DVA Initial Liability Claims
Are you a veteran that has been discharged due to illness or injury acquired during your time in service? If so, you may have grounds to lodge a claim for initial liability with the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). Preparing and submitting a DVA initial liability claim is usually the first of many steps taken by veterans seeking compensation for defence-related conditions.
The DVA claims process is known to be overwhelming, complex and at times can impair a veterans recovery process. At Veterans Health Centre (VHC), we work to minimise the stress and anxiety linked with seeking compensation under the defence-related claims act. We do this by offering exceptional claims support alongside world-class healthcare tailored to meet the unique needs of veterans.
What Is Initial Liability?
Initial liability, in the context for DVA claims, refers to the Australian Government acknowledging and accepting their responsibility for the death, injury or diseases of an Australian Defence Force member during active service.
DVA Initial liability claims aim to determine the level of liability associated with a veterans’ time in service. This determination influences the amount of compensation veterans or their families will receive along with which healthcare benefits they are entitled to.
The Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act
Under the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act (DRCA) instituted in 1988, clear parameters are set out for who is eligible for compensation and what benefits you may be entitled to receive.
As per the DVA:
The DRCA provides rehabilitation and compensation for injuries and diseases caused by:
- peacetime and peacekeeping service up to and including 30 June 2004
- operational service between 7 April 1994 and 30 June 2004.
The DRCA is largely similar to the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act and covers claims for rehabilitation and compensation for injuries and diseases obtained during:
- Defence service on or after 1 July 2004; or
- If you suffer an “aggravation” of an accepted injury or disease under the DRCA as a result of your Defence service on or after 1 July 2004.
Receiving Compensation – Defence Related Claims
The compensation rehabilitation entitlements provided by the DRCA for DVA initial liability claims fall into three main categories:
Permanent Impairment Compensation
This compensation is paid as a lump sum with the amount being determined through a judgement of the impairment as a percentage. The assessment of claims will involve a review of how this impairment impacts you as a whole person.
For instance, the loss of a finger will be a lesser percentage than the loss of a limb as you are still considered to be able-bodied. This assessment is carried out utilising a formal guide known as a Statement of Principal (SoP).
Should your injury or illness be judged as being 80% or higher, your compensation amount may be raised further under the Severe Injury Adjustment (SIA) guidelines.
These payments are distributed fortnightly and are considered as a replacement income for the economic loss of a veteran being unable to work or having a reduced ability to work.
The amount paid is determined by working out the difference between your normal earnings and your actual earnings at the time you are incapacitated for service or work.
The percentage you are paid varies over time with eligibility criteria needing to be met for continued payments.
Compensation Following Death
This is a lump sum paid directly to the veteran’s dependants including a partner, children under 16 or children under 25 who are studying and do not work full time. Dependant children also referred to as prescribed children, may also be entitled to a weekly compensation payment.
How Much Compensation Will I Receive?
The exact amount you will receive in compensation will be specific to the final judgement on the percentage of your impairment and a revision of any economic loss.
At the close of your DVA initial liability claim, a full report will be provided to you outlining the decision and how much compensation you will be awarded.
Other Financial Support Available via the Compensation Act 1988
Additional benefits following an assessment of claims may include:
- Reimbursement of the costs associated with receiving financial advice regarding your payments.
- Support payments for residential care related to personal care or household services.
- Financing of necessary home, vehicle or workplace modifications.
- Covering the cost of mobility aids, their repair and maintenance.
While awaiting the outcomes of your claims, the costs of your medical treatment and rehabilitation may be covered under the Provisional Access to Medical Treatment program, or PAMT. This ensures you are not left out of pocket or awaiting essential care during the claims processing period.
What Is the Role of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Determining Liability?
The Department of Veterans Affairs receives and processes all claims by following the guidelines set out in the Statement of Principles. These SoPs are legislative instruments that set out the factors which can connect particular injuries, diseases or death with service.
SoPs work to eliminate bias or personal judgement from the assessment process for all compensation defence-related claims.
Who Writes the DVA Statement of Principals?
SoPs are created by the Repatriation Medical Authority (RMA) which is made up of five practitioners eminent in fields of medical science. The RMA is an independent statutory authority responsible to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, they are not directly involved in the assessment of claims under the safety rehabilitation and compensation act.
Should you disagree with, or feel there is not an applicable SoP under which your claim can be assessed, a request can be made to change or create a new SoP.
What If I Had a Pre-existing Condition That Was Aggravated During Service?
Veterans are unable to make a claim under the DVA initial liability claims legislation for any impairment that was present prior to their enlistment in the Australian Defence Force.
Should this impairment become worse as a result of service on or after 1 July 2004, you are entitled to make a claim for compensation and it will be judged as a new injury or illness. Compensation will only be awarded for the recognised aggravated portion.
Making A Claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs
The Veterans Affairs DVA initial liability claims process is done via completion of the relevant forms and submission of them through the My Service portal. You are permitted to enlist assistance from an advocate with the completion of these claims and will need to supply extensive supporting paperwork.
This paperwork should include your service history, service medical records and other information on your medical history. You will also need to have a formal medical assessment done with the report to be included with your DVA initial liability claim.
The more supporting documentation you can include with your claim, the better the chances of a rapid, accurate and fair claims outcome.
How Your Claim Is Assessed
Following the submission of your DVA initial liability claim, an MRCC delegate will assess your claim against the SoP by using all the information provided in the claim. All MRCC delegates are DVA officers who have been specifically trained in determining MRCA claims outcomes.
The department aims to have all claims assessed and resolved within 120 days of the initial claim date. Complex cases may take additional time to properly assess.
At times you may be asked to provide additional information, you will need to deliver this to the delegate within 28 days so that your claim is not delayed. Failure to provide the additional information may mean that your claim is denied and closed.
To have your claim approved at least one aspect of your service induced health issues must be directly linked with an SoP.
How Veterans Health Centre Can Help
At Veterans Health Centre, our team is comprised of ex-ADF personnel who have a genuine understanding of service and commitment to helping veterans navigate their DVA initial liability claims. We have years of experience working with the Department of Veterans Affairs and possess a deep knowledge of the DVA claims process.
We pair this understanding of the claims process with tailored, world-class healthcare, ensuring our veterans get the best possible platform for recovery. With exceptional medical care from a network of compassionate specialists and the support of an assigned medico-legal expert, we help to procure our veterans’ optimal outcomes.
No matter where you are in your journey post-discharge from the ADF, our team is here to help. To learn more about the process surrounding a DVA initial liability claim or the care available at our specialist clinic, contact VHC today on 1300 VETERAN.