26 February 2012

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (27 February 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 sitting this week.

The following Committee hearings are occurring which concern the subject matter of this blog:

Monday, 27 February 2012

House and Senate Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Review of the Defence Annual Report 2009/2010, Committee Room 1R1, 1745 hours. A list of Submission with links can be found here, and Reports here.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, Access to Justice (Federal Jurisdiction) Amendment Bill 2011 [Provisions], Committee Room 2S1, 1615 hours. A list of Submissions with links can be found here. Summary: Amends the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 to clarify that the Federal Court or judge may make orders for the costs of discovery during litigation and for pre-trial oral examination about discovery; five Acts to clarify the circumstances in which suppression and non-publications orders can be made, what information they can cover and details they should contain; the Family Law Act 1975, Federal Court of Australia Act 1976, Federal Magistrates Act 1999 and Judiciary Act 1903 to clarify the circumstances in which vexatious proceedings orders can be made and the kinds of orders that can be made, without affecting the courts’ other powers; the Family Law Act 1975 to align the jurisdictional limit for matters heard by family law magistrates in Western Australia with the Federal Magistrates Court; and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 to change the way fees are paid in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation, Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011 [Provisions], Committee Room 1S4, 0900 hours. A list of Submission with links can be found here.

High Court of Australia

The High Court is hearing several cases this week but none involve the subject matter of this blog. To view this weeks cases go here and here.

Federal Court of Australia

Monday, 27 February 2012

Ranjit Shamsher Jung Bahadur Rana v Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission, SAD202/2010 [South Australia Registry]

Friday, 2 March 2012

John Raymond Watkins v Repatriation Commission, VID63/2012 [Victoria Registry]

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT next sits on 16 and 17 March 2012.

Veterans' Review Board


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

This week in Congress (27 February 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, 28 February 2012

House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Military Personnel, Military Personnel Budget Overview - Office of the Secretary of Defense Perspective, Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2118, 1330 hours.

Joint House and Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans, 345 Rayburn House Office Building, 1430 hours.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

24 February 2012

Aussie Govt's search for F-111 fuel tank maintenance workers continues

Today the Australian Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, called for all F-111 fuel tank maintenance workers to come forward to check their eligibility for entitlements.

“I encourage all those who participated in F-111 fuel tank maintenance work between 1973 and 2000, and have not come forward to the Department, to please get in contact,” he said.

Mr Snowdon said it was important to make sure that everyone who did this work checked their eligibility for entitlements including compensation and health care.

An estimated 2,400 additional people gained easier access to entitlements from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 for medical conditions linked to F-111 fuel tank repair, after the 2010 Budget.

“The Government wants to identify all F-111 aircraft fuel tank maintenance workers, not just those who are sick,” he said.

“If you, a family member or a mate undertook F-111 fuel tank maintenance work, please call the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on 1800 555 323 as soon as possible.”

Mr Snowdon said the Australian Government had committed $55 million over four years to ensure more F-111 fuel tank maintenance personnel had access to compensation and health care for certain conditions.

“For those workers who are unwell as a result of their service, there is a range of benefits available including health care schemes, counselling and compensation,” he said.

“There is also an ex-gratia scheme available to certain personnel who worked in the RAAF’s F-111 formal deseal/reseal programs.

“The Department has undertaken considerable promotion of the F-111 compensation package to date but there are still people out there who have not yet come forward.”

The Government’s compensation package was provided in response to a 2009 Parliamentary Inquiry into entitlements and benefits for former F-111 deseal/reseal and associated fuel tank maintenance workers including ‘pick and patch’ workers.

For more information on the F-111 compensation package visit here.

23 February 2012

Christmas Island tragedy Coronial Inquiry

The Australian Government today acknowledged the findings of the Coronial Inquiry in the Christmas Island tragedy which occurred on 15 December 2010.

50 people died in the tragedy. The Australian Defence Force noted that if was not for the bravery of Customs and Border Protection officers, Defence personnel, officers from other Commonwealth agencies and community members involved in the rescue many more people would have died. Their actions went above and beyond the call of duty and saved the lives of 42 people.

