Army vet Angus Sim exposes shocking truths about the DVA

  • By Ian McPhedran National defence writer
  • : News Corp Australia Network
  • August 25, 2015 10:00PM

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Australian Iraq war veteran Angus Sim on duty in Iraq. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

AN unofficial survey by an East Timor and Iraq War veteran flatly contradicts an official $174,500 taxpayer-funded survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs that sings its praises and claims a 90 per cent satisfaction rate.

Angus Sim claims he lost his lucrative offshore drilling job after the DVA contacted his employer to verify that he was off work and eligible for his veteran’s payment.

He had signed a statutory declaration swearing that he was off work so that he would be eligible for incapacity payments, but Canberra-based bureaucrats insisted on contacting his employer.

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Australian East Timor and Iraq war veteran Angus Sim (left) with a truck bomb that exploded near the Australian Embassy in Baghdad. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

Mr Sim suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and was so outraged by his experience that he formulated his own survey of DVA clients to find out what veterans really thought about the department that allocates about $13 billion of taxpayer dollars each year.

The results from 730 respondents bear no resemblance to the official DVA 2014 client service survey of 3000 people that showed satisfaction rates of above 90 per cent and included comments such as: “Excellent service and good communications.

“They really look after people. Overwhelming — they listen so well. It’s like a family.”

Mr Sim’s survey included 41 questions and found that between 58 per cent and 73 per cent of clients under the three Veterans Acts had spent more than six months fighting for their claims.

Between 28 per cent and 54 per cent said they were “extremely unsatisfied” with DVA’s service and just three to 10 per cent said they were “extremely satisfied”.

In one of the most disturbing findings it found that between 63 per cent and 84 per cent of clients had been given conflicting information by DVA staff.

One of the worst areas was incapacity payments where between 77 per cent and 80 per cent said DVA had caused them hardship by delaying the payments.

Between 81 per cent and 94 per cent of those surveyed supported a fresh inquiry into the DVA’s treatment of veterans.

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By contrast the official survey reported that 89 per cent of clients were satisfied or very satisfied with the service DVA provided and 90 per cent agreed that DVA was committed to providing a high quality service.

When News Corp questioned the credibility of publishing only positive comments from the survey DVA insisted that the, “comments published were demonstrative of resoundingly positive feedback received in the client survey.”

The Department refused to provide a detailed breakdown for “commercial” reasons of the age of respondents or a list of the questions asked by the survey company ORIMA Research.

In stark contrast with the taxpayer-funded official survey comments from Mr Sim’s respondents were far more damning.

Here is a sample; “They treat you like you are trying to get something for nothing and that you should be grateful for their ‘assistance’.

“Woeful at best, criminally negligent if they’re honest.

“It was demeaning and enhanced my PTSD symptoms causing my family and I huge distress.”

Quite simply, the MRCA Act (that was introduced in 2004) is not working as well as it should be for our younger veterans.

Comments

  1. As a DVA / TIP trained Advocate (L3) I deal with Veterans from all conflicts and with varying degrees of injuries be it mental or physical and have been doing this for over 5 years. I must admit that the two surveys are somewhat different and that there is a need for a Royal Commission into the DVA but the blame should be levelled at the right source, namely the Politicians who dictate what should happen as opposed to the staff in DVA who are bound by legislation and policy.

    There are some staff who should not be working in DVA as they either have no understanding of military service and in some cases have trouble even speaking English however, there are some that are worth their weight in gold and if you get one of those then you are extremely lucky.

    From my experience I have found that DVA constantly puts obstacles in the way of Veterans who are claiming for compensation to such an extent that they either give up, go away or worse still end their lives which is more distressing on the family.

    With respect to the family, it is about time that the Politicians made changes to the various Acts under which DVA operates so that the family are assisted as well. In the case of PTSD for example it is quite common for partners of Veterans to suffer just as badly with this as a Veteran but because they are a partner they have to handle it on their own with a minor contribution from the DVA funded VVCS.

    It seems that over the years the Act relating to Veterans has undergone numerous changes and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that the changes have been brought about to make it harder for Veterans to lodge claims for compensation of war caused injuries.

    When the Rehabilitation Act first came into being the amount of compensation (not pension) that was payable to a Veteran was set at 85% of the Average Male Wage, now it is below 35% which is a slap in the face for Veterans and their families. I can remember a young widow of a soldier killed in Iraq who had her lump sum widow’s payment reduced because she was young and attractive (reported widely in the press at the time) and would have trouble finding another partner! Thankfully public outrage changed this decision but the Politician who actually did it still remained in power.

    If a Politicians partner can receive 85% of the Politicians wage once he/she dies then why does the partner of a Sailor, Soldier or Airman only get less than half of that? After all a Politician’s worst injury will be a papercut or a boil on the backside for sitting on cozy seats al day where as a Service person can be shot, blown up, wounded or even killed in their day to day job, a little more serious wouldn’t you say.

    There needs to be more Veterans with DVA as well as Parliament to ensure that those who serve in the defence of this nation are taken care of. If you can’t afford to look after a service man or women when they come home battle scarred or traumatised then don’t send them away to war in the first place.

    • Trevor Howard Gunning says

      There is a saying going around at the moment…”If you send them then you have an obligation to mend them”
      One of my current roles is as the fundraising chairman of Perth Legacy. It never ceases to amaze me of what little the wives of veterans who have died, and do not know of their former spouses entitlements.
      My view is; there should be a auditable paper trail, which demonstrates that serviceman have been briefed, cunselled and guided through their entitlements prior to discharge.
      There is no excuse for service personnel not to know these service entitlements. It is quite often up to organisations such as Legacy to fight for the veterans pensions etc. Make this part of any review service.

  2. Trevor Howard Gunning says

    Initially (circa early 2004) I went through the same hoop jumping and certainly had to go beyond reasonable intrusions into my military life. I too was questioned vigorously (including via a panel made of former officers) who disputed my claim. One I challenged; when he questioned SAS operations…I stated “Have you ever been on an SAS patrol”? (He hadn’t but stated he knew someone who had) what a dipshit…Any way to be fair now I have my pension the DVA staff I deal with are fair and reasonable…However when going through the claim process it was very challenging to say the least and I would concur with what many experience.

    • Hi I have been fighting DVA dead shits since i was forced out after 10+years as the military caused damage made me unfit for SAS in 1978, but DVA says get lost and i have 11 different file numbers and the data is only what they wanted in it. I have more than 11 conditions caused by military damage and neglect and they say get lost as you were 16 when you joined and should have known better . Leeuwin abuse was the norm and What medical file ? No doctors filled out any documents just needles and death .PTSD was not even alive then and DVA and military were just as rude then and now they say it more polite and say AAT but nO it will not back the veteran IF you can even get there due to military damage . THE SYSTEM is still not helpfull.