17 October 2012

Boarding Houses Bill 2012 introduced in the lower house of NSW Parliament

Yesterday in the lower house of the New South Wales Parliament, the Boarding Houses Bill 2012 was introduced. 

Previously I discussed serious issues I had that could potentially affect veterans living in boarding houses in the Exposure Draft bill here and here.  Since my original blog posts I had meetings with state lawmakers and senior government lawyers, to include the bill's proponent, Minister Andrew Constance, MP who is the NSW Minister for Disability Services.

The introduced bill, I am happy to report, has addressed my earlier concerns on unintended consequences to disabled veterans and privacy issues.  This introduced bill is a good bill.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Minister Constance and his chief of staff for looking at the issues I raised and addressing them in the introduced bill.

16 October 2012

U.S. Court of Appeals (DC) reverses Military Commissions' conviction of Hamdan; similar charge against Aussie David Hicks was illegally retrospectively applied

Today the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has reversed the Military Commissions' conviction of Salim Hamdan.  The opinion can be found here.

The reversal of Hamdan's conviction could now affect Australian David Hicks' conviction as invalid.

The D.C. Circuit held, in Hamdan:
Because we read the Military Commissions Act not to sanction retroactive punishment for new crimes, and because material support for terrorism was not a pre-existing war crime under 10 U.S.C. § 821, Hamdan’s conviction for material support for terrorism cannot stand. We reverse the decision of the Court of Military Commission Review and direct that Hamdan’s conviction for material support for terrorism be vacated.
Australia's former top military lawyer retired Air Vice Marshal Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC in 2006, had briefed the Australian Government and had given a legal opinion that the charge against David Hicks could not be applied retrospectively.  However, that opinion was ignored by the then-Howard Government. Further, the Law Council of Australia had issued this report noting:
From the outset, the position of the Australian Government was that David Hicks’ alleged conduct did not amount to an offence in Australia at the time it was committed and that it was not appropriate to introduce laws to retrospectively criminalize his actions. Nonetheless the position of the Australian Government was also that, if the allegations against David Hicks were true, he should be subject to punishment. Thus the inability to prosecute David Hicks in Australia was consistently cited as a reason for refusing to seek his repatriation. The public comments of senior government Ministers reflected the view that, if David Hicks were returned to Australia without facing trial, he would be free, not by virtue of the fact that he had committed no crime in Australia but because of a technicality or loophole which meant only that his conduct was not a crime at the relevant time.
The Law Council report then went onto note:
On 8 March 2007 a written advice was provided by nine eminent lawyers [Peter Vickery QC; Professor Tim McCormack; The Hon. Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC; Professor Hilary Charlesworth; Gavan Griffith AO QC; Professor Andrew Byrnes; Mr. Gideon Boas; Professor Stuart Kaye and Professor Don Rothwell] some with expertise in international law. In essence, that advice concluded that the offence charged against Hicks of providing material support for terrorism under section 950v(25) of the MCA was not a charge constituting a war crime contrary to Law of War. They also opined that the charge was clearly retrospective in its application to Hicks and was a “recently invented and new war crime”. The authors note that retrospective criminal laws are prohibited under Article 1 of the US Constitution. To the extent that it was claimed by the Australian Government that the MCA was some kind of “codification” of existing law, the authors also noted that there are offences under the domestic law of the US and contained in the US Criminal Code and which carry a similar description. However as they point out there are some fundamental differences including the substantial difference in the maximum penalties, the simplification of the elements of the offence, and the fact that the domestic offences were not, at all relevant times, applicable to a foreign national operating outside the territory of the United States as Hicks was.
Mr Hicks waived his right to appeal his conviction pursuant to a plea agreement. However, this may be overcome by the filing of an extraordinary writ petition in the American courts.

01 October 2012

U.S. Army releases August suicide data

Late last week the U.S. Army released suicide data for the month of August 2012. During August, among active-duty soldiers, there were 16 potential suicides: three have been confirmed as suicides and 13 remain under investigation. For July, the Army reported 26 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers: 13 have been confirmed as suicides and 13 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 131 potential active-duty suicides: 80 have been confirmed as suicides and 51 remain under investigation. Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.

During August, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were nine potential suicides (five Army National Guard and four Army Reserve): none have been confirmed as suicide and nine remain under investigation. For July, among that same group, the Army reported 12 potential suicides (nine Army National Guard and three Army Reserve); four have been confirmed as suicides and eight remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 80 potential not on active-duty suicides (49 Army National Guard and 31 Army Reserve): 59 have been confirmed as suicides and 21 remain under investigation. Not on active-duty suicide numbers for 2011: 118 (82 Army National Guard and 36 Army Reserve) confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.

"The loss of any life is a tragedy, and this loss is preventable," said Sergeant Major of the Army Ray Chandler. "As an organization, we've taken huge strides in providing our Soldiers, Department of Army Civilians and Family members the needed resources to aid in suicide prevention, but our work isn't done. Army leaders will continue to do everything we can to reverse these trends.”

28 September 2012

Exercise Talisman Sabre 2013 Public Environment Report released for public comment

The Exercise Talisman Sabre 2013 Public Environment Report has been released for public comment. Exercise Talisman Sabre is held every two years and is the largest combined air, land and sea military training exercise regularly undertaken by the Australian Defence Force in conjunction with forces from the United States. Exercise Talisman Sabre 2013 will be conducted from 15 July to 6 August next year. Its primary aim is to improve training and interoperability between the Australian Defence Force and United States Armed Forces.

Defence will conduct the Exercise in accordance with the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The draft Public Environment Report has been prepared to inform Defence, the Australian public and relevant stakeholders of potential environmental and heritage issues relating to the conduct of Talisman Sabre 13 and mitigation strategies.

All interested community members are encouraged to view the draft Public Environment Report and provide feedback by 26 October 2012. Copies of the draft report as well as supporting fact sheets will be available at local libraries in regions hosting major exercise activity and online here.

A 24 hour a day, seven days a week exercise information line has also been established to provide a direct line of communication to Defence during the public comment period.

24 September 2012

Defence Inquiry into the combat death of Sapper Rowan Robinson finalised

The Australian Department of Defence, via this media release, announced it has finalised the inquiry into the death of Sapper Rowan Robinson in Afghanistan on 6 June 2011.

Sapper Robinson was a Combat Engineer, from the Sydney-based Incident Response Regiment (now called the Special Operations Engineer Regiment), serving with the Special Operations Task Group. He was shot and killed during a small arms engagement with insurgents in southern Afghanistan following the discovery of one of the largest insurgent caches found by Australian Special Forces last year.

He received immediate first aid and was evacuated by helicopter to a nearby International Security Assistance Force medical facility. Despite efforts by combat first aiders and a medical trauma team to save him, Sapper Robinson succumbed to his wounds.

An Inquiry Officer was appointed to examine the circumstances surrounding Sapper Robinson’s death.

The Inquiry Officer made three recommendations in his report.

One of the recommendations was that the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry into Sapper Robinson’s combat death was not warranted. That recommendation has been accepted by the Minister for Defence and the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF).