The Coroner’s Inquiry is the fourth review held of the tragedy.

The day after the tragedy the Prime Minister announced a review of the incident would be conducted by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

The review report was released on 24 January 2011.

It made eight recommendations, seven of which are now complete.

Implementation of the eighth recommendation – a trial of a land based radar surveillance system – is underway.

On 2 March 2011 the Australian Parliament established a Joint Select Committee on the Christmas Island Tragedy to examine the events surrounding the tragedy.

The Committee made three key recommendations, all of which have been implemented which included monitoring the well-being of survivors and the personnel involved in the rescue efforts and exploring an option for a permanent memorial.

Individual committee members made nine other recommendations of which seven were agreed. These have all been implemented or are underway.

The Christmas Island Emergency Management Committee also conducted a review and made 21 recommendations of which 16 were agreed to in whole or part.

Of these 11 have been implemented and the remaining five are nearing completion according to the ADF.

A table detailing the implementation of the recommendations from these three reviews can be found here.

22 February 2012

U.S. veterans to receive personalized health benefits handbook

U.S. Veterans enrolled in the health care system of the Department of Veterans Affairs have begun to receive personalized booklets that explain their health care benefits and contain other useful information.

“VA is committed to providing our Nation’s Veterans with consistent, clear information about the services available to them,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

The new booklet, called a Health Benefits Handbook, will provide a personalized listing of health benefits based on each veteran’s specific eligibility. The handbook will also have contact information for their local VA medical facilities, appointment scheduling information, guidelines for communicating with their clinical team and, as applicable, information about copays.

Distribution of the handbooks began this month, with all 8.5 million veterans enrolled in VA’s health care system scheduled to receive their handbooks by 2013. Veterans will receive updates to their handbook to reflect changes to their benefits or eligibility.

VA operates 152 medical centers and more than 800 community-based outpatient clinics. Last year, inpatient facilities treated more than 690,000 patients, while outpatient clinics registered more than 79 million visits.

For more information about the Health Benefits Handbook, visit here or call VA’s toll-free number at 1-877-222-VETS (8387).

21 February 2012

Update on Aussie veteran dental services

The Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs ("DVA"), via a press release, has announced that it is aware of concerns being raised in relation to access for eligible DVA clients to preventive dental care services provided by dental hygienists on behalf of their dentist. Under DVA’s long-standing arrangements, funding of preventive dental services is limited to those services provided by dentists and dental specialists.

To address this issue, DVA has advised both the Australian Dental Association ("ADA") and the Dental Hygienists Association of Australia ("DHAA") that services provided by dental hygienists under the direction of a dentist can continue for veteran patients and be legitimately claimed for under the current DVA schedule arrangements. Members of the ADA and DHAA are encouraged to resume such services to members of the veteran community.

This is an interim arrangement only while DVA considers the issue of access to services provided by dental hygienists. DVA, in a press release, has indicated it will consult with the ADA and DHAA in considering ongoing arrangements.

Dental services involve the prevention and treatment of oral disease and include general dental services, the filling and crowning of teeth and the construction of dentures.

Note: Before booking an appointment with your dental provider, check they accept the DVA Gold or White Card, otherwise you may have to pay for treatment.

You can make an appointment with your dentist or dental prosthetist to receive dental services without a referral from your doctor.

DVA Factsheet HSV17 - Dental Services - information for the veteran community can be retrieved by going here.

Release of new Aussie Priority Industry Capability Health Checks

Two defence industry ‘health checks’ confirmed Australia is well-placed to support essential military software, and to help avoid detection of defence equipment.

Releasing the health checks today, Minister for Defence Materiel Senator Kim Carr said government, defence and industry needed to work together to sustain important defence capabilities in Australia.

“The Priority Industry Capability health checks are an excellent tool to monitor our progress — and if necessary – prompt us to consider further action. This can include targeting investment in skills development through existing industry programs,” Senator Carr said in a press release.

The most recent health checks focus on signature management and in‑country support for essential military software.

