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Sunday Herald Sun - - News - Her­ald­sun.com.au

badly rat­tled. He self-ad­mit­ted to a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal for two days of treat­ment.

The DVA has sent him a let­ter telling him he can have no fur­ther con­tact with the depart­ment — mean­ing he can­not rep­re­sent veterans — un­til the in­ves­ti­ga­tions into claims of “se­ri­ous and spe­cific threats to kill” are put to rest.

“I have my the­o­ries about this,” Mr Quinn says. “The DVA is try­ing to get rid of all the peo­ple who stand up strongly for veterans like WFLT. I’m not the only one who’s been stopped from do­ing the work veterans des­per­ately need me to do.”

THE AAT hear­ing was tor­ture for WFLT. At the end of the sec­ond day, when his cred­i­bil­ity had been in­tensely ques­tioned by the DVA lawyer, he col­lapsed out­side the South­bank tri­bunal hear­ing room. He was sui­ci­dal.

“Some­one picked me up and asked me if I was OK. They sat me at a nearby bar and I made a few calls, try­ing to find a mate who could help me. I don’t even re­mem­ber how I got to the psych hos­pi­tal,” he says. “But I was def­i­nitely re­ally strug­gling. It was very hard to go through. It al­most got me.” There was more than the chop­per in­ci­dent and the tri­bunal that in­jured him. It is a dif­fi­cult sub­ject. When he was 26 years old, WFLT was a sol­dier on a UN mis­sion in Bougainville. In one vil­lage, for two days in a row, he per­formed CPR on two in­fants who it’s be­lieved had cere­bral malaria. WFLT ges­tures how it looked as he worked on the babies. Two of his fin­gers enough to com­press their tiny chests in heart mas­sage. Half puffs into their lit­tle mouths to fill their lungs. Nobody blames him. He knows he did his best. But both times they were gone. Yet, 19 years later, he still feels it. It has af­fected his life. He was mar­ried for a while, but won­dered at the time why the idea of hav­ing kids of his own was so painful. He says he’s OK to talk about it now. The in­ter­view with the Sun­day Her­ald Sun knocked him around so he slept most of the fol­low­ing day. Re­vis­it­ing his story was dis­tress­ing.

At first the DVA’s le­gal team ar­gued in the tri­bunal that he wasn’t even in Afghanistan. It was laugh­able. Within a short time their ar­gu­ment was shot down, but it still wob­bled him.

The next year, when the tri­bunal re­sumed, he was ac­cused of be­ing “dead wood”, which went against the ev­i­dence pro­duced.

In fact, ac­cord­ing to the writ­ten de­ci­sion by AAT se­nior mem­ber El­iz­a­beth Shana­han, a re­port from the Reg­i­men­tal Sergeant-Ma­jor two years af­ter his in­jury says he was up for pro­mo­tion and would be well suited to be an in­struc­tor at the Royal Mil­i­tary Col­lege of De­fence. He wasn’t dead wood. WFLT knows he should feel proud of his ser­vice as a com­mando. But ac­cu­sa­tions, how­ever false, in a tri­bunal hear­ing can play games in the mind of an in­jured sol­dier.

“I am dis­gusted at how this was han­dled. The way the DVA treated me means I can’t wear my medals proudly. The mis­man­age­ment of my in­jury and case from start to fin­ish is ter­ri­ble,” WFLT says.

“I should be proud of what I did for my coun­try, but in­stead the DVA trashed my ser­vice.

“So I sent my beret back.”

Com­mando ‘WFLT’ in the early days of his army ca­reer (far left) and (main) a group of Aussie spe­cial forces sol­diers board a Black Hawk chop­per for a mis­sion in Afghanistan.

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