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1.6 Reimbursement of funeral expenses (to a max benefit) - S18 of the SRCA
Section 18 provides that in cases of a compensable death, the Commonwealth is liable to pay or contribute to the cost of the funeral.
The amount payable is, '..as Comcare considers reasonable..' but up to a maximum amount which is also indexed on 1 July each year.
Funeral costs are driven by the personal preferences – and the cultural or religious orientation – of the deceased employee's family. In practice, delegates should therefore avoid judging whether the costs of the funeral are 'reasonable' or not. The delegate's only action should be to pay 100% of the costs of any funeral where those costs are less than the maximum allowance, and pay only that maximum $ figure for any funeral which exceeded those limits.
The S18 reimbursement of funeral costs is paid 'to the person who paid the cost of the funeral or, if that cost has not been paid, to the person who carried out the funeral'. Thus, the S18 payment is made independently of any payment made under S17 and may be made to a different person, i.e. depending on who paid for the funeral. The S18 payment does not need to be incorporated into the same Determination as that which establishes the entitlements under S17. However, a determination that the deceased's accepted condition resulted in their death must be made before any funeral benefits can be paid.
The “Claim for compensation for Funeral expenses and/or Death Benefits for Dependants of deceased members and former members of the Australian Defence Force” form (D9182 in the forms section of the intranet and DVA internet site) is to be used for claiming funeral expenses.
What constitutes a 'funeral'?
A 'funeral' means a ceremony held in connection with the disposition of the body of a deceased person. Accordingly, aside from a few exceptional circumstances, only one funeral can be held for each accepted death.
One exception to this rule may be where a funeral does not include the disposition of the body because the body of the deceased person has not been recovered.
A payment will generally be payable only once for each accepted death. However, this payment can be split between multiple claimants if more than one person incurred a cost connected with the funeral, as long as the maximum payment is not exceeded for that funeral.
Eligibility under more than one Act
Where a person has dual eligibility under the VEA and SRCA, there is nothing in the SRCA that precludes payment of a funeral benefit under both Acts. However, subsection 18(2)(b) of the SRCA requires the delegate, in determining the amount payable, to have regard to the amount paid for the cost of the funeral under any other Commonwealth legislation. This being the case, the delegate should reduce the amount payable for the funeral by the amount of VEA compensation paid, unless the cost of the funeral exceeds the statutory limit for compensation payable under s18 of the SRCA (in which case up to the maximum amount may be paid).
Subsection 15(5) of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 2004 states that if a person has dual eligibility for funeral benefit under either the VEA or SRCA, as well as the MRCA, then the benefit is to be paid under the MRCA only.
Note that funerals of persons who were full time serving members at the time of death, are conducted at the ADF's expense. This is a condition of service and delegates should not be involved in making a determination under S18 in those cases.