher of the two for Domestic and Employment Activities need to be added together and divided by 4 (rounding to the nearest whole number). The final number calculated will be the Lifestyle Rating for a Defence veteran.
This process is no doubt lengthy, complex and full of obscure terminologies. It can be frustrating, however, taking time to carefully consider an appropriate Lifestyle rating is very important as it has an impact on what overall permanent impairment compensation may be payable to a veteran. Seeking the advice of a lawyer will help you navigate the process and potentially increase the size of your compensation.
If you are a Defence veteran and disagree with your Lifestyle rating and/or impairment points determined by the DVA, you can dispute that decision. However, as of January 1, 2017, the procedure to dispute a decision has changed so it would be wise to seek legal advice first before doing so.
Tindall Gask Bentley’s Tim White and Brianna Tapscott specialise in military compensation claims, advising former and current Australian Defence Force personnel nationally. TGB offers a free first interview to those considering claims. Book an appointment today or register your details here and we’ll be in touch soon. Alternatively, you can email Tim direct at firstname.lastname@example.org and Brianna at email@example.com