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14.3.1 Widowed partners
To be eligible to receive support under the Package a widowed partner of a veteran must be:
- under 65 years old at the time their eligibility is determined; and
- a War Widow(er) under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA); or
- a Wholly Dependent Partner under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA); or
- a widowed partner of a veteran covered by the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-Related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA), whose death was related to their service; and
- the death must not have occurred more than two years ago.
Suicide related to service
To be eligible, there needs to be a connection established between a veteran’s suicide and their service in the Australian Defence Force. This means a death determination must be made before establishing eligibility.
Where a veteran has rendered warlike service under the MRCA and has died by suicide, for ASP eligibility purposes the death is considered related to service until the time a formal determination is made. This allows eligibility to be determined without the need for the Commission to establish conclusively that the deceased member’s death was a suicide related to service. A formal death determination overrules any previous decisions made by an ASP delegate. This may mean that families currently in receipt of a Package may lose their access.
Confirmation of death should be evidenced by a death certificate, police report or hospital report. However, if the partner is experiencing difficulties obtaining formal documentation in a timely manner and is in urgent need of support, a signed statutory declaration may be considered sufficient to satisfy the eligibility criteria.
At the time eligibility is determined
‘At the time eligibility is determined’ means when the person is assessed for eligibility for the Package and a decision made regarding their eligibility. If a person is 64 and a half when their eligibility is determined, they meet the age requirement. When they turn 65 six months later, they remain eligible for the Package until their time limit on the program ends. Support is not ceased when the individual turned 65 years old.
Can a widowed partner be eligible if they have received support through the Family Support Package or the Acute Support Package in the past as a family member?
Yes. New circumstances that mean a person meets the eligibility criteria is sufficient. A person is not necessarily excluded from receiving support under the Package because they have in the past accessed it under different eligibility provisions. If a family member becomes a widow(er) and they meet other eligibility requirements for widowed partners, they would be able to receive support through those provisions of the Package. DVA would not need to determine they are in crisis, as the death of their partner constitutes crisis.
For example, Suzi received support through the Package for the family two years ago, while her veteran partner Jon was alive. Jon died by suicide and it was determined to be related to his service. Suzi (now age 55) is eligible for the Package as a widowed partner.
Can a widowed partner be eligible if they have received support through the Family Support Package or the Acute Support Package in the past as a widowed partner?
In most cases, where a widowed partner has received support through the Acute Support Package or the predecessor program, the Family Support Package, the veteran’s death will have been more than two years ago, so they will not meet the eligibility criteria.
However, if a widowed partner re-partners with a veteran (current or former serving member) and they experience a crisis and the veteran meets the eligibility criteria, they may receive support as a family member through the Package. Their circumstances have changed and their eligibility can be assessed anew.
If a widowed partner re-partners with a veteran and that veteran dies (and it is related to their service), they would also be eligible again for support through the Package.