C32/2000 Veterans' Children Education Scheme - New eligibility under VEA sub-section 116(1)(e) | Compensation and Support Reference Library, Departmental Instructions, 2000

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C32/2000 Veterans' Children Education Scheme - New eligibility under VEA sub-section 116(1)(e)

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DATE OF ISSUE:  14 DECEMBER 2000

Veterans' Children Education Scheme - New eligibility under VEA sub-section 116(1)(e)

Purpose

The purpose of this Instruction is to provide guidance on determining eligibility under VEA sub-section 116(1)(e).

Background

The 1999-2000 Health Study of Australia's Vietnam veteran community found that the children of Vietnam veterans suffered from a suicide rate that was higher than the Australian community standard.  In the 2000 Budget, the Government announced a range of initiatives in response to this and other findings from the study.

One of these initiatives was the extension of VCES eligibility to Vietnam veterans' children who are diagnosed with a depressive disorder or who are regarded as vulnerable.  There is a correlation between higher educational achievement and a lower suicide rate.  Access to the VCES and the support available through the guidance and counselling it provides will hopefully encourage these children to achieve their full educational potential.

Start date

The effective date of this new eligibility is 1 January 2001.

VCES eligibility - new
category

A new sub-section 116(1)(e) has been added to the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986.    This sub-section provides that a person who is a member of a class of persons as determined by the Repatriation Commission is an eligible child for the purposes of VCES eligibility.

Determination

The Commission has issued a Determination (Instrument No. 27/2000) which specifies that for the purposes of VEA 116(1)(e), an eligible child is a person:

  1. Who is a child; and
  2. Who is or has been a child of a veteran with Vietnam service; and:
  3. Who either:
  1. Is diagnosed by an appropriately qualified professional as having a depressive disorder, or
  2. In the opinion of an appropriately qualified professional is vulnerable.

Delegation

New delegations are being extended, as nominated by the states, for decisions on eligibility under VEA sub-section 116(1)(e).  The VCES secretaries do not have this delegation.  However they may assist in gathering the necessary information and evidence for the delegate.

Limit of delegation

The delegates for sub-section 116(1)(e) can only determine whether or not an applicant is an eligible child.  Once that has been done, the VCES secretary further assesses the application and exercises their delegations under the VCES.

All VCES requirements must be met

An applicant who has been determined to be an eligible child under VEA sub-section 116(1)(e) will not be eligible to receive VCES benefits unless they meet all the requirements of the Scheme.

For example, a child who has been determined to be an eligible child but is not in full-time education is not eligible for benefits.

Meaning of terms used in the Determination

Child

For the purposes of the Determination, a “child”:

  • is a person who meets the definition of “child” in VEA sub-section 5F(1); and
  • is a person who meets the definition of “child of a veteran or other person” in VEA section 10.

Child – not the natural child of the veteran

Children who are not the natural or adopted children of the veteran are also included.  For example step children, foster children, grandchildren or any other children who are wholly or substantially dependent on the veteran or were so at the time of the veteran's death.

Wholly or substantially dependent

DI C45/97 gives guidance on how to assess relationships between a claimant and a veteran including a child who was wholly or substantially supported by the veteran.  Even though the reference is to a deceased veteran, the principle remains the same.  It states:

If the child's address is given as the same address where the veteran resides or resided prior to death, the claims assessor can assume with reasonable safety that the child was wholly or substantially dependent upon the veteran for the purposes of the Act.

If the child's address is given as a different address, and there is no evidence on file indicating that the child was wholly or substantially dependent on the veteran, the claims assessor will need to contact the child's guardian or agent to ascertain the nature of the child's relationship with the veteran.  Any information obtained should be recorded in the form of a record of conversation or file note.

In cases where the veteran is alive, a useful indicator of dependence can be where the veteran or his wife receive (or would receive but for means testing) family payments on behalf of the child.

Former child

In regard to a former child:

  • The child must, at some stage, have met the criteria of 'Child' as described above;
  • There is no specified minimum length of time that the child must have lived with the veteran - it may have been many years or just a few months;
  • The time may have been many years ago or it may have been more recent. 

However:

  • Eligibility will require that at least some of the time spent living with the veteran was after his first Vietnam service; and
  • The time must have been spent living with the veteran.  For example, a stepchild who never actually lived with the veteran cannot be eligible.

Veteran with Vietnam service

A  veteran with Vietnam service :

  • is a “veteran” as defined in paragraph (a) of the definition of veteran in subsection 5C (1) of the VEA; and
  • who has operational service, as described in section 6C, 6E or 6F of the VEA; and
  • whose service was rendered in Vietnam.

Appropriately qualified professional

An appropriately qualified professional is a person who is:

  1. a medical practitioner (general practitioner or specialist – including a psychiatrist); or
  2. a psychologist who has full registration as a psychologist in the state or territory in which they practice; or
  3. a social worker who has completed a 4 year recognised degree and has eligibility for membership of the Australian Association of Social Workers.

Information provided by an appropriately qualified professional

Professional assessment form

A new form D2639 (VCES Eligibility – Professional Assessment) has been developed.  The purpose of this form is to enable the appropriately qualified professional to provide information for use in determining VCES eligibility.

The professional fills out and returns only the bottom tear-off section.  This tear-off section simply states that the applicant does or does not meet the criteria set out by the Commission (that is, suffers from a diagnosed depressive disorder or is considered vulnerable).

Form D2639 is to be mailed/faxed directly to the qualified professional who is to return the tear off section in the same manner.  Under no circumstances is this form to be taken or returned by the applicant.

If there is no 'appropriately qualified professional'

In most cases, the applicant will already be, or have been, under the care of an appropriately qualified professional.  If not, an appointment will have to be arranged for them through the Vietnam Veterans' Counselling Service (VVCS).  The first point of contact is one of the following:

Name

Position

Phone

Wes Kilham

National Director VVCS

(02) 6289 6397

Russell McCashney

National Clinical Director VVCS

(02) 6289 6794

who will advise details of the closest VVCS psychologist.  An appointment is then to be arranged for the applicant.

Privacy

No detail of the condition or of the reason for vulnerability is sought. Under the Privacy Act 1988, only the information needed for a particular purpose may be sought.  The purpose here is for assessing eligibility only.  DVA will not be providing 'treatment' of the condition.  Therefore, apart from knowing that the child meets the eligibility criteria, we do not need any further information.

Authority to seek and release information

Forms D2697 and D2566 (Applications for VCES benefits) have been amended to include an authority for DVA to seek and obtain medical information in connection with their claim.  The page containing this authority is to be photocopied and sent to the appropriately qualified professional together with the Professional Assessment form (D2639).

Other

Costs

There is no provision for reimbursement of costs associated with an application for VCES benefits:

  • it is not expected that the “appropriately qualified professional” will charge for providing the information on the professional assessment; and
  • there will be no charge made by the VVCS psychologist.

However, any cost associated with travelling to an appointment with the VVCS psychologist will have to be borne by the applicant as there is no legislative provision for reimbursement.

Contacts for further information

National office contacts for further information on any aspect of this new VCES eligibility are:

Name

Position

Phone

John Douglas

Director, Policy Eligibility and Research

(02) 6289 6485

Marie Leach

National VCES Coordinator

(02) 6289 6046

Queries from appropriately qualified professionals should to be directed to:

Freecall number 1800 026 185

This number is also listed on the Professional Assessment form.

W R MAXWELL

DIVISION HEAD

COMPENSATION AND SUPPORT