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C07/1997 BUDGET INITIATIVE: ASBESTOS SCREENING WWII AUSTRALIAN MERCHANT MARINERS
DATE OF ISSUE: 3 FEBRUARY 1997
BUDGET INITIATIVE: ASBESTOS SCREENING WWII AUSTRALIAN MERCHANT MARINERS
The purpose of this Departmental instruction is to provide information about the provision of access to an asbestos screening program for WWII Australian merchant mariners so illness related to asbestos exposure can be detected.
2.As part of the 1996/97 Budget, the Government announced that $300,000 would be available for the screening program over two years.
3.The program will apply to the approximately 3,000 surviving WWII Australian mariners who, in July 1994, became 'veterans' under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986.
4.The Department will be launching a publicity campaign shortly. Following this, many of these veterans are expected at least to enquire about the program.
5.The method of screening to be adopted is based closely on that developed by the Department of Defence in conjunction with the Australian Government Health Service (AGHS).
(a) Department of Defence System
6.Under the Defence system, AGHS conducts a free service for assessment, counselling and, if necessary, testing for employees and ex-employees of the Department of Defence, and ex-Australian Defence Force personnel who may have been exposed to asbestos at any time during their employment with Defence.
7.The service provided by AGHS relates only to investigating the effects, if any, of asbestos exposure during employment with Defence. It is not aimed at detecting any other medical conditions. Veterans concerned over other aspects of their health are encouraged to contact their own doctor.
(b) DVA System
8.Although the DVA system is derived from the Defence approach, it needs to accommodate some significant differences. In particular, career merchant seamen would have experienced exposure to asbestos over a far longer period than during eligible war-time service. Because of this, where a veteran has been identified as having an asbestos related disease and wishes to lodge a claim with the Department in relation to that disease, he or she needs to provide a complete statement of service in the merchant navy.
9.Verification of eligible service may be provided by:
- The Australian Maritime Safety Authority;
- Relevant shipping company documents;
- Personal Log-books;
- Other relevant documentation held by the mariner, eg photographs, memorabilia, etc.
STEPS TO BE FOLLOWED
10.WWII Australian merchant mariners who believe that they have been exposed to asbestos during the period of their war service should be encouraged to undertake a screening test for asbestos related diseases. This appointment should be made for the veteran to see an AGHS doctor in his area through the AGHS Branch in your State. A list of AGHS addresses and contact phone numbers is at Attachment A.
11.The mariner should be advised that if an appointment cannot be kept, the AGHS State or Territory Office needs at least two clear working days notice. Failure to provide this notice will result in AGHS charging the Department a non-attendance fee. The mariner should also be advised that following the examination, he or she will be given all relevant documentation relating to the examination, but should sign a release to ensure that the Department also receives a copy.
12.If, during the medical assessment, an asbestos related disease or illness is identified, the AGHS doctor will refer the veteran direct to a thoracic physician. Once the results of that examination have been received, AGHS will report back to the Department. Where authorised, AGHS will also write to the veteran's treating doctor.
13.In other cases, where there is a possible problem due to high exposure and other risk factors, such as smoking, AGHS will monitor each individual and follow up with a reminder letter every two years.
LODGMENT OF CLAIM
14.Where an asbestos related disease or illness has been identified and appears to be related to the merchant mariner's war-time service, the Department should encourage him or her to submit a claim for compensation. As outlined in paragraphs 8 and 9 above, the mariner will need to provide details of total service in the merchant marine, not just qualifying war service.
15.The program will be conducted in the latter half of 1996/97 and the earlier half of 1997/98 financial years. Claims for a disability pension and/or war widow's pension are likely if asbestos related diseases are found, although the number of additional claims is expected to be small given that many mariners were encouraged to claim compensation for disabilities following their classification in 1994 as 'veterans' under the VEA.
REPORTS TO BE PROVIDED BY AGHS
16.AGHS will provide regular monthly reports detailing services provided for that month. It will also provide regular reports of services provided on a regional basis.
17.The contact officer for enquiries regarding this Instruction is Dr Keith Horsley on (06) 289 6329.
COMPENSATION AND SUPPORT
Australian Government Health Service
- Contact Numbers
Director AGHS (NSW)
Level 2, 120 Sussex Street
SYDNEY NSW 2000
ph (02) 9225 8800
Director AGHS (VIC)
2 Lonsdale Street (cnr Spring Street)
MELBOURNE VIC 3000
ph (03) 9285 8381
Director AGHS (QLD)
Level 7, 340 Adelaide Street
BRISBANE QLD 4000
ph (07) 3360 2540
Director AGHS (WA)
5 Mill Street
PERTH WA 6000
(09) 324 6444
Director AGHS (SA)
2 — nd Floor East, Commonwealth Centre
55 Currie Street
ADELAIDE SA 5000
ph (08) 8237 6084
Director AGHS (TAS)
2/21 Kirksway Place
BATTERY POINT TAS 7004
(03) 6221 1494
Director AGHS (NT)
1 — st Floor, Cavenagh Centre
43 Cavenagh Street
DARWIN NT 0800
ph (08) 8981 7492
Director AGHS (ACT)
2 — nd Floor, Colonial Mutual Building
17-21 University Avenue
CANBERRA ACT 2601
ph (06) 234 9722