The Signature Management PIC assesses Australia‘s ability to develop and maintain technologies that reduce the ‘signature’ of Australian Defence Force ("ADF") platforms, so they are less likely to be detected by sensors like sonar, radar and infra-red.

The Through Life Support of Mission and Safety Critical Software PIC measures ADF's ability to adapt and maintain software that is integral to communications and activities including situational awareness, enemy detection and deployment of weapons.

For more information on all PIC health checks please visit here.

MINDEF provides statement to The Australian regarding the Kirkham Inquiry

Australian Minister of Defence, Stephen Smith, MP released the below statement on 19 February 2011 to The Australian:

"On December 22 2011, I announced that a copy of the Kirkham Inquiry report was provided to me on 13 December following its formal submission to the Chief of Air Force (the appointing Officer).‬‪

The report is a detailed review of the management of the ADFA Skype Incident of 2011 and its aftermath.‬‪

I also indicated at the time that the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, who is responsible for ADFA, was considering the report and its recommendations, and that exhaustive consideration of the report would take some time.‬‪

In the intervening period, the Vice Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of Air Force have provided further advice to me on this complex and sensitive subject matter.‬‪ ‬‪

This advice covers matters such as obligations to consult interested parties, legal and policy issues involved in any public disclosure and any actions arising from the inquiry.

That process is ongoing, and the Chief of the Defence Force, the Secretary of Defence and I are currently considering the advice.

Any action, including public release of Mr Kirkham’s report, depends on this consideration, which, as I indicated earlier this week, is drawing to a conclusion.‬‪

I anticipate a conclusion to this process in the next few weeks.‬‪ In the meantime, it is not appropriate to deal piecemeal with individual aspects of the matter or speculate on the outcomes of the process."

20 February 2012

This week in Congress (20 February 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:

There are no scheduled hearings this week in Congress related to the subject matter of this blog.
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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

17 February 2012

U.S. VA introduces text messaging to expand efforts to prevent suicide

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding its efforts in the prevention of suicide through several new initiatives that increase the availability of services for veterans, servicemembers and their families.

The new initiatives include a new, free, confidential text-messaging service in the existing Veterans Crisis Line, introduction of toll-free access from Europe, and collaboration with Vets Prevail and Vets4Warriors, two groups providing crisis help to veterans, servicemembers and their families.

“Offering text messaging services will help VA reach more Veterans and their friends and families,” said Dr. Janet Kemp, VA’s national mental health director for suicide prevention. “We are working to meet their needs by communicating through multiple channels -- over the phone, through online chat, and now via text, which provides quick, easy access to support. VA wants all Veterans to know that confidential support is only a text message away.”

Since its founding July 2007, VA’s Veterans Crisis Line and the later Chat Service have received 500,000 calls and engaged in 31,000 chats resulting in over 18,000 rescues of veterans in immediate crisis.

In addition to the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and press 1) and online chat (www.veteranscrisisline.net), veterans and servicemembers in crisis—and their friends and families—may text free of charge to 83-8255 to receive confidential, personal and immediate support. The text service is available, like the Veterans Crisis Line and online chat, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and connects a user with a specially trained VA professional -- many who are Veterans themselves.

As a part of the effort to extend VA’s reach, veterans and members of the military community in Europe may now receive free, confidential support from the European Military Crisis Line, a new initiative recently launched by VA. Callers in Europe may dial 0800-1273-8255 or DSN 118 to receive confidential support from responders at the Veterans Crisis Line in the U.S.

VA’s Veterans Crisis Line continues to add external resources to provide veterans with additional support. Two of these organizations include Vets Prevail (www.vetsprevail.org) and Vets4Warriors (www.vets4warriors.com).

In December, Vets Prevail launched a chat service that connects Veterans to caring responders who provide information on a wide variety of resources. If the veteran is in crisis or needs mental health support, the conversation is then seamlessly transferred to a VA Veterans Crisis Line responder.

