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.