Defence has accepted the other two recommendations and is taking action to implement them. Details of recommendations that may compromise operational security or affect privacy cannot be publicly released.

Defence has briefed Sapper Robinson’s family on the findings of the Inquiry Officer’s Report into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Minister for Defence Stephen Smith, MP, has weighed the wishes of the family and the public interest in the release of the Report and decided not to release the Inquiry Officer Report into Sapper Robinson’s death.

Sapper Robinson’s loss is still deeply felt by his family. They do not wish to conduct any media interviews and have requested that the media continue to respect their privacy.

[Note:  Rowan, who was fondly known as "Robbo" was awarded posthumous membership at North Bondi RSL Sub-Branch where I serve as its Honorary Secretary.  While I did not personally know Rowan, those who did and who have spoken with me have conveyed that he was quite a special and remarkable young man.  We added Robbo's name to our Honour Roll within our RSL Sub-Branch and Club on the 1st anniversary of his death.  Robbo's memory will live-on at North Bondi RSL through its members and his sacrifice will always be remembered.]

23 September 2012

Retired Major General John Cantwell and PTSD; Aussie Government not prepared to adequately address issues

Last night Channel 7's Sunday Night Show "An Officer and a Gentleman" is worth seeing as Australian Army retired Major General John Cantwell, AO, DSC, discusses his battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

It is my belief that PTSD is a huge issue which is not adequately being addressed by the Australian Government. One of the biggest problems is that the Australian Government routinely permits our soldiers to do so many deployments to war zones.  Young men are doing four to seven tours.  That is taking a real toll on the mental well-being of our forces.  I hope that with MGEN Cantwell's openness on this issue that both lawmakers and the Australian Defence Force leadership in Canberra wake-up to the real effects of PTSD.

At some point, the ADF should, stop sending a soldier back to the same war after four or five deployments.  That soldier, if he wishes to stay in the Army, could then teach new recruits or specialised training.  It would also give the soldier down-time to deal with any potential PTSD.  Sending a soldier back to the same war more than five times is ridiculous.

There will be tsunami of  Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act ("MRCA") claims filed related to PTSD after we leave Afghanistan. The Australian Government is not prepared for this and is somewhat in denial.  The citizens of our great nation aren't really aware of the magnitude of the problem because for the most part the Australian media's head has been in the sand.  Channel 7 should be applauded for this piece of great journalism.

Ex-Service Organisations are working hard and also struggling to put the mechanisms in place to help contemporary veterans of today and prepare for the PTSD tsunami in rehabilitation and compensation claims.  Part of the struggle ESO's have been facing is a shocking lack of interest (or say denial) by the Australian Government in this area with properly funding educational programs. 

Recently the Returned and Services League of Australia ("League") made comments on the Report of the Review of Military Compensation.  The League noted in relation to training pensions officer and advocates, under the Training and Information Program ("TIP") that "the current TIP funding is insufficient to meet this need. TIP resources are already utilised to the maximum for V[eterans] E[ntitlement] A[ct] training and the minimal MRCA training that is now provided. It is not a matter of redirecting TIP training within the current budget, as that would diminish the existing training programs that are still essential for VEA work. It is necessary that further funds be allocated specifically for enhanced MRCA training for those pension officers who would service current and former members who have MRCA eligibility."

The Gillard Government has cut Department of Veterans Affairs-TIP funding.  The way the funding is dispensed is also skewed so that emerging ESO sub-branches who look after serving members and contemporary veterans do not receive any funding.

There are also serious inequities between the MRCA and VEA legislation.  The League argues that it "does not to support the compensation differential for warlike and non-warlike service, as opposed to peacetime service. The differential arose from a misconceived merger of VEA and SRCA impairment compensation payment rates. The warlike/non-warlike rates were based upon the VEA disability pension rates, whereas the peacetime rates were based upon SRCA payment rates. The effect of using the SRCA rate was to lower the level of payment for those members who would have qualified for ‘defence service’ under the VEA. The VEA made no distinction between the rate of disability pension for those who had rendered operational service and those who had rendered peacetime defence service. The RSL considers that there should be the same rate applying under the MRCA as would have applied if the VEA had continued."

Go here to view the League's comments from June 2011.

[Disclaimer:  I am an officeholder with the Returned & Services League of Australia and a Senior Advocate.]





Four published decisions issues from AAT on military and veterans' compensation claims

There have been several recently published decisions issued from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on military/veterans compensation claims.  They are:   

Cross and Repatriation Commission
[2012] AATA 632; 20/09/2012; Senior Member A. K. Britton, Dr H Haikal-Mukhtar, Member
War widow’s pension – whether death of veteran was war-caused – whether veteran’s smoking habit was war-caused – requires more than a temporal connection – not satisfied to requisite standard – decision under review affirmed


Walker and Repatriation Commission 
[2012] AATA 630; 20/09/2012; Senior Member G. D. Friedman
Veterans' entitlements - lumbar spondylosis and lumbar spondylolisthesis - entering and exiting aircraft - whether war-caused - decision under review affirmed
 
Trinder and Repatriation Commission 
[2012] AATA 624; 18/09/2012; Professor R. M. Creyke, Senior Member
Veterans' entitlements - application for Gold Card - qualifying service - operational service - allotment - instrument of allotment - unofficial involvement - evidence of allotment - decision under review is affirmed
 
Smith and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
[2012] AATA 618; 14/09/2012; Professor RM Creyke, Senior Member
Military Rehabilitation and Compensation - accepted injury in course of duty - definition of difficulty - assessment under table 9.5 - assessment under table 9.5 - correct method of calculation - normal healthy person - impairment - pain

17 September 2012

Institute of Medicine study shows that alcohol abuse by American military personnel is a "public health crisis"

A 410 page report was just released today entitled "Substance Use Disorders in the U.S. Armed Forces" by the Institute of Medicine.  The study, which was conducted at the behest of the U.S. Department of Defense ("DoD"), shows there is a "public health crisis" in the use of alcohol among troops and their families. 

The report notes:
  • Troops have increased binge drinking in a decade by 12 percent (going from 35 percent in 1998 to 47 percent in 2008).
  • In 2008 nearly 20 percent of troops reported they had engaged in heavy drinking (five or more drinks per drinking session).
  • DoD programs have not modernized to address contemporary substance abuse issues.
A four page report brief concludes that "grappling with the public health crisis of substance use and misuse within the ranks of the armed forces will require the DoD to consistently implement prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment services and take leadership for ensuring that these services expand and improve." 

At the time of the publishing of this post DoD had not issued any press releases regarding the study.

14 September 2012

Administrative Appeals Tribunal issues decision in Green and Repatriation Commission

Today the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal issued a decision in Green and Repatriation Commission [2012] AATA 619 (14 September 2012) affirming the original decision.  The issues in the case were whether the condition affecting an Army veteran's eye, including chorioretinal scarring and visual field defects, were defence-caused.

