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How does a Statement of Principle affect my military claim?

A Statement of Principle is one of the most important factors when making a military compensation claim. Tindall Gask Bentley partner Tim White explains why.


What is a Statement of Principle?

A Statement of Principle (SOP) is one of the first things you must consider when making a military compensation claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs. An SOP sets out what factors must be fulfilled for an injury or disease to be deemed military caused. This makes it critical to any military claim being made under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (MRCA) or the Veterans’ Entitlements Act (VEA).

The Repatriation Medical Authority (RMA) is responsible for establishing and updating SOPs for a range of medical conditions. As medical knowledge and evidence can evolve over time, so can SOPs. Because an SOPs terms can change, it is useful to make sure the one you are considering is current and relevant at the time of making a claim. Basically, the SOP that applies to your claim is the one in existence at the time the claim is being considered.

The RMA’s website contains a lot of information relevant to military injuries. You can visit the website here.

How does an SOP work?

An SOP is a filter to determine if your injury has been caused or contributed to by your military service. It will contain a number of factors that must exist as a minimum if your injury or disease is going to be accepted as being due to your military service.

If you cannot fulfill one or more of the relevant factors in the SOP your injury will be deemed to have not been caused by your military service and your claim will be rejected. Because of this, it is vital you understand your relevant SOP at the start of your claim process.

Are SOPs currently used by the DVA to assess my claim?

SOPs are a vital part of the military compensation process and determine whether an injury or disease has been caused by your military service. For current-serving members, or anyone that is claiming an injury to have occurred on or after July 2004, it is crucial you understand SOPs.

What is an example of an SOP?

Many people sustain lower back injuries in the military. Often the condition diagnosed is lumbar spondylosis, which is an injury to a disc in your lower back.

The current SOP relevant to lumbar spondylosis, if you have sustained a lower back injury on war-like or non-war like service, is Number 62, created in 2014. Paragraph 6 lists a number of factors that you must fulfill. One of these is suffering a “trauma” to the lumbar spine, before the onset of lumbar spondylosis. A trauma includes “a discrete event involving the application of a significant physical force”.

Accordingly, if you have suffered a trauma, as defined, and as a result have been diagnosed with lumbar spondylosis, if the trauma occurred during your military service then your condition should be accepted as being caused by your military duties.

If you cannot fulfil one of the factors set out in paragraph 6 of the lumbar spondylosis SOP, your claim will not be accepted.

Are there different SOPs depending on where my injury occurred?

Yes, there are. The relevant SOP depends on if your injury occurred in war-like or non war -like service, or if it occurred in Australia or overseas. Basically, the SOPs differ, to a degree, depending on where your injury occurred. Usually the SOP that applies to an injury sustained overseas is slightly more favourable when compared to an SOP for an injury sustained in Australia. Because of this, it is crucial you specify where your injury was sustained when making a claim.

Conclusion

As you can see, the SOP is key to determining if your claim will be accepted or not. Getting legal advice, and medical evidence specific to the SOP, will increase your chances of your claim being accepted.

If your claim has been rejected you should still get legal advice as the incorrect SOP may have been applied, or it may have been interpreted incorrectly. There are numerous legal issues that arise when applying an SOP so it is important to seek advice if you are unsure whether it has been done correctly.

If you need any legal help with your claim, register here or contact TGB partner Tim White. Tim specialises in military claims and is a Legal Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force Reserves.
Please note TGB can assist current and former ADF members Australia-wide.

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