TGB’s military compensation expert Tim White writes about the medical discharge process for Australian Defence Force members.
If you are in the process of a medical discharge from the Australian Defence Force there is a considerable amount of information and documentation, covering a wide range of issues, that you need to consider.
Importantly, if you have sustained injuries during the course of your military service, ensure that you have submitted a claim with the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) as early as possible prior to being medically discharged. If your injuries are related to your defence force service, you will have entitlements payable from the DVA.
Different medical classifications
There are a range of medical classifications that apply to defence force members:
MEC1: Fully employable and deployable;
MEC2: Employable and deployable with restrictions;
MEC4: Employment transition;
If you have been assessed as MEC4, it is likely your medical information will be referred to the Medical Panel Review Board (MECRB), who will give consideration to the relevant documentation and make a decision as to whether or not you can be retained within the defence force or whether a medical discharge is the appropriate next step. That process in itself can take several months. You are entitled to submit relevant documentation outlining reasons why you should or should not be retained by the Defence Force.
If the MECRB determines that you are to be medically discharged, then it is important that you promptly make the appropriate arrangements, including potentially submitting a claim to the DVA, to ensure that you have compensation for medical expenses and potentially weekly payments, when discharged from the military.
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Once a determination has been made by the MECRB for you to be medically discharged, it is almost impossible to have that decision altered or reversed.
Being discharged from the defence force will clearly have important financial ramifications and ongoing medical treatment or rehabilitation becomes your responsibility to fund and access.
If you submit claims with the DVA prior to your medical discharge and those claims are accepted, then you should receive weekly payments from the DVA upon your discharge.
If your injuries are accepted as being related to your military service by the DVA, your entitlements include:
a. Reasonable medical expenses;
b. Weekly payments;
c. Rehabilitation assistance;
d. Potential lump sum payment due to permanent impairment from any injury.
Weekly payments should reflect the level of income that you were earning at the time of your medical discharge from the military. These payments continue while you are incapacitated from your injury. However, after a period of 45 weeks they are reduced by 25 percent. The payments then continue until you find alternative employment or cease to be incapacitated by the relevant injuries.
What entitlements you have and which legislation you are covered by is complex, and is dependent upon what period of time you have served in the Defence Force and when your injuries occurred. The comments we have made here are of a general nature and your specific circumstances may mean that there are different or additional entitlements to military compensation.
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Assessment of Claim by DVA
The process of the DVA assessing your claim and determining whether or not the injuries are related to your defence force service can take time, and in some cases several months. It is therefore important to ensure that your claims are submitted well prior to your medical discharge. By doing this any gap in earnings from the military ceasing and weekly payments from the DVA commencing will be minimised, which will assist in reducing the financial hardship that occurs upon discharge from the military.
What if I am dissatisfied with the decision by the DVA in relation to my claim?
An experienced military compensation lawyer can assist defence force members or veterans when a claim they have made has been rejected by the DVA or they are unsatisfied with aspects of the DVA’s decision. In some cases there may be additional injuries that have not been accepted, the level of payments are lower than what was expected, or the coverage of weekly payments or medical expenses has been ceased. There are a range of issues that give rise to DVA disputes and we are frequently involved in advising current defence force members or those that have been medically discharged.
Please note TGB’s defence force lawyers can assist current and former ADF members Australia wide.
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.