Vets4Warriors has helped thousands of their peers connect with confidential assistance through a free hotline (1-855-838-8255/1-855-VET-TALK) and online chat (www.vets4warriors.com). If a veteran is in need of professional crisis or mental health support, Vets4Warriors’ responders will transfer the veteran to a responder at the Veterans Crisis Line.

[On a personal note: This issue hits home with me as one of my close childhood mates, who joined the Army at the same time I joined the Navy wound up committing suicide after a tour in Afghanistan, leaving behind a beautiful wife and two children. Even though we lost touch over the years I was simply stunned when I heard the news. Most of his Army and JAG mates that I later spoke with who served with him never saw it coming or any warning signs. RIP Pete - it's been nearly 10 years, and I still think of you often mate - I will always remember the Summers of '89 (at Fort Dix) and '90 (in Washington, DC). You most certainly live on in the memories of your family and mates. ]

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (20 February 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 sitting this week.

The following Committee hearings are occurring which concern the subject matter of this blog:

Thursday, 23 February 2012

House and Senate Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Inquiry into Australia's Overseas Representation, Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne, 1330 - 1700 hours. Terms of Reference can be found here, a list of Submission with links can be found here (the Department of Defence's Submission can be found here), and Reports here.

Friday, 24 February 2012

House and Senate Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Inquiry into Australia's Human Rights Dialogues with China and Vietnam, Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne, 0900 - 1630 hours. Terms of Reference can be found here, a list of Submissions with links here, and Reports here.

High Court of Australia

No happenings this week in the High Court with respect to the subject matter of this blog.

Federal Court of Australia

No cases are being heard by the Full Federal Court this week which involve the subject matter of this blog. Daily Listings can be found here.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT next sits on 16 and 17 March 2012.

Veterans' Review Board


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

02 February 2012

Report released into the death of Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney

The Vice Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin AO, today released an inquiry report into the death of Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. The report can be found here.

Lance Corporal MacKinney was killed in action in Afghanistan on 24 August 2010 during an intense fire-fight between an element of the Mentoring Task Force 1 and Taliban insurgents near the village of Derapet in the Tangi Valley.

Air Marshal (AIRMSHL) Binskin said Lance Corporal MacKinney was shot and killed by a single round from an insurgent weapon approximately half an hour into the battle.

“Soldiers provided Lance Corporal MacKinney with immediate first aid and continued to give him CPR until an Aero Medical Evacuation (AME) helicopter arrived,” AIRMSHL Binskin said.

“The AME was conducted under enemy fire. The AME team, the soldiers preparing the landing zone and those providing first aid demonstrated tremendous courage. However, Lance Corporal MacKinney’s wound was not survivable. He was killed instantly.”

Lance Corporal MacKinney was wearing his issued combat helmet and body armour system with plates fitted both front and rear at the time of his death. There is no evidence of any failure in his protective equipment.

There was no evidence of any substantial weakness or deficiency in relation to the specific incident involving Lance Corporal MacKinney.

AIRMSHL Binskin also said the inquiry officer examined in detail concerns raised in an email by a soldier who was involved in the fight at Derapet.

He raised concerns regarding support provided to the patrol on 24 August:, specifically access to fire support, post-activity intelligence and ammunition.

“The Inquiry Officer ("IO") determined there was no failure to make mortar support available to the patrol during the battle. Coalition 120mm mortars were on site and were an integral part of the fire support plan.

“In addition, a review of the post-activity intelligence reports was conducted and there was no failing in the intelligence reporting for the incident on 24 August.

“The [IO] was also satisfied that no member exhausted his total ammunition supply during the battle. There were appropriate measures in place for re-supply and there was sufficient ammunition for a contact of that scale,” AIRMSHL Binskin said.

When interviewed as part of the inquiry, the soldier described his email as a form of ‘venting’ as part of a grieving process for the loss of his mate.

No action has been taken against the soldier who raised the issues.

The IO believed the email did not represent a genuine complaint but was a simple expression of grief.

The IO made one recommendation: that a Commission of Inquiry into this incident is not warranted. This recommendation has been agreed to by ADF and the Minister of Defence.