Green for the most part involves section 70 of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 and specifically the "but for" test outlined in section 70(5)(c) in which an injury may be deemed to be a defence-caused injury or a disease may be deemed to be a defence-caused disease if the member’s incapacity “was due to an accident that would not have occurred, or to a disease that would not have been contracted, but for his or her having rendered defence service..., or but for changes in the member’s environment consequent upon his or her having rendered any such service” within the terms of section 70(7).

The Tribunal, Member Simon Webb, found that Green did not present evidence to establish that section 70(5)(c) is satisfied in the case relying on two Federal Court cases of Holthouse v Repatriation Commission [1982] FCA 113; Repatriation Commission v Law (1980) 31 ALR 140 at 151.

Concerning the "arise out of, or attributable to" prong of section 70(5)(a) the Tribunal found it was not satisfied.  The Tribunal rejected reliance upon Langley v Repatriation Commission [1993] FCA 299 and Johnston v Commonwealth [1982] HCA 54 holding that the binding principles set out in those two cases did not assist in the instant case. Further that Green is distinguished from that of Re Repatriation Commission and Wicking [1987] AATA 358, "in which Mr Wicking was required to live on base and slipped and fell in a shower, injuring his left shoulder and arm. In that case the mechanism of injury and the connexion with Mr Wicking’s defence service were very clear, even though Mr Wicking was off-duty. In this case they are not."

12 September 2012

Accelerated citizenship for families of Australian Defence recruits

The Australian Government’s amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 will now allow for fast-tracking of Australian citizenship for certain family members of overseas lateral recruits to the Australian Defence Force ("ADF"). The amendments come into effect on 1 January 2013.

Family members of current and future lateral recruits to the ADF are now eligible for conferral of Australian citizenship at the same time as the lateral recruit, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, MP, and the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, MP, announced today in a press release.

In order to qualify, the overseas lateral recruit must be granted a certain visa after 1 July 2007 and undertake 90 days service in either the permanent or reserve forces of the Navy, Army or Air Force.

Family members of overseas lateral recruits who were granted the same visa on or after 1 July 2007 can take advantage of these amendments when they come into effect. Further information is available online at www.citizenship.gov.au

10 September 2012

September is Suicide Prevention Month

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in recognition of September as Suicide Prevention Month, is calling on individuals and communities across the country to show their support for veterans in crisis and help raise awareness of the VA mental health services veterans have earned. The theme for the outreach campaign, “Stand by Them,” is part of a joint VA and Department of Defense ("DoD") effort focused on veteran and servicemember support networks, especially their friends and family members, who may be the first to realize a veteran or servicemember is in crisis.

“History shows that the costs of war will continue to grow for a decade or more after the wars have ended,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The mental health and well-being of our brave men and women who have served the Nation is the highest priority for the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Throughout September and beyond, VA is partnering with the DoD and other agencies, while urging community-based organizations, Veterans Service Organizations, health care providers, private companies to stand by Veterans and Servicemembers. These groups can educate their networks—including Veterans’ and Servicemembers’ friends and family members—about recognizing suicide risk and encouraging those at risk to call the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255  and Press 1), chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net or text to 838255.

On 31 August 2012, President Obama issued an historic Executive Order to improve mental health services for veterans, servicemembers and military families. As directed in the Executive Order, VA and DoD launched the joint “Stand by Them” outreach campaign. VA is also increasing the workforce of the crisis line by 50 percent and hiring 1,600 new mental health professionals and 300 support staff.

Federal Court issues decision in Jones v Chief of Navy and rejects argument of trial by jury under s 80 of Constitution in service offences

The Federal Court of Australia has issued its decision in Jones v. Chief of Navy [2012] FCAFC, dismissing the appeal and ordering former Lieutenant Commander John Alan Jones to pay costs.

In November 2011 Jones was arraigned before a General Court-Martial ("GCM") on nine counts of committing an indecent act without consent in violation of the section 61(3) of the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982. Jones pleaded not guilty, but the GCM found him guilty in December 2011 on seven of the nine counts.

One of the nine grounds for appeal was:
Whether the [Defence Force Disciplinary Appeal] Tribunal erred in failing to find that the service offences upon which the appellant was convicted are offences against the law of the Commonwealth being indictable offences, based on the provisions applicable to and the form of the charges signed by the Director of Military Prosecutions, to which the appellant was entitled to trial by jury under s 80 of the Constitution, regardless of whether the trial was an exercise of the judicial power of the Commonwealth, such that there was a material irregularity occasioning a substantial miscarriage of justice (cf s 23(1)(c) of the DFDA Act; Ground 12 of the Further Amended Notice of Appeal to the DFDAT).
The Federal Court rejected this ground noting that section 80 of the Constitution does not operate to require a trial by jury of the offences to which Jones was charged and citing Re Tracey at 545 and 570; Re Nolan; Ex parte Young [1991] HCA 29; (1991) 172 CLR 460 at 480; Re Tyler; Ex parte Foley [1994] HCA 25; (1994) 181 CLR 18 (Re Tyler) at 28-29. 

Further the Federal Court noted that "the framers of the Constitution discussed [section 80] would be defeated if a statute which creates an offence but does not say that the offence is to be prosecuted on indictment were to be interpreted as if it did and thereby attract the operation of section 80 of the Constitution."


08 September 2012

Back to blogging after the National Tribunal Advocacy Course at University of Canberra . . .

I have been absent in blogging for a few weeks because I had been selected to attend the Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs National Tribunal Advocacy Course ("TAC") at the ANZSOG Institute for Governance at the University of Canberra.  Upon my selection, I was loaded-up on pre-course study.  I completed pre-course study and then the seven (full on) day (and nightly homework) course on Friday, 7 September 2012.

The TAC was excellent.  It took me out of my comfort zone.  I was chosen along with my team mate, Squizzy, to represent the Repatriation Commission in the fictitious case of Mr Harkirk, a Vietnam Veteran, who was appealing review of a Veterans Review Board decision to deny him certain claims. We had a mock hearing before Administrative Appeals Tribunal Senior Member Katherine Bean of Adelaide. 

Squizzy and I learned a lot - we shall always remember the "alone test" outlined in section 24(1)(c) of the Veterans Entitlement Act  ("VEA") 1986. Our quite capable opponents, Adrian and Phil, did a great job at representing the fictitious Mr Harkirk.  Squizz so eloquently told the TAC Director that till the day they put nails in his box he will always remember the "alone test."  I must concur with my new friend and colleague Squizz.

The majority of my pro bono advocacy for the Returned & Services League of Australia is in Military Rehabilitation & Compensation Act 2004 ("MRCA") cases for serving members of the Australian Defence Force and veterans; so I am not used to cases under the VEA 1986.  In MRCA there is no "alone test" in the determination as it later falls into the benefits portion.  Thus I found the "alone test" in a determination to be complicated and I'm still trying to get my head fully around it.  During the exercise we were boot-strapped from conducting outside research and could only rely upon Flentjar v Repatriation Commission.  I was later told that even barristers and Federal judges have a difficult time understanding the "alone test" in the context of determinations. 

