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.]


  1. Very happy that the Government today has announced some action re soldiers suffering from PTSD. http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/14969164/we-will-help-you-stressed-soldiers-told/

  2. Very poignant piece! The rate of PTSD in returning soldiers is sadly increasing. The Australian civic needs to do all it can to show their support for the individual men and women serving abroad!

  3. There is a stumbling block under MRCA for Psychiatrists in that DVA asks them if PTSD is preventing them from returning to work 6 months, 1 year 2 years or 3 years. There is no where they can state that they can never return to work, even though the Psychiatrist knows he cannot.