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Legal services

DVA provides a range of legal and assurance services to the Minister, the Repatriation Commission, the MRCC and other areas of the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio.

Legislation program

During 2018–19 the Minister’s legislation program included a number of important veteran-centric reform measures enacted via amendments to the VEA, the MRCA and other portfolio legislation.

Veterans’ Entitlements Amendment Act 2018

This Act amended the VEA to provide DVA with the proper authority to deduct an overpayment of a service pension, income support supplement or social security pension from a bereavement payment paid to the surviving partner, where the partner had the benefit of that overpayment and the overpayment was due to the death of the deceased.

Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Omnibus) Act 2018

This Act amends various portfolio Acts to implement a number of veteran-centric initiatives:

  • It amends the MRCA to enable the Chief of the Defence Force to make a claim for liability on behalf of a current serving ADF member.
  • It amends the DRCA to expand the existing power of the MRCC to request certain information.
  • It amends the VEA to provide that exempt lump sum determinations made by the Secretary of DSS will apply for the purposes of DVA income support clients.

Treatment Benefits (Special Access) Act 2018; and Treatment Benefits (Special Access) (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2018

The Acts extend medical treatment for all conditions, through a DVA treatment card (Gold Card), to members of Australian Civilian Surgical and Medical Teams who provided medical aid, training and treatment to local Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War.

In addition, a number of important veteran-centric reform measures were implemented by legislative instrument.

These included the following instruments made by the Repatriation Commission or the MRCC:

  • Veterans’ Affairs (Treatment Principles—Veteran Suicide Prevention Pilot) Amendment Instrument 2018
  • Military Rehabilitation and Compensation (Catastrophic Injury or Disease) Determination 2018
  • Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) (Catastrophic Injury) Rules 2018
  • Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) (Full time Study) Instrument 2018
  • Military Rehabilitation and Compensation (Full time Study) Instrument 2018
  • Veterans’ Affairs (Extended Eligibility for Treatment) Amendment Instrument 2018
  • Veterans’ Children Education Scheme (Long Tan Bursary) Amendment Instrument 2018
  • Veterans’ Entitlements (Annual General Practitioner Health Assessment for First Five Years Post-Discharge) Determination 2019
  • Veterans’ Entitlements (Provisional Access to Medical Treatment) Amendment Determination 2019.

Legal services expenditure

The following information about legal services expenditure is required to be published under paragraph 11.1(ba) of the Legal Services Directions 2017 issued by the Attorney-General under section 55ZF of the Judiciary Act 1903.

In 2018–19 DVA spent a total of $13.53 million on legal services, compared with $13.26 million in 2017–18. Expenditure included external and internal legal services.

External legal services

In 2018–19 DVA spent $7.98 million on external legal services, compared with $9.44 million in 2017–18. Included were disbursements and the engagement of counsel who advised on litigation, procurement, contracting and management issues.

In accordance with Guidance Note 8 to the Legal Services Directions, Table 11 shows expenditure on total external legal services and details the number of male and female counsel briefed and the value of this work in 2018–19.

Table 11: Expenditure on legal services and male and female counsel briefed, 2018–19


Value ($m)1



Senior counsel

Female (6)


Male (19)




Junior counsel

Female (15)


Male (7)


Subtotal (47)


Total counsel


Other disbursements2




1 Approximately $0.4 million in professional fees and $0.1 million in disbursements were for costs incurred by Administrative Appeals Tribunal / Veterans’ Review Board applicants where the department agreed to pay or where costs were awarded against the department.

2 These are costs incurred for goods and services that are not counsel or professional fees (for example, filing fees, costs for expert witnesses and costs of administrative tasks such as photocopying).

Internal legal services

DVA provides internal legal services in areas such as:

  • legislation administered by the Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel
  • management of the Minister’s legislation program
  • drafting of legislative instruments and related documentation
  • legal advice on DVA’s portfolio legislation
  • the conduct of all non-military compensation litigation at tribunals and courts for matters involving claims under the VEA, MRCA and DRCA.

The VRB also has internal staff who provide services of a legal nature.

In 2018–19 the total direct and indirect cost for DVA internal legal services was $5.56 million, compared with $3.82 million in 2017–18.