A SOLDIER’S STORY
FORMER soldier and father of four Adam Fowles had his world turned upside down when he was medically discharged from the army after serving his country for 25 years.
FORMER soldier Adam Fowles fears more ex- service personnel will take their lives if the Department of Veterans’ Affairs ( DVA) does not make significant changes to its claims procedures.
Mr Fowles said one of the biggest issues ex- service personnel faced, besides battling physical and emotional scars from their job, was with the department.
“The long- drawn- out DVA process is the cause of many a suicide and the only way to stem that is to make some major changes,” he said.
“When a Digger is going through PTSD … the last thing he or she needs is to face the DVA claims process. They are not in a mentally strong place to do so. It would be a stressful process for someone who’s not going through PTSD, so for someone who has PTSD it’s hellish.”
Mr Fowles said the effects of a slow claims process not only caused financial hardship but made for added stress.
Former Townsville soldier Jesse Bird, 32, ( pictured) took
his own life in June this year, just weeks after losing a claim for permanent impairment he had been pursuing for almost two years. The decision came despite DVA accepting initial liability, in August 2016, for Mr Bird’s PTSD, depressive disorder and alcohol abuse.
“The unfortunate thing about DVA is that it’s not run by ex- service personnel but mostly by public servants who have no understanding of what it’s like to look after your mate like we are trained for in the Defence Force,” Mr Fowles said. “Ex- servicemen get fed up and don’t see any other avenue. They don’t see another way out.”
A Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman said the department acknowledged that some veterans and their families had had difficult experiences with claims.
“In the 2017– 18 Budget the Government provided $ 166.6 million to the first stage of Veteran Centric Reform, which will support DVA’s efforts to modernise its ICT systems and transform the way it does business,” he said.
“It will change DVA from a an organisation that focuses on claims to one that places veterans and their families at the centre of everything it does. In order to continue to support ongoing claims processing activities, the Government is providing $ 13.5 million as part of the 2017– 18 Budget. It is expected that this will alleviate pressure on claims processing staff and reduce the backlog associated with increased claims. The department’s aim is to ensure a claimant receives all of their lawful entitlements.”
The spokesman said the general intent of veterans’ entitlements law was to deal generously with those who had served the nation.