Defence Force Members

Case Study: Medical Discharge from the Australian Defence Force

In this case study, experienced Defence Force lawyer and TGB Partner Tim White explores an example of a defence force member being medically discharged from the Army due to injuries obtained during his military service, and we discuss what entitlements are available to him. We also give an analysis of the relevant legislation and how it impacts individual claims.

defence force medical discharge

Being medically discharged from the military is a daunting and significant event for any individual. In addition to the challenges arising from dealing with a long-term physical injury there is both the psychological impact of dealing with the reality of being discharged from your military career, and a financial impact of losing your stable income. These factors combine to create a truly difficult situation for individuals and their families.

We see an increasing number of defence force members being medically discharged due to injuries that have occurred as a result of their military service or otherwise. In both circumstances there are important steps to take to try and ensure that the individual affected and their family receive some sort of financial protection. Taking certain steps can ultimately ensure greater personal and financial wellbeing and security.

Case Study – The Details 

This case study tells the story of one of our clients, an Army veteran who had been a defence force member for more than 20 years. His body was broken as a consequence of the very physical work he had undertaken in the army. Eventually his shoulder and lower back became so severely damaged that he was not able to undertake his expected duties and he was also unable to pass the required annual fitness assessment.

Medical Downgrade

As a result of these factors his medical classification was downgraded to MEC4 and this began the road to medical discharge.

He was subjected to an enormous amount of documentation and paperwork, along with medical appointments and interviews. This caused significant stress and concern for him, as he needed to consider the likelihood of leaving a career he loved and face life after the military. The financial reality of his military income ceasing was also a cause of significant stress.

Assessment by the Medical Employment Classification Review Board

After several months, our client’s matter was considered by the Medical Employment Classification Review Board (MECRB). The Board decided that in view of his shoulder and lower back injuries, it was unlikely that he would be able to perform his required and usual duties, and he was accordingly assessed at MEC 5. That medical classification meant a notice of termination from the Army would be forthcoming shortly.

As a result of the termination notice, our client now knew his service in the Army would be completed and he would be on his own in the not too distant future. As a result of that notice he was again confronted with an enormous amount of information and documentation that needed to be completed. The forms he completed and the information he included in them would have a huge impact on his future and that of his family. It was at this stage that he thankfully approached TGB to enable us to assist with his transition from the military to civilian life outside the defence force.

Being Medically Discharged

With the medical discharge of any defence force member there are a number of critical aspects to consider and certain forms must be completed and lodged well before the discharge date. As this member had a number of military caused injuries the first consideration was to determine which legislation covered his injuries. There are a number of potentially relevant pieces of legislation for injured defence force members including the Veterans Entitlement Act (VEA), Defence Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (DRCA) and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (MRCA).

A number of important factors need to be taken into account when determining which legislation applies. Different claim forms need to be completed and very different compensation payments are made under these three different pieces of legislation. In this case because his injuries had occurred after July 2004, the MRCA applied. TGB assisted him with completing the relevant claim forms, accurately answering the relevant questions, lodging the documents with the correct offices of the DVA and importantly ensured that there was medical evidence also submitted which clearly supported that the injuries had being caused by his military service.

As the member was being medically discharged it was also important to lodge similar paperwork with the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme (CSC).  The CSC applies to the majority, but certainly not all, defence force personnel. As the member was being medically discharged, it was vital that a claim for his shoulder and lower back injuries was also lodged with CSC. It was vital to make this claim also in addition to the one lodged with the DVA, even though it is covering almost the same aspects and involves similar documentation.

Under CSC there are three types of pension potentially payable, referred to as Class A, Class B and Class C pensions. Each type of pension gives rise to different entitlements.

The Outcome

In this case because of the severity of his injuries, our client was classified as being entitled to a Class A pension. This meant that he was entitled to approximately 75% of his usual military wage as a pension under the CSC.  That pension should continue until he turns age 65. In addition, he also received payments from the DVA and was able to claim costs associated with ongoing medical treatment for his shoulder and lower back. The payments received under CSC and the DVA were equivalent to what he was receiving at the time in the military when he was discharged. He was also able to continue to claim for medical treatment relating to his accepted shoulder and back injuries through the DVA.

In addition to these payments he also received a lump sum payment for the permanent impairment caused to his back and shoulder.  That payment was assessed some months after his discharge, once his injuries had stabilised.

Because he sought advice from TGB from the outset, there was only a small gap between when he ceased being paid by the military (on his date of discharge) to when he then started receiving payments from the DVA and CSC.

Where specialist legal advice isn’t sought, or isn’t sought quickly enough, it is not unusual to see considerable delay, sometimes months or years, between when a defence member discharges, and therefore ceases to be paid by the military, and when they first receive any compensation payments from the DVA or CSC.  Any significant gap in receiving payments clearly puts significant financial strain and worry on the individual and their family. The timing of the lodgement of these forms is vital to try and minimise this delay in payments.

It is also not just a matter of making sure the right forms are completed, it is equally vital to ensure that all necessary supporting documentation is submitted at the same time.

During the process of securing payments from the DVA and the CSC, this member also relocated overseas.  Despite that occurring, TGB was still able to assist him to ensure he received the appropriate payments and compensation, even though he was living outside of Australia.

Thankfully this member, who had suffered significant injuries in the military, obtained assistance from TGB early on, which ensured that the appropriate forms were lodged with the necessary agencies, and as a result of our assistance there was virtually no gap between him discharging from the military and then receiving payments from the DVA and CSC, as well as receiving lump sum compensation at a later date.  This provided the member and his family with some financial security and peace of mind.


This case study highlights the importance of getting good advice early on if you have been medically downgraded, are facing going to the MECRB or are looking at being medically discharged.

Get in Touch!

If you have been medically discharged or think you may be heading down the path towards it, please seek advice early and 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.

There are many ways to get in touch with us – you can register online here and we’ll contact you, or feel free to contact Tim on 1800 730 842 or via