An Australian digger whose time serving his country left him struggling with serious depression has successfully challenged a decision that would have denied him a disability pension, thanks to free independent assistance provided by Legal Aid NSW.
Legal Aid NSW will be bringing its dedicated veterans’ advice service to Port Macquarie next Monday, February 20, to provide free legal advice to current and former members of the defence forces and their dependents.
“We regularly see veterans who have suffered significant injuries as a result of their service and do not realise that they are entitled to claim a pension, or are entitled to more than they realise,” Legal Aid NSW advocate Dani Pontes said.
“Legal Aid NSW can advise them about what claims they may have, and how they can progress those claims.
“Some veterans are reluctant to claim their entitlements. But we all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to veterans who served their country.
“Ensuring they have access to the compensation they are entitled to is one small way the community can recognise their service.”
One former client, Matthew*, was a young soldier who sustained a serious knee injury in the line of duty and was medically discharged from the army.
On returning home to Australia, he struggled with the transition back to civilian life – in part due to mental health difficulties that Legal Aid NSW was able to help demonstrate were directly linked to his service.
“Matthew used to enjoy two beers a week before he deployed, and by the end of his time in the army he was drinking 20 times that amount,” Ms Pontes said.
“At first Matthew was told his depression was unrelated to his service.
“But once he contacted our Veterans’ Advocacy Service, we were able to support Matthew through a Veterans’ Review Board hearing and show that his mental ill health was directly linked to his service. Matthew is now receiving the service pension and disability pension he deserves.
“Accessing the right entitlements has made life for Matthew and his partner that little bit easier.”
Legal Aid NSW’s specialist Veterans’ Advocacy Service can give advice about rights and entitlements for pensions, disability claims and war widow claims and other benefits under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act and Military Compensation Scheme.
The service can also help veterans in their dealings with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and can lodge appeals at the Veterans’ Review Board or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
“We also offer veterans practical help, including help completing forms and questionnaires, and help lodging pension claims,” Ms Pontes said.
“The service is open to veterans who served at home, in peacekeeping forces, or in armed conflict at any time, whatever their age.”
Next Monday’s free veteran’s advice service will be held at Legal Aid NSW, 107 William Street, Port Macquarie, on Monday, February 20, from 9.30am to 4pm.