Some of our classmates indicated to us that the "Squizzy and Norbert Show" was entertaining.  I could only hope that one day Squizzy and I can team up again to work on a case together.  At the end of the course Squizz assured the TAC Director that this would be the only time in his life that he would ever be representing the Government. [Squizz does advocacy for veterans out of Townsville, QLD.]  I agree Squizz, and that is precisely why it took both of us out of our comfort zones in representing the Government and not the veteran. I like you mate, are more suited to represent the veteran.

Professor Hugh Selby's teachings will have a lifelong lasting affect on my advocacy abilities - especially the art of cross-examination and the formation of short closed questions.  (Squizz remember:  Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.)  Also the art of subtle sarcasm after successfully impeaching a witness in cross.  I have been assured by Professor Selby that "even with that [American] accent it will be OK." 

The art of narrowing ones electronic searches, taught by Assistant Professor Arthur Hoyle, will also always be remembered.  Applying his teachings when doing research will be most helpful in getting relevant information quickly.

TAC Class of 2012 had 16 classmates, from all over the country, with various backgrounds - senior advocates, barristers, solicitors, and law school graduates.  Eight were from the Australian Government, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the other eight were from Ex-Service Organisations.

This was an excellent course and I highly recommend and encourage advocates who wish to practice in veterans matters before the AAT to apply to attend the course in 2013.  Be assured this course will take you out of your comfort zone, ensure performance in a teamwork setting, places pressure upon you and your teammate that exposes your weaknesses (in order to make you better) and enhances your strengths, and requires a lot of homework at night (with some sleepless nights).  It was much more than I ever expected and I believe it will make me a better advocate because I completed the course. And it was great to network with fellow colleagues. 

I want to also note that this course is very friendly for those who suffer disabilities - at least two of us had back problems.  The freedom to stand-up, sit-down or lay-down during instruction was most helpful to those of us who suffer back problems given the long day.  So if you are an advocate, who does have a disability, please do not let that hinder you from applying to attend this course.  The instructors were truly amazing - despite putting the pressure on us to perform.

Atlas I'm glad to be back home in Sydney and blogging.

[John Printz, the National Chairman of DVA-TIP, is most certainly congratulated for this superb course as is Course Director Ted Harrison who is the Director of Litigation for DVA. I would also like to acknowledge the entire DVA-TIP training team. And say thank you!]

21 August 2012

Review released into the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force

Today the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Review into the Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force was tabled in the Australian House of Representatives.

Led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, and included panel members Marian Baird, Sam Mostyn, Mark Ney and Damian Powell, the review was the second phase of a review into the treatment of women at the Australian Defence Force Academy, or ADFA.

21 recommendations covering five key principles are included in the Review that that aim to:
  1. Actively promote a broad organisational understanding of diversity as both a core Defence value and an operational imperative linked to capability and operational effectiveness;
  2. Address the significant under-representation of women at decision making level;
  3. Increase the number of women recruited to the ADF as a whole, but also to specific occupational areas and units;
  4. Improve the level to which the ADF assists serving women and men to balance their work and family commitments; and
  5. Establish a new and more robust approach to responding to unacceptable sexual behaviours and attitudes.
Phase One of the Review – into the Treatment of Women at ADFA – was tabled in Parliament on 3 November 2011.

The panel noted widespread, low-level sexual harassment, inadequate levels of supervision, a cumbersome complaints process and an equity and diversity environment marked by sanction rather than positive engagement.

Also identified in the Review was that ADFA’s culture could be improved and the panel recommended improvements to issues including providing quality staffing at ADFA, management of complaints, accommodation for students and mechanisms to better manage the risk of injury to female cadets. 

President Obama and GOP Presidential Candidate Romney: Should military servicemembers have equal access to the United States Supreme Court?

Former Master Sergeant John Hatley
The recent media attention of former U.S. Army Master Sergeant John Hatley who is seeking review of his court-martial conviction in the Supreme Court of the United States, or SCOTUS, warrants the mainstream media to ask President Obama and Republican Presidential Candidate Romney the following question:

Should military servicemembers have equal access to the Supreme Court of the United States that civilians, illegal immigrants and even enemy combatants enjoy?

If not, why not?

Under existing federal law, Title 28 United States Code section 1259, Hatley has absolutely no right to access the high court because the nation's top military court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, or CAAF, (also known as an Article I court) did not grant review of his case or relief in his petition.  In those circumstances where the CAAF does not grant review or relief to a servicemember SCOTUS simply does not exist.  CAAF functions as the gatekeeper to SCOTUS unlike other appellate courts in the nation. 

Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have introduced legislation in the House and Senate, Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2011.  In previous Congresses Republicans led by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), have opposed the idea of servicemembers being afforded equal access to SCOTUS.  The GOP argument is that SCOTUS would be too burdened by petitions.

The Congressional Research Service has also written a paper on the issue which can be found here.  Following this CRS paper, in March 2011, bills to correct the inequity were introduced in both houses of the 112 Congress.  But Republicans, as with previous Congresses (109th, 110th, 111th Congresses), have blocked any attempts to getting it passed.

I am most keen to know what the position of the Democrat and Republican nominees for President of the United States are on this issue. 

19 August 2012

Post 9/11 GI-Bill turns four years old

August marks the third anniversary of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and since it was implemented Aug. 1, 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has provided educational benefits to 773,000 Veterans and their family members.

“This is one of the most important programs helping our Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans reach their educational goals,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We’re proud this important benefit is making such a big difference in the lives of so many Veterans.”

The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays tuition and fees on behalf of Veterans or eligible dependents directly to the school in which they are enrolled. Eligible participants also receive a monthly housing allowance and up to $1000 annually for books and supplies. The program also allows eligible Servicemembers to transfer their benefits to their spouses and/or children.

The program provides a wide range of educational options, including undergraduate and graduate degrees, vocational/technical training, on-the-job training, flight training, correspondence training, licensing and national testing programs, entrepreneurship training, and tutorial assistance. All training programs must be approved for GI Bill benefits.

July U.S. Army suicide statistics released

Last week the U.S. Army released suicide data for the month of July. During July, among active-duty soldiers, there were 26 potential suicides: one has been confirmed as suicide and 25 remain under investigation. For June, the Army reported 11 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers; since the release of that report, one case has been added for a total of 12 cases: two have been confirmed as suicides and 10 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 116 potential active-duty suicides: 66 have been confirmed as suicides and 50 remain under investigation. Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.

This week in Congress (20 August 2012)

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress and in Commissions:

Congress is is in its summer recess and will resume on 10 September 2012. 

__________________

For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts & Tribunals (20 August 2012)

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012 [Provisons]
Committee Room 2S3, Parliament House, 1630 - 1800 hours


High Court of Australia

The High Court next sits on 4 September 2012. 

Federal Court of Australia

Queensland Registry

QUD364/2012Peter Besson v Repatriation Commission,
Judicial ReviewDirections0930 hours

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT next sits on 30 and 31 August 2012.


Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Monday, 20 August 2012

 Australian Capital Territory Registry

2011/5244 RE Van Ash and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission

2012/1586 RE Rudd and Repatriation Commission

New South Wales Registry

2011/3252 RE Reed and Repatriation Commission
2011/3833 RE Roche and Repatriation Commission

Queensland Registry

2012/0496 RE Bretherton and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
2012/0498 RE Bretherton and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission 
2012/1043 RE Scott and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
2011/4198 RE Robertson and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
2012/1981 RE Robertson and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
2012/2061 RE Hansen and Repatriation Commission
2012/2203 RE Robertson and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
2012/2204 RE Robertson and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
2011/2215 RE Capper and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission

09 August 2012

American military funerals to receive protection from protesters

Earlier this week President Obama signed a veterans benefits bill, Honoring American Veterans Act of 2011, HR 1627, which included a provision to protect military funerals from protesters. 

The driving force behind the provision of military funerals was New Hampshire Republican Congressman Charles Bass.  In a press release on his website today, Congressman Bass states the "measure will preserve the dignity of these somber events while still protecting the First Amendment rights that our nation's heroes have fought and died for. I am very encouraged that Congress can come together to enact a bipartisan measure for the men and women who have served our country and especially for their families, and I thank the President for signing it into law this week."

Rep. Bass' measure will strengthen federal regulations currently in place by:
  • Increasing the quiet time before and after military funeral services during which disruptive protests are prohibited from 60 minutes to 120 minutes;
  • Increasing the buffer around a military funeral service from 300 feet to 500 feet and increasing the buffer around access routes to a funeral service area from 150 feet to 300 feet;
  • And by increasing civil penalties on violators.
The Westboro Baptist Church ("WBC") held a protest in 2007 at the funeral of Army Captain Jonathan Grassbaugh from Hampstead, NH who was killed by an Improvised Explosion Devise, or IED, while serving in the U.S. Army on patrol in Iraq. Although Grassbaugh was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, his funeral services were held in Hampstead and were protested by members of the WBC.

07 August 2012

First Gulf War veterans receive support from U.S. Dept of Veterans' Affairs

It has been 22 years since the start of the 1990-1991 Gulf War which comprises the deployment and combat operations known as Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Almost 700,000 Servicemembers were deployed during this period. Those veterans who have enrolled in the VA health care system have made over 2 million outpatient visits for health care and had over 20,000 inpatient admissions in the VA health care system according to a VA press release.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs has not forgotten the service and dedication of Gulf War veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We continue to provide high-quality health care and benefits to them while we invest in research that helps us understand and treat Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses.”

In support of care and services to the veterans of the first Gulf War, VA has led efforts to better understand and characterize Gulf War veterans’ illnesses and to improve treatment. Research initiatives have included:
  • Funding an independent Institute of Medicine (IOM) review of scientific and medical research related to treatment of chronic multi-symptom illness among Gulf War Veterans. The report is expected in 2013.
  • Funding and encouraging a wide spectrum of research focused on identifying new treatments to help Gulf War Veterans, including studies on pain, muscle and bone disorders, autoimmune disease, neurodegenerative disease, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory problems, and other chronic diseases. Research is ongoing in other conditions, as well, that may affect Gulf War Veterans, such as brain cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS), and multiple sclerosis.
  • Launching in May 2012, the third follow-up study of a national cohort of Gulf War and Gulf War Era Veterans (earlier studies were conducted in 1995 and 2005; the health surveys are done to understand possible health effects of service and guide health care delivery).
  • Continuing the clinical, research, and education activities of the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center program which focuses on post-deployment health.
For more information on Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses, see: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/

06 August 2012

This week in Congress (6 August 2012)

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress and in Commissions:

Congress is is in its summer recess and will resume on 10 September 2012. 

__________________

For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

05 August 2012

This week in Parliament, Courts & Tribunals (6 August 2012)

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Both Houses of Parliament are in recess for the winter break. The House and Senate next sit on 14 August 2012.  However, there are Committee hearings occurring during the recess:

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

House and Senate Joint Public Works Committee
Proposed development and construction of housing for Defence members and their families at Kellyville, Sydney, NSW
Springfield House Function Centre, Dural, 1030 - 1130 hours

Thursday, 9 August 2012

House and Senate Joint Public Works Committee
Moorebank units relocation, Holsworthy, NSW
Comfort Inn, Casula, NSW, 1430 - 1630 hours

Friday, 10 August 2012

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012 [Provisions]
CANBERRA: Committee Room 2R1, Parliament House, Time TBA

House and Senate Joint Public Works Committee
Base Infrastructure Works Project under the Base Security Improvement Program
Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney, 1300 - 1500 hours
The Department of Defence's submission can be found here.

High Court of Australia

The High Court sits this week but none of the cases involve the subject matter of this blog. 

Federal Court of Australia

There are no cases being heard this week in the Federal Court involving the subject matter of this blog.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT sits on 30 and 31 August 2012.

Veterans' Review Board

For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

03 August 2012

Submission on New South Wales' Draft Boarding Houses Bill 2012

Today I made an amended submission on the New South Wales' Exposure Draft Boarding Houses Bill 2012.   Below is that amended submission:

Louise Blazejowska
Senior Legal Officer
Boarding House Reform Team
Ageing, Disability and Homecare
NSW Department of Family and Community Services
Level 4
83 Clarence Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Re:       Amended Submission of Partial Opposition to Exposure Draft Boarding Houses Bill 2012; Suggested Remedial Language

Dear Ms Blazejowska:

My original submission was made on 1 August 2012.  I respectfully request that this amended submission be accepted following discussions on Thursday, 2 August 2012, with a senior staffer in Minister Andrew Constance’s office.  This amended submission better clarifies issues between tier 1 and 2 boarding houses.  Furthermore it fully addresses the three elements in the definition of “vulnerable person” which I believe, as presently written in the draft legislation, is overly broad and will cast a wide and far reaching net in that anyone on a disability pension will be defined as a “vulnerable person” to include me.  

First, I am physically disabled in that I sustained a spinal cord injury in the mid-1990s which left me, inter alia, with partial paralysis in my lower extremities.

Second, I am a fifth generation Australian citizen and a United States Navy veteran who served during the First Gulf War.  Following my last spinal surgery in 2009, and subsequently being classified as “permanently medically unfit” (Class 4) by the Australian Defence Force[1] when I was a candidate for the Royal Australian Air Force, I began receiving a disability pension pursuant to an international agreement between the U.S. and Australia.

Third, I would like to emphasize, that because I sit on various veterans’, service and ex-service organisation boards and committees within Australia, I make this submission strictly in my personal capacity as a registered voter in the State of New South Wales (“NSW”) and nothing I state herein should be imputed to anyone but me.

In NSW there is an estimated 455 boarding houses, accommodating over 5,000 residents. Of these, 31 are Licenced Residential Centres (“LRC”) also known as tier 2 boarding houses, with a capacity to accommodate 687 people.[2] The remainder 424 boarding houses are tier 1.[3]

02 August 2012

Magazine editor and former Member of Parliament named to ANZAC Centenary Advisory Board

Today the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of ANZAC, Warren Snowdon, MP, announced the appointment of Ms Deborah Thomas and the Honourable Arch Bevis to the Australian ANZAC Centenary Advisory Board.

