The Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) provides an entitlement to claim for compensation for permanent impairment with respect to both accepted service related physical and psychological injuries, writes Military Lawyer Tim White.
The process to claim permanent impairment compensation via the MRCA for military injuries can be a complex and lengthy one.
Medical assessment by an accredited assessor
Once the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) have been notified of an intention to claim, in order to determine if compensation is payable, an independent medical assessment needs to be undertaken by an accredited assessor. This assessment is arranged by the DVA. The assessor will conduct the assessment with reference to the GARP M (Guide to Determining Impairment and Compensation) and provide a written permanent impairment report to the DVA.
What about psychological injuries?
With respect to psychological injuries, often the DVA will request a permanent impairment report from a treating psychiatrist if one is already involved in the implementation of a treatment regime for an individual. If there is no current treating psychiatrist, the DVA, will arrange an independent psychiatric assessment.
What are the different levels of assessment?
For a compensation amount to be payable to an individual, the assessor must determine a permanent impairment of 10 or more impairment points. The exceptions to this rule being accepted claims for – hearing loss, loss of fingers and toes, loss of taste and smell that have a 5 impairment point threshold.
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In addition to the compensation amount awarded with respect to impairment points, consideration is also given to how the accepted service related injury impacts on an individual’s lifestyle. A Lifestyle Questionnaire can be completed by an individual who performs a self assessment to rate their pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of previously enjoyed recreational activities and impact on activities of daily living and employment.
If no Lifestyle Questionnaire is completed by an individual, the DVA can determine what lifestyle points to award. It is very important to complete the Lifestyle Questionnaire accurately because it can make a significant difference to ultimately what is payable by way of compensation.
How is the compensation amount calculated?
The calculation of the amount payable to an individual once impairment points and lifestyle have been rated is not a straightforward process. Legal advice is essential at this point not only to verify that the medical assessor has correctly undertaken the GARP M assessment but moreover, if the compensation amount payable has been calculated correctly by the DVA.
If an individual has been assessed with 50 impairment points or more, they are entitled to claim the cost to obtain legal and financial advice on the permanent impairment determination to a maximum amount.
Appealing a permanent impairment determination
If an individual disagrees with a permanent impairment determination made by the DVA, there are avenues of appeal. Firstly, by way of request for Reconsideration by the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC) or the Veterans’ Review Board (VRB). And secondly, by way of an Application for Review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). Noting there are specific timeframes that apply to make these requests for review.
Before agreeing to a permanent impairment determination or requesting an appeal of one, initial legal advice is highly recommended.
Get in Touch!
To discuss anything in this article, or if you believe you may be eligible for military compensation and would like help with your compensation claim, please contact TGB partner Tim White. Tim is a member of the Royal Australian Airforce Reserves, and specialises in military compensation claims.
Tim and his team advise Defence Force members and veterans across Australia on their entitlement to military compensation.