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10.11 Compensation for purchase of new or second hand motor vehicles for SRCA clients

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Last amended 
5 July 2016

The Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission has provided in-principle agreement to aligning assistance with motor vehicles under the MRCA, SRCA and the VEA. This means that the types of impairment which will commonly give rise to the need for compensation to purchase a motor vehicle may include:

  • the loss of, or the loss of the use of, a leg or both legs; or
  • the loss of, or the loss of the use of, both arms; or
  • acquired brain injuries resulting in catastrophic impairment; or
  • spinal injuries resulting in the loss of voluntary power in a leg or legs or both arms; or
  • conditions which have a similar impact on mobility to amputations or spinal injuries.

In all cases where a client indicates that they are experiencing difficulties with driving, a referral must be made to a Driver Trained Occupational Therapist for an assessment of the client's needs and the barriers that they are experiencing with driving their current vehicle in safety and reasonable comfort. There is no requirement for Rehabilitation Coordinators to utilise the Rehabilitation Appliances Program for assistance with motor vehicles, even if the client holds a DVA Health Card.

It is important that DVA Rehabilitation Coordinators and rehabilitation providers manage client's expectations appropriately from the time a request for assistance is made. 

SRCA case law

In the case of Heffernan and Comcare[1]the Full Court of the Federal Court (FCAFC) ruled that a SRCA client could not be compensated for the costs associated with the purchase and modification of a motor vehicle under section 16 SRCA.

Section 16 SRCA provides that a SRCA client is entitled to compensation for the cost of medical treatment that was reasonable for the client to obtain in relation to their injury or condition.  In Heffernan the FCAFC found that a modified motor vehicle did not fall within the definition of ‘medical treatment’ under subsection 4(1) SRCA. The FCAFC’s reasoning is summarised in Comcare’s Jurisdictional Policy Advice No. 2014/10.

As a result of the Heffernan decision, DVA can no longer provide vehicles to SRCA clients under s16 SRCA.

Rehabilitation Coordinators are therefore requested to contact rehabilitation@dva.gov.au for advice if they receive a request for assistance with purchasing a motor vehicle from a client who meets the criteria under which compensation to purchase a motor vehicle may be considered. The rehabilitation policy section will consider the needs and circumstances of each client and provide advice about the best way forward.

Vehicle modifications for SRCA clients

Information about vehicle modifications for SRCA clients can be found in section 10.10 of this Guide.

 

 

[1] [2014] FCAFC 2