Wednesday, 22 August 2018
Veterans' Entitlements Amendment Bill 2018; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
I introduce the Veterans' Entitlements Amendment Bill 2018.The importance of family cannot be underestimated in the support they provide both our serving personnel and our veterans. This government is committed to supporting veterans and their families and this bill will maintain the current practice for veterans' families when a beloved member dies.
The current entitlements to bereavement payments are not changing. This government recognises that these are important payments for our veterans' families during this difficult time. The payment is a one-off non-taxable payment of 98 days, or 14 weeks, of service pension paid to the surviving partner. It is designed to assist the surviving partner with the costs following the death of their partner and provide a period to adjust their finances following the cessation of their deceased partner's payments. The bereavement payment is paid automatically once the family notifies the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
Prior to their death, a veteran may have been receiving an income support pension under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986.
Generally, there is a small period of time after someone has died before the family notifies the Department of Veterans' Affairs and this may result in an overpayment of a pension, usually between $500 and $1,000. The practice is that, where an overpayment occurs, DVA adjusts this amount from the bereavement payment.
For example, a veteran dies on the 7 June 2017 and his pension continues to be paid at a rate of $622.80 per fortnight—including a final payment on 22 June for the period 6 to 19 June. DVA were advised of the death on 30 June 2017. Therefore, the veteran was not entitled to $578.31, or 13 days, of the final payment. A bereavement payment, as I said, is the equivalent of 98 days of the difference between the service pension rates payable to the surviving partner before and after the death of the deceased partner. Service pension is payable to the partner totalling $2,935.80. In this example, the amount of $578.31 is recovered from the bereavement payment, making a payment of $2,357.49 payable from DVA into the partner's account.
This ensures the adjustment is made in a single administrative process rather than through a number of more formal debt recovery processes.
This avoids the need to recover debts from the deceased estate and avoids disturbing the family during the grieving period. This is a compassionate, sympathetic and unobtrusive response.
The bill will provide legislative certainty for past and future recoveries of pension overpayments from bereavement payments and will maintain the current discreet practice to respect veterans' families mourning their loss. I commend this bill to the House.