Ms Thomas is currently the Director of Media, Public Affairs and Brand Development at ACP Magazines. "Ms Thomas is one of Australia's best known and successful magazine editors and her skills will be of great value to the Board," Mr Snowdon said.

Mr Bevis is a former federal Member of Parliament. Over his 20-year parliamentary career, he held various responsibilities engaged in Defence and related roles including serving as Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, chair of the Parliamentary Joint Defence Committee and also chair of the Joint Security and Intelligence Committee.

 "Given Mr Bevis' background, I know he will have much to contribute to the Board and the many issues it has under consideration," said Mr Snowdon.

The two new appointments come on the heals of two resignations of Ms Liz Ellis AM and the Hon Con Sciacca AO from the Board.

"Ms Ellis has been on maternity leave and has indicated that her current commitments preclude her from fully participating in the Board," Mr Snowdon said.

01 August 2012

ADF search warrants clarification

The Australian Department of Defence has examined an allegation published in articles by Mr Ian McPhedran of News Ltd dated 28 July 2012 titled, Defence Force investigators use illegal warrant, and 31 July 2012 titled, Black eye triggered an illegal inquiry.

Both articles claim that a search warrant used by Defence investigators was unlawful because the warrant and the affidavit supporting it were signed by two different senior officers.  Defence claims this assertion is wrong at law – the affidavit and the warrant do not have to be signed by the same person and in most instances can and will be signed by different people. The purpose of the affidavit supporting a ‘proposed search warrant’ is to provide the person approving the search warrant the basis upon which the search warrant is sought.

In a prepared statement, Defence states that "as the search warrants for which the author refers are part of Briefs of Evidence which are the subject of ongoing investigations and trials, it is inappropriate to comment any further."

30 July 2012

NSW Boarding House Bill 2012 will likely violate the privacy and human rights of veterans receiving disability pensions

It has come to my attention today that the New South Wales ("NSW") Parliament is considering a draft piece of legislation entitled "Boarding House Bill 2012" and that, if passed, will most certainly affect veterans within NSW who receive any type of disability pension and who may live in a boarding house within NSW.

To view the draft bill go here.  Public comment time is due to expire on 10 August 2012.

There are very serious issues in this draft legislation that I believe will violate the privacy and human rights of veterans. Further, this bill has the potential of causing discrimination against veterans who live in a boarding house situation and who receive any Commonwealth disability pension assistance.

Below I outline some of the areas of major concern:

1) The definition of “vulnerable person” listed in section 34 would now include a person receiving “a special rate disability pension under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 of the Commonwealth; any other pension or other payment of a kind prescribed by the regulation.”

2) The draft legislation then seeks to turn a boarding house, under section 35, into a “residential centre for vulnerable people” if there are two or more of “vulnerable persons” in the premises.

22 July 2012

Australia establishes new medal: Australian Operational Service Medal

Australian Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, MP, along with Royal Australian Navy's top officer Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, AO, CSC, RAN announced the establishment of the Australian Operational Service Medal ("OSM") at HMAS Coonawarra following its establishment by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 22 May 2012.

The OSM was a recommendation of the 2007/08 Defence Honours, Awards and Commendations Policy Review and the Government agreed to establish the OSM as a result and the intent is the OSM will be awarded instead of the Australian Active Service Medal and Australian Service Medal for all new Defence operations.

“This is our way of acknowledging the tough and dangerous work hundreds of men and women in our defence forces carry out protecting Australia,” Mr Snowdon said in a press release.

Different versions of OSM ribbons will represent the different operations people have deployed on, instead of specific campaign medals, and will link recognition of the type of service done by both Australian Defence Force (ADF) and eligible civilians through two variants.

This week in Congress (23 July 2012)

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress and in Commissions:

Wednesday, 25 July 2012
Joint Committee on Armed Services and Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Witnesses:
The Honorable Leon E. Panetta
Secretary of Defense

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
 
__________________

For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (23 July 2012)

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Both Houses of Parliament are in recess for the winter break. The House and Senate next sit on 14 August 2012.  However, there are Committee hearings occurring during the recess:

Friday, 27 July 2012

House Economics Committee
Inquiry into the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Exposure Draft Bills

Committee Room 2R1, Parliament House, Canberra, 0915 - 1500 hours
* The subject involves oversight of charities including Ex-Service Organisations.


High Court of Australia

The High Court is in recess for the winter break and will resume on 7 August 2012

Federal Court of Australia

There are no cases being heard this week in the Federal Court involving the subject matter of this blog.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT sits on 30 and 31 August 2012.

Veterans' Review Board

For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

19 July 2012

13 new community-based outpatient U.S. Dep't of Veterans Affairs clinics to be opened within the next three years

The U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs today announced plans to open 13 new community-based outpatient clinics in nine states.

“Community-based clinics are key to providing Veterans better access to high-quality care closer to home,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “By reducing the distance Veterans have to travel, we hope more veterans will benefit from the health care services they have earned through their service to our Nation.”

With 152 medical centers and more than 812 community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs), the department operates the largest integrated health care system in the country. VA will provide health care to about 6.1 million patients in fiscal year 2012 and 80 million outpatient visits.

The first of the new CBOCs will become operational during the latter part of 2012, with openings continuing through 2015. Local VA officials will keep their veterans and communities informed of the progress of the new CBOCs.

Below is a list of the new community clinics planned:

Arizona – Northeast Phoenix/Maricopa (2012/2013)
Georgia – Tifton/Tift (2012/2013)
Kansas – Lenexa/Johnson County (2013)
Maryland – St. Mary’s (2013)
Missouri – Marshfield/Webster (2013), Platte City/Platte (2012/2013), Springfield/Greene (2015)
North Carolina – Sanford/Lee (2012/2013)
Ohio – Georgetown/Brown (2012/2013)
Oregon – Portland Metro South/Clackamas (2012/2013), Grants Pass/Josephine (2012/2013)
Pennsylvania – Huntingdon (2013), Indiana (2013)

16 July 2012

Veterans get boost to health and wellbeing initiatives from Australian government

Today the Australian Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, MP, announced funding for 62 projects that will benefit the health and welfare of veterans across Australia.

Mr Snowdon said the funding is part of the Australian Government’s Veteran & Community Grants program, which provides support for ex-service and community organisations.

“I am pleased to announce $555,589 has been allocated towards 62 projects around the country that help veterans, war widows and widowers lead healthier and more fulsome lives,” he said.

“This funding will assist a range of initiatives and activities, from undertaking bus trips to reduce social isolation, to purchasing equipment to produce community newsletters and enhance social activities.”

Organisations interested in applying for funding are encouraged to visit here or contact their nearest DVA office on 133 254 (metropolitan callers) or 1800 555 254.

