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1. Introduction - For Psychiatrists: Diagnostic & Assessment Guidelines

Last amended 
20 February 2019

For the purpose of evaluating psychiatric illness, accurately investigating claims and in the interests of public accountability, the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) must have psychiatric reports of a high standard. This document provides an outline of DVA's requirements for reports relevant to the psychiatric diagnosis and assessment of claims.

In examining claimants for compensation, there is a need for medical practitioners to fully explore the nature of the claimed condition and any other issues that may be relevant. This will necessarily include whether or not there is an association with service. It is expected that practitioners will be sensitive to the well being of claimants, and sympathetic to their service experience.

Such care and thoroughness is also expected in all posthumous cases, e.g. where the widow/er or dependant is applying for a war widow/er's or orphan's pension. The Guideline for operation of posthumous psychiatric diagnosis panel will be provided when relevant and outlines the procedure to be followed in cases where the veteran is deceased and a psychiatric condition forms part of the claim. The Repatriation Commission and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (the Commissions) have approved, in consultation with the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), the establishment of a panel of psychiatrists to provide posthumous diagnoses in such cases. If a panel of psychiatrists is unable to be convened, alternate options can be pursued according to the guideline.

In preparing their reports, practitioners should also take into account the Federal Court's Guidelines for Expert Witnesses in Proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia which may be obtained from the referring officer at DVA or from the Federal Court's website.

These guidelines should be considered because psychiatrists may be called on to provide evidence in a tribunal or court if any part of the decision is appealed.

Compensation claims made under the VEA and MRCA will be determined using Statements of Principles (SOPs), which are legislative instruments prepared by the Repatriation Medical Authority (RMA). The SOPs for psychiatric conditions have definitions that are based on the diagnostic criteria within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) diagnostic criteria.  As such, DVA requires a psychiatric diagnosis that uses the DSM-5 criteria.

SOPs are not used to determined claims under DRCA but these guidelines should also inform psychiatric claims under this Act.