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The Veterans’ Affairs portfolio is responsible for providing a range of programs of care, compensation, income support and commemoration for the veteran and Defence communities and their families.

Portfolio minister

The portfolio is administered by the Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel.

The Hon Darren Chester MP was appointed to the position of Minister for Veterans’ Affairs on 5 March 2018. Subsequently, the Minister was appointed to the position of Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel on 29 May 2019.

Department and statutory commissions

This annual report covers the work of three entities in the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio:

  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs—the primary agency responsible for developing and delivering programs and services that assist the veterans and their families, in accordance with the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA), the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA), the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA), the Defence Service Homes Act 1918 and the War Graves Act 1980.
  • Repatriation Commission—the policy body responsible for the administration of the VEA and its range of compensation and income support pensions, allowances and other health care services.
  • Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC)—the policy body responsible for the administration of the MRCA and the DRCA (as they relate to current and future ADF members and their families). The assistance provided under these Acts includes permanent impairment payments, incapacity payments, and health care and rehabilitation programs.

The Repatriation Commission and the MRCC have broad powers that enable them to carry out their functions and duties. The commissions also have specific powers to enter into contracts, deal with real or personal property, undertake building works and engage persons to perform services. The commissions have no staff of their own; staff who assist the commissions in performing their roles are provided by the Secretary of DVA.

DVA is responsible for providing financial support in the form of pensions, allowances, benefits and treatment to veterans and their families, but this activity is overseen by the commissions. The commissions also assist in determining policy, identifying anomalies, considering whether matters should be appealed, advising the Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel and the Parliament, liaising with the veteran community, and collaborating with Defence, Comcare and other Commonwealth agencies.

Under the VEA, the Secretary of DVA may be appointed as the President of the Repatriation Commission. By convention, the Secretary of DVA is appointed to this statutory role to ensure that the functions and objectives of the commissions align with those of DVA. Because the Secretary is the President of the Repatriation Commission, the Secretary is also the Chair of the MRCC.

The Deputy President of the Repatriation Commission performs several roles for the commissions and DVA. First, as a full-time member of the Repatriation Commission, the Deputy President participates in and contributes to all Repatriation Commission meetings. Under the provisions of the MRCA, the Deputy President is also a member of the MRCC. In addition, the Deputy President assists the Secretary in managing the department.

The Services Member, also known as the Repatriation Commissioner, is appointed by the Governor-General (on advice from the Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel). As Services Member, the Repatriation Commissioner has special responsibility for representing the views of that community in the commission’s considerations. By convention the Commissioner is also appointed as a member of the MRCC.

The Repatriation Commissioner is a member of the executive management team of DVA and has a key role in managing veteran engagement.

Other portfolio entities

Several independent entities provide specialist oversight to assist in administering veterans’ entitlements, while the Australian War Memorial plays a unique role in assisting Australians to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society. More information on these separate entities, including annual reports on performance, is available from their websites.

Repatriation Medical Authority

The Repatriation Medical Authority (RMA) is an independent statutory authority. Its role is to determine Statements of Principles (SOPs) for any disease, injury or death that could be related to military service, based on sound medical–scientific evidence. SOPs are binding on decision-makers or review bodies determining liability for compensation under the VEA or MRCA. More information about the RMA and the SOPs is available at www.rma.gov.au.

Specialist Medical Review Council

The Specialist Medical Review Council reviews the RMA’s decisions on SOPs and directs or recommends that the RMA amend the SOPs. The council consists of eminent medical practitioners and medical scientists appointed as councillors by the Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel. The convenor of the council selects these specialists based on their expertise in the injury or disease relevant to the SOPs being reviewed. More information about current and past reviews is available at www.smrc.gov.au.

Veterans’ Review Board

The Veterans’ Review Board reviews certain decisions made under the VEA and the MRCA. More information on the board is available at www.vrb.gov.au.

Australian War Memorial

The Australian War Memorial maintains and develops the national memorial to Australians who have died in wars or warlike operations. It also develops, maintains and exhibits a national collection of historical material; and conducts and fosters research on Australian military history. More information on the Australian War Memorial is available at www.awm.gov.au.