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Review of RMA Decisions on Statements of Principles by the SMRC
Who can request a review of a SoP by the SMRC?
A formal decision made by the RMA on a SoP can be reviewed by the SMRC. The application for review must be lodged within three months of that decision being made, and must be on a form approved by the SMRC. A review of a SoP by the SMRC may be sought by:
- the [glossary:Commission:][glossary:,:]
- a person eligible to make a claim for a pension under Part II or Part IV of the VEA, or
- an organisation representing veterans, Australian mariners, members of the Forces, members of the [glossary:Peacekeeping Forces:] or their dependants.
On what basis can a review by the SMRC be sought?
A review by the SMRC can be sought on the basis that:
- A SoP is wrong or contains incorrect information, or
- The RMA has refused to investigate a SoP, or
- The RMA has made a decision not to issue a SoP.
A request for a review must state on what grounds the request is being made.
What information can the SMRC consider?
In determining, reviewing or deciding not to issue an SoP regarding a particular medical condition, the RMA may rely only on sound medical-scientific evidence that has been submitted to it or that it has obtained on its own initiative from the Secretary or a consultant. The SMRC is required to review all the information that was available to the RMA when it determined a SoP or chose not to issue a SoP in respect of a medical condition. This means that the RMA must send to the SMRC a copy of all the information that was available to it when it determined, or amended, the SoPs. The intention is that the SMRC reviews the information to determine whether or not the contents of the SoP reflects the sound medical-scientific evidence contained in that information. The SMRC must review all information available to the RMA. The SMRC must review all the information prtaken the view that this includes taking into account submissions that explain, analyse or comment on the information that was before the RMA.
Oral and written submissions by experts
Submissions made to the SMRC in the context of a review of a SoP must be in writing. Where the person or body making the submission appears before the SMRC, they may make an oral submission to complement the written submission. Submissions can be about any information that was available to the RMA and is relevant to the SMRC's review. A person having expertise in a field relevant to the investigation may make a submission in writing to the Review Council on any relevant information pertaining to that field.
Payments for submissions, reports and witnesses for purpose of review
There are provisions relating to payment of medical and travelling expenses to assist applicants to obtain relevant documentary medical evidence. Payment relates to the obtaining of medical reports and submissions from relevant medical-scientific experts that explain, analyse or comment upon the information that was available to the RMA. Application, approval and payment is a function of the Repatriation Commission not the SMRC.
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The RMA is a panel of five medical and scientific experts appointed by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs after consultation with the ex-service and veteran community.
The role of the RMA is:
- to determine whether there is sound medical-scientific evidence that links particular kinds of injury, disease or death with war or defence service; and
- to reflect the causal links in legally binding Statement of Principles (SoPs).
Statement of Principles means:
- a Statement of Principles determined by the RMA under section 196B of the VEA; or
- a determination made by the Repatriation Commission under section 180A of the VEA; or
- a Statement of Principles concerning a particular kind of injury or disease made available to the VRB by the Repatriation Commission under paragraph 138(2)(a) of the VEA.
The SMRC is an independent statutory body that is able to review the decisions the the Repatriation Medical Authority (RMA) makes about Statement of Principles (SoPs). The SMRC will consider all of the material that was available to the RMA and any material that the review applicant wants to make available. There are no legal questions decided by the SMRC and no lawyers may address the SMRC. The SMRC decides whether it would have made a different decision than the RMA on the basis of the same sound medical-scientific evidence. Refer to sections 196V and 196W.
For the purposes of Part VI of the VEA, a reference to a veteran is taken to be a reference to:
- a veteran as defined in subsection 5C(1) of the VEA;
- a member of the Forces as defined in subsection 68(1) of the VEA; or
- a member of a Peacekeeping Force as defined in subsection 68(1) of the VEA.
For the purposes of Part VII of the VEA, according to subsection 5C(1), veteran means a person (including a deceased person):
- who is taken to have rendered eligible war service, or
- in respect of whom a pension is, or pensions are, payable under subsection 13(6) and
- in Part III and Part VIIC of the VEA includes a person who is:
- a Commonwealth veteran, or
- an allied veteran, or
- an allied mariner.
A member of the forces is a person who served in the defence force for a continuous period that commenced after 7 December 1972 and has the type of service required in sections 69, 69A and 69B of the VEA.
- is consistent with material relating to medial science that has been published in a medical or scientific publication and has been, in the opinion of the RMA, subjected to a peer review process, or
- in accordance with generally accepted medical practice, would serve as the basis for the diagnosis and management of medical condition.
Information about how that kind of injury, disease or death may be caused must meet the applicable criteria for assessing causation currently applied in the field of epidemiology.