13 July 2012

June 2012 suicide data released by U.S. Army


The U.S. Army released suicide data for the month of June 2012. During June, among active-duty soldiers, there were 11 potential suicides: one has been confirmed as suicide and 10 remain under investigation. For May, the Army reported 16 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers: five have been confirmed as suicides and 11 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 89 potential active-duty suicides: 48 have been confirmed as suicides and 41 remain under investigation. Active-duty suicide number for 2011: 165 (confirmed as suicides and no cases remain under investigation).

During June, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 12 potential suicides (10 Army National Guard and two Army Reserve): none have been confirmed as suicides and 12 remain under investigation. For May, among that same group, the Army reported nine potential suicides (two Army National Guard and seven Army Reserve): two have been confirmed as suicides and seven remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 58 potential not on active-duty suicides (36 Army National Guard and 22 Army Reserve): 34 have been confirmed as suicides and 24 remain under investigation. Not on active-duty suicide numbers for 2011: 118 (82 Army National Guard and 36 Army Reserve) confirmed as suicides and no cases remain under investigation.

“Suicide is a soldier, family and institutional tragedy that all of us must work together to defeat. In the Army Reserve, I have asked our leaders to focus on a very basic tenet of leadership -- know your soldiers, civilians, and their families. Remind them that they are part of the Army family, and as a family we will address the challenges and stresses of life together,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, chief of Army Reserve and commanding general, U.S. Army Reserve Command.

10 July 2012

Australian Defence Dep't releases DLA Piper report into sexual allegations

This afternoon the Australian Defence Force, or ADF, released the first portion of the law firm DLA Piper's report into allegations of sexual abuse within the ADF.   The report, which is redacted and 1,567 pages, can be found here.  I will peruse the report over the next day and provide a synopsis by Friday.

09 July 2012

Safety concerns ground Aussie Army Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter fleet

The Army's fleet of Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters ("ARH") has been suspended from flying operations as a safety precaution according to a press release from the Australian Defence Force post late last month.

This follows the precautionary landing of an aircraft at the Shoalwater Bay training area on 25 June, after the aircraft’s two-man crew detected fumes in the cockpit.

The aircraft landed safely with no injuries to the crew, or further damage to the aircraft.
Defence is investigating the cause of the fumes.

08 July 2012

This week in Congress . . . (9 July 2012_


The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress and in Commissions:

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

House Armed Services Committee - Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Rayburn House Office Building - 2118 - 1500 hours
Witnesses:
Mr. David S. Sedney
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia
U.S. Department of Defense

Ambassador Kenneth Moorefield
Deputy Inspector General for Special Plans and Operations
U.S. Department of Defense

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

House Veterans' Affairs Committee


334 Cannon House Office Building Washington, DC - 1000 hours


House Armed Services Committee - Subcommittee on Readiness



Rayburn House Office Building - 2212- 1100 hours

Witnesses:
Governor Terry Branstad
Iowa

Lieutenant General Christopher D. Miller, USAF
Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Programs, A8
U.S. Department of the Air Force

Major General Timothy J. Lowenberg, USAF
The Adjutant General
Washington State

House Armed Services Committee -Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities

Rayburn House Office Building - 2118- 1530 hours

Witnesses:
Dr. Jacqueline K. Davis
Executive Vice President
Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis

Dr. Christopher J. Lamb
Distinguished Research Fellow, Center for Strategic Research
Institute for National Security Studies

National Defense University
Ms. Linda Robinson
Adjunct Senior Fellow
Council on Foreign Relations

__________________

For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts & Tribunals (9 July 2012)

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Both Houses of Parliament are in recess for the winter break. The House and Senate next sit on 14 August 2012.  However, there are Committee hearings occurring during the recess:

Monday, 9 July 2012

House and Senate Joint Public Works Committee
Proposed development and construction of housing for Defence members and their families at weston Creek, ACT

Committee Room 1R3, Parliament House, Canberra, 1030 -1130 hours


High Court of Australia

The High Court is in recess for the winter break and will resume on 7 August 2012

Federal Court of Australia

There are no cases being heard this week in the Federal Court involving the subject matter of this blog.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT sits on 30 and 31 August 2012.

Veterans' Review Board

For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

05 July 2012

Changes to Aussie DVA pay summaries

Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs, or DVA, clients who received a payment from DVA during the 2011-12 financial year will be sent a Payment Summary, which will include both taxable and tax exempt payments.

The summary will provide all the necessary information to assist DVA clients who need to complete a tax return. Previously DVA Payment Summaries contained only taxable payments and clients who needed to declare tax exempt payments had to contact DVA to obtain this information.

If you previously received a Medicare Levy Exemption certificate but receive a tax exempt payment from DVA, your Medicare Levy Exemption days will now be included on your Payment Summary.

Receiving a Payment Summary from DVA does not automatically mean that you need to complete a tax return. This will depend on your income from all sources over the financial year.
If you have any queries about completing a tax return:
  • Contact the ATO on 132 861 during business hours,
  • Refer to the TaxPack, or
  • Visit www.ato.gov.au

6 missing U.S. Airmen from Vietnam War finally identified and given full military honors


Today the Department of Defense Prisoner of War ("POW")/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced that the remains of six servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, were recently identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Air Force Col. Joseph Christiano of Rochester, N.Y.; Col. Derrell B. Jeffords of Florence, S.C.; Lt. Col. Dennis L. Eilers of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Chief Master Sgt. William K. Colwell of Glen Cove, N.Y.; Chief Master Sgt. Arden K. Hassenger of Lebanon, Ore.; and Chief Master Sgt. Larry C. Thornton of Idaho Falls, Idaho, will be buried as a group in a single casket representing the entire crew on July 9 in Arlington National Cemetery. On Dec. 24, 1965, the crew was aboard an AC-47D aircraft nicknamed “Spooky” that failed to return from a combat strike mission in southern Laos. After a “mayday” signal was sent, all contact was lost with the crew. Following the crash, two days of search efforts for the aircraft and crew were unsuccessful.

In 1995, a joint United States-Lao People’s Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) team investigated a crash in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Local villagers recalled seeing a two-propeller aircraft, similar to an AC-47D, crash in December 1965. A local man found aircraft wreckage in a nearby field while farming, and led the team to that location. The team recovered small pieces of aircraft wreckage at that time and recommended further investigative visits.

Joint U.S.-L.P.D.R. investigation and recovery teams re-visited the site four times from 1999 to 2001. They conducted additional interviews with locals, recovered military equipment, and began an excavation. No human remains were recovered, so the excavation was suspended pending additional investigation.

In 2010, joint U.S.-L.P.D.R. recovery teams again excavated the crash site. The team recovered human remains, personal items, and military equipment. Three additional excavations in 2011 recovered additional human remains and evidence.

Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command used dental records and circumstantial evidence in the identification of their remains.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1420.

Sgt Diddams farewelled by the Special Operations Task Group in Tarin Kot

Members of the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) farewelled Australian Army Sergeant Blaine Diddams in a moving memorial service at Camp Russell today.

Sergeant Diddams was shot during an engagement with insurgents on Tuesday, while on a mission targeting an insurgent commander who was known to be in the Chorah region at the time.

