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3.6.4 Assessment of Invalidity Service Pensioners Participating in Veterans' Vocational Rehabilitation Scheme (VVRS)
Last amended: Participation in VVRS
VVRS assists veterans to find, or continue in, suitable paid employment. Services are provided on the basis of assessed need and subject to the likelihood of their obtaining a suitable and sustainable employment outcome.
An incapacity assessment must be made on any application for invalidity service pension. This still applies where the veteran applies for both invalidity service pension and VVRS at the same time.
An invalidity service pensioner who ceases to be permanently incapacitated for work while, or as a result, of participating in VVRS does not cease to be eligible for the invalidity service pension until the end of the 7 year period of the scheme's duration.
After the 7 years of continued eligibility under the VVRS, the permanent incapacity of the veteran should be reviewed. The continuation of the veteran's employment in excess of 8 hours per week will result in the permanent incapacity test no longer being satisfied, and eligibility for invalidity service pension will be lost.
Note: for invalidity service pension eligibility purposes, if a veteran's employment is directly arranged under a VVRS rehabilitation program, or otherwise occurs as a result of the veteran's undertaking of the VVRS rehabilitation program, the veteran may still be exempt from a finding that they have ceased to be permanently incapacitated for work. This means that provided that the veteran is engaged in work as a result of their participation in the VVRS, where the required connection exists between the approved VVRS rehabilitation program and the veteran's subsequent employment outside the VVRS, eligibility for invalidity service pension is not lost, and the income safety net continues.
Excluded income amount
Invalidity service pensioners participating in VVRS receive the income protection benefits of the scheme and retain section 37 invalidity service pension eligibility.
Income safety net provided by VVRS
The scheme provides a safety net for veterans receiving pensions from DVA. The safety net applies to veterans paid under s23 or s24 of the VEA (intermediate or special rate disability pension) and invalidity service pensioners. Veterans receiving a general rate disability pension (10-100%) continue to receive payment, even if they obtain employment.
Other pensioners, eligible for rehabilitation programs, are not eligible for the income safety net provisions.
Duration of income safety net
The income safety net provisions apply to the veteran for a seven-year period. In the two years period immediately following commencement of remunerative work as a result of undertaking the vocational rehabilitation program, only half of an invalidity service pensioner's earnings are to be taken into account under the income test. The other half of those earnings shall be the 'excluded income amount'. In the five year period immediately after that two year period this 'excluded income amount' shall be reduced (and therefore the veteran's pension shall be slowly reduced) by 5% of the earnings every six months. After the seventh year, 100% of the veteran's income will be held in the assessment.
Note: The initial two-year period of income exclusion does not recommence after a period of not working. The exclusion period is generally for two calendar years, following the commencement of remunerative employment. The two-year period ceases on the day before the first CPI indexation day following the two-year anniversary.
VVRS income safety net and the Work Bonus
Where the Work Bonus income test concession applies to a pensioner and the income concession amount is equal to or greater than the VVRS excluded income amount, the VVRS excluded income amount does not apply to the pensioner and the pensioner is given the benefit of the Work Bonus income concession. Where the Work Bonus income concession is less than the VVRS excluded income amount, the Work Bonus income concession does not apply and the pensioner is given the benefit of the VVRS excluded income amount.
Treatment eligibility may be tied to disability pension (100% or more), the rate of service pension (treatment thresholds) or a combination of the two (50% disability pension +$1 service pension). If the veteran is in receipt of less than 50% disability pension, their treatment eligibility is tied to their service pension rate. The veteran's rate of pension is calculated using the adjusted income figure, beginning at 50% and scaled upwards. The treatment threshold is applied to the rate of pension.
The normal taxation provisions apply to the veteran's income. DVA holding less than 100% of the veteran's income in the assessment has no bearing on the taxability of that income.
Withdrawal from VVRS
There are no penalties for withdrawal from or failure to complete an approved program, although rehabilitation services may be discontinued in such circumstances. Veterans withdrawing from the scheme will return to the rate of disability pension applicable prior to participation in the scheme. Invalidity service pensioners retain permanent incapacity eligibility, and return to the invalidity service pension, subject to the income and assets tests.
Re-entry into VVRS
There are no time restrictions on a veteran electing to re-enter the scheme. Where a veteran's participation in the scheme was terminated, re-entry would be subject to the normal pre-entry checks. Assessment of the likelihood of reaching a suitable work outcome would be particularly relevant in such a case.
Recovery of cost of rehabilitation
Recovery of the cost of rehabilitation may be required when provided by the Commission to a veteran who is, or may become, entitled to receive compensation from another party (for example, an insurer) for a condition for which the rehabilitation program is being undertaken. In these circumstances the Commission can give to the veteran a notice requiring the veteran to pay for the rehabilitation program undertaken.
The Veterans' Vocational Rehabilitation Scheme (VVRS) was established in December 1997 to assist eligible veterans to find, or continue in, suitable paid employment, with particular emphasis on:
- facilitating the transition from service in the ADF to suitable paid employment;
- assisting those veterans whose jobs are in jeopardy to retain suitable paid employment; and
- in conjunction with Part VIA of the VEA, provide an income safety net for certain veterans in receipt of pensions under sections 23 or 24 of the Act, or invalidity service pension, who wish to engage in suitable paid employment.
Participation in the scheme is voluntary and there are no penalties for withdrawal from, or failure to complete, an approved program. DVA will engage a VVRS contracted service provider that will assign a rehabilitation case manager to oversee the rehabilitation process for the Department. The VVRS contracted Case Manager will undertake a full rehabilitation assessment which will identify the client's vocational needs.
According to subsection 5D(2), incapacity from a war or defence-caused disease or injury is a reference to the effects of that injury or disease, and not a reference to the injury or disease itself.