Try To Use The System
As it appears to be my military service that has caused the conditions that I am experiencing there is a whole government department in place to handle any individual sufferers and their resulting claims – the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Here-say and gossip abounds about how anti-veteran this government agency is and how difficult it is to deal them, especially considering how they seem to be focussed on finding reasons not to support the veteran rather than helping.
Stories abound about veterans who have spent years being asked to justify claims and prove their injuries to eventually be told that, through some minor loophole, the injury was not a result of military service. I understand the department has recently undergone a refocussing so it is now more veteran friendly.
I have submitted claims to the department for PTSD and Depressive Disorder and have engaged the services of a high profile and well respected advocate. But this is the third time I have done so – the first two times I got part way through the process and withdrew the claims because I never thought myself worthy of any support – see my blog “Recognition of Deserving” – it was a symptom of my condition that stopped me claiming for the condition. I think we used to call that a Catch 22 situation.
However, I am determined to push through this time and, to be honest, up to now all dealings with the department that I have experienced with these claims have been positive and professional – although at times onerous. At the moment I am attempting to complete a Claim For Incapacity. So far I have spent three hours tracking down financial and service details from 18 years ago – where i am going to find some of the information they require, I have no idea. I will do my best to provide what is wanted and be as honest as I can be regarding the details I cannot find – I expect significant pushback from the department but I am hoping honesty and an appreciation that financial information from 18 years ago sometimes can’t be provided – even the Tax Office only requires proof to be kept for five years.
I must say I am amused by a part of the claim form that asks me to provide my Defence salary information including rank, increment and skill level. This information took a long time to find but I eventually found it – however, further down in the document they say that they will be checking the information against my Defence file – if that is the case, why ask me to get the information in the first place?
Nevertheless, I shall work with them and try to provide anything the department requires and be as honest as I can be with any provision of information. While the system is onerous and time expensive I expect a positive outcome eventually – hopefully before I die of old age.
They key to any dealings with the department seems to be the use of an advocate who is generally an ex-service person and has been trained by the department on how the system works and how best to represent any client. See www.atdp.org.au/atdpMain.php for more details on advocates.
While this blog post has jumped away from the usual discussion on the mental health issues, I think it is useful to follow the physical aspects of the claim process as they arise so you guys can see what you can expect if you decide to go through it. I shall try to keep positive and will welcome any similar experiences by yourselves in the comments below – BUT please don’t just whinge and, please make them your own honest experiences, not those of a friend of a friend.
My next post will be a case study of my own experience with the Department 18 years ago… then we will get back to mental health as there is some interesting stuff happening there.