SOTG Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel J, paid tribute to a well-respected and highly experienced Special Forces soldier during the service in Tarin Kot, Afghanistan.

“Today we farewelled a husband and father, a mate and brother who will be forever missed but never forgotten,” Lieutenant Colonel J said.

“He died doing what he loved in the only way he knew how – to lead his men from the front. Blaine was the relaxed professional whose quick wit and sense of humour could turn a smile in even the worst of situations."
 
“He was a devoted father and husband who lived life to the fullest. He thrived on adventure and time with his mates and he was the type of person that if you were in trouble or on a winning streak, you wanted to share the experience with,” he said.

The Memorial Service was held in Camp Russell at Multi-National Base – Tarin Kot, before his casket was moved to a waiting Australian C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Soldiers from SOTG along with Australian, Afghan and coalition forces personnel lined the route to salute as the casket carrying their comrade passed to begin his journey home to Australia.

The Commander of Australian Defence Forces in the Middle East, Major General Stuart Smith, said the loss of Sergeant Diddams was deeply felt by all ranks.

“Sergeant Diddams was an elite soldier, working with a professional team, on a vital mission to support security and safety for the people of Uruzgan,” Major General Smith said.

Sergeant Diddams, ‘Didds’ to his mates, was a devoted family man and a dedicated professional soldier. Known for his outwards personality and quirky sense of humour, he was held in the highest regard by his mates and comrades alike.

Sergeant Diddams has been awarded the following honours and awards:
• Australian Active Service Medal with Clasp Somalia, Clasp East Timor, Clasp ICAT
• International Forces East Timor (INTERFET) Medal
• Afghanistan Campaign Medal
• Australian Service Medal with Clasp Solomon Islands, Clasp ‘CT/SR’
• Defence Long Service Medal
• Australian Defence Medal
• NATO ISAF Medal
• Meritorious Unit Citation
• Infantry Combat Badge, and
• Returned from Active Service Badge.

During Sergeant Diddams’ service in the Australian Army he deployed on the following Operations:
• Operation Solace (Somalia) – Jan – May 1993
• Operation Warden (East Timor) – Jan – Feb 2000
• Operation Tanager (East Timor) – February – May 2000
• Operation Trek (Solomon Islands) – 2002
• Operation Slipper (Afghanistan) – Nov 2001 – Apr 2002
• Operation Slipper (Afghanistan) – May – Oct 2007
• Operation Slipper (Afghanistan) – Jan – April 2008
• Operation Slipper (Afghanistan) – May – July 2008
• Operation Slipper (Afghanistan) – Jun – Nov 2009
• Operation Slipper (Afghanistan) – Jan – Jul 2011
• Operation Amulet (CHOGM Perth) – 2011
• Operation Slipper (Afghanistan) – Feb 2012 – April 2012.

03 July 2012

Follow-up on Australian Gulf War Veterans Health Study

In 2011 the Monash University Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health (MonCOEH) is undertaking an important follow-up study of the health and well-being of all people who participated in the 2000-2003 Australian Gulf War Veterans’ Health Study. The 2000-2003 baseline study aimed to determine whether the physical and psychological health of Australian veterans of the 1990/1991 Gulf War differed from a comparison group of Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel who were not deployed to the Gulf War. That study’s significant findings have been published and presented internationally and have influenced veteran and defence health policy and services.

(Refer to the Australian 2003 Gulf War Veterans' Study Report and Publications List)

The 2011 Follow-up Study aims to assess the longer term physical, psychological and social health and well-being of Gulf War veterans and the comparison group members. The study started on 19th October 2011. Invitation packages are currently being mailed to 3,000 potential participants at a rate of 300 per week until early December, and a remaining 600 invitation packages will be mailed on the 18th January 2012.

To ensure that the research team have up-to-date address details, all participants from the 2000-2003 baseline study are encouraged to contact MonCOEH by email at moncoeh-veteranstudy@monash.edu or phone freecall 1800 729 913. Please provide your full name and date of birth, current mailing address, current phone numbers and email address if available.

28 June 2012

Milestone reached with American Veterans Retraining Assistance Program - over 25,000 veterans have applied

More than 25,000 unemployed American veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 have already applied for new benefits to cover education costs for up to one year through a joint Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Labor (DOL) program that focuses on retraining up to 99,000 veterans for high-demand jobs.

“This important milestone demonstrates how meaningful this tool will be to help our Nation’s unemployed veterans receive the education and training they need to find rewarding employment in a high-demand career field,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Veterans realize this is a great opportunity to hone the skills they need to be competitive in the job market, and this program contributes directly to enhancing the strength of our Nation’s economy.”

Forty-five thousand veterans can start receiving benefits during the current fiscal year. VA began accepting applications on May 15. A maximum of 54,000 billets will be available for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2012.

“No veteran should have to fight for a job at home after fighting to protect our nation," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “This training program focused on high-demand jobs will help unemployed veterans expand their skills and compete for good jobs that need them," she added.

As part of a provision of the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, the Veteran Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) allows qualifying Veterans to receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the full-time Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty rate, currently $1,473 per month.

Veterans can apply now on a first-come, first-serve basis for VRAP. Unemployed veterans should act quickly and apply online to avoid missing out on this great opportunity. Assistance under this benefit program will end on March 31, 2014.

To complete the application, veterans must know their direct deposit information (bank routing number and account number), the name and location of the school they will attend, the program they wish to pursue, and the high-demand occupation they are working toward.

To qualify veterans must:
  • Be 35-60 years old, unemployed on the day of application, and not dishonorably discharged;
  • Start education or training after July 1, 2012, in a VA-approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school leading to an associate degree, non-college degree or a certificate for a high-demand occupation as defined by DOL;
  • Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program, such as Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, or Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment;
  • Not be enrolled in a federal or state job-training program within the last 180 days;
  • Not receive VA compensation at the 100 percent rate due to individual unemployability.
Upon completion, DOL will contact participants within 30 days after their training to help them find good jobs that use their newly learned skills.

“VA has many partners around the country who are helping us to spread the good news about this unique benefit, which provides our unemployed veterans with the opportunity to obtain the skills they need to be competitive in the high-demand job market,” added Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey.

“It is encouraging that we have reached this milestone; however, there are still nearly 20,000 slots to fill by September 30,” said Ismael “Junior” Ortiz, DOL’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Veterans Employment and Training Service. “It is critical to continue to spread the word about this program to unemployed veterans or those who may know an unemployed veteran,” Ortiz adds.

For more information on VOW, VRAP, the definition of “high-demand occupations,” and how to apply, Veterans may go to the website at www.benefits.va.gov/VOW, or call VA’s Call Centers toll free at 1-800-827-1000. Veterans may also access the VRAP application online at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov through eBenefits, a joint project of the Department of Defense and VA.

Veterans are also encouraged to visit the nearly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers across the nation for assistance. To find the center near you visit www.servicelocator.org. For more information about DOL’s veterans programs, go to http://www.dol.gov/vets/