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14.1 Documents in Support of Eligibility
Under a “Best Evidence” policy delegates may consider making the best use of other service evidence available apart from 'Requests for Service Details'. A service check does not have to be sent to the Department of Defence as a matter of routine. “Best Evidence” relies on the applicant supplying sufficient information wherever possible for a decision to be made. It also involves obtaining service information from Departmental records — both ADP and hard copy files, if appropriate.
Part III of the Act does not specify how the Secretary determines eligibility. Delegates are, however, required to exercise sound judgement and a duty of care in reaching decisions on cases before them. Over-reliance on the requesting of service checks without considering other forms of evidence is neither commonsense nor good client service.
Eligibility can be determined on evidence provided by applicants and they are to be encouraged to supply any relevant papers at the time of their approach. The evidence provided should consist of unaltered official Defence records and would include, but would not be limited to:
- Discharge Certificates;
- Statements of Service;
- Statements from Commanding Officers;
- Pay Books; and
- Other forms of official and relevant Defence records.
In addition to those records provided by applicants, records held elsewhere in the Department of Veterans' Affairs, such as those in VIEW and Departmental files, may also be used to assist in the eligibility determination process.
- NOTE: The details on Departmental service enquiry screens in some cases may be insufficient to accurately determine eligibility. Another VIEW screen (Client Activity, File Details) will, however, reveal the existence or otherwise of a Departmental file and its current location. Although Departmental files might contain quite a deal of information about clients' service, some service documents may not be easily understood in the context of deciding eligibility under the Defence Service Homes Act 1918. A delay in obtaining access to the file might mean that a service check will better expedite the process. Delegates are therefore expected to use their judgment in these matters.
If the delegate is satisfied, from the information provided, that a person is eligible, he/she can exercise his/her delegation. If the person's eligibility cannot be confirmed, the delegate may ask the person for more information or send a service check to Defence. Where an application is likely to be declined on the evidence available, delegates are to exercise due caution, including requesting service details from Defence if necessary, before making a decision. The importance of obtaining all the pertinent facts in such decisions cannot be over-emphasised given the possibility of later review or appeal.
It is appropriate that a service check be sent to the Department of Defence if, for example, an applicant has served for 6 years 2 days but it is not clear whether the additional service was due to a delay in processing the person's discharge. Where a statement of service is tendered as evidence of service, delegates need to be aware that non-effective service and misconduct discharges if applicable, are not specifically highlighted. Where a statement of service indicates an unusual or uneven period of service, a service check would be considered appropriate. Where a statement of service indicates a neat 3, 6, or 9 years service for example, it is reasonable to assume that the person had satisfactorily completed the period for which he was engaged to serve. A service check to ensure that the discharge was not due to misconduct would not be necessary in such circumstances. Delegates would also be aware that the engagement periods for officers differ from those for 'other ranks' and that the incidence of misconduct terminations of service among officers is minimal. If the total period of service as indicated on the statement is not substantially greater than the required minimum period, a service check should be done to ascertain whether it included any non-effective service. Delegates are to use sound judgement in these matters.
This policy places an onus on the applicant to assist us in making an early decision. It is expected that he/she will provide the necessary information quickly.
Where eligibility is claimed as an Australian Soldier as defined in the legislation, and the applicant is unable to produce any relevant supporting papers it will be necessary to complete a 'Request for Service Details' (Form D7602), and obtain the information from the appropriate office of the Department of Defence. (see Eligibility GOs 14.5 and 14.6 for details of where to write to and standard abbreviations)
Where eligibility is claimed as:
- a munition worker;
- a war worker;
- a member of an approved welfare organisation who was accepted for service with, and who served abroad with, the Defence Force; or
- a person awarded the Australian Mercantile Marine War Zone Badge or the British Mercantile Marine Medal in respect of his employment during the First World War,
the applicant will be required to produce evidence to the satisfaction of the delegate in support of the claim.
Where eligibility is claimed under paragraphs (f) or (g) of the definition of Eligible person in subsection 4(1) of the legislation, the applicant will be required to produce the relevant agreement or indenture under which he/she was employed or such other evidence as the delegate considers necessary in support of the claim.
In the case of a widow/widower of an eligible person:
- Where the relationship was on a de jure (legal) basis - the Marriage Certificate or equivalent documentary evidence should be sighted.
- Where the marriage was on a de facto basis — an appropriate Statutory Declaration as to the permanent and bona fide nature and duration of the relationship would be acceptable.
In the case of a widowed parent of a deceased eligible person who was not legally married at the time of death:
- The delegate will need to make such enquiries as are considered necessary to confirm dependency upon the person specified in the application prior to that person's appointment, enlistment, acceptance or employment, as the case may be.
- In the case of a parent of a deceased eligible person who was not legally married at the time of death:
- Where the parent's spouse or de facto partner is so incapacitated as to be unable to contribute materially to her/his support, the delegate will need to establish that the facts of the case are as claimed.
NOTE: If the applicant has both a de jure (legal) and de facto spouse, it is necessary for each to be incapacitated before eligibility can be established.
In the case of a spouse or de facto partner of a person who is temporarily or permanently insane:
- Where the relationship is on a de jure (legal) basis — the Marriage Certificate or equivalent documentary evidence should be sighted.
- Where the relationship is on a de facto basis — an appropriate Statutory Declaration as to the permanent and bona fide nature and duration of the relationship would be acceptable.