This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986


The Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 provides for pensions and other support to those who completed “eligible war service” as members of defence forces in wartime, peacetime and some operational deployments. Under the Act, a veteran is an Australian person who has rendered full-time, continuous service as a member of the naval, military or air forces; or of the nursing or auxiliary services, or women’s branch, of those forces. The definition includes veterans from Commonwealth and allied countries.

Repatriation Commission

The Repatriation Commission was established under the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act 1920, which was replaced by the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986. Under Section 180, the commission’s functions are listed as:

  • granting pensions, allowances and other benefits;
  • providing treatment to veterans and their dependants through hospitals and other institutions;
  • advising the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs on the operation of the Act.

Under Section 181, it has the power to enter into contracts, to buy and sell property, and to build facilities. The commission has no staff; it delegates its powers to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). Department officials are responsible for deciding and reviewing claims for pensions, benefits and treatment under the Act.

Service pensions

Service pensions are available to veterans on the grounds of age or invalidity, and to a spouse, and are subject to an assets and income test. The veteran must be an Australian resident aged at least 60, and in Australia at the time of lodging a claim.

To claim a service pension, a veteran will need to contact the DVA, where staff will record an intent to claim, then advise on lodging an online claim, arrange for paperwork to be sent, or arrange an appointment with an officer to help lodge the claim.

Other benefits

There are allowances and cards available to service pensioners, including:

Disability pensions

Section 13 of the Act states where the death or incapacity of a veteran was caused by war, the Commonwealth is liable to pay compensation to the veteran or their dependants.  A person suffering injury or disease arising out of, or exacerbated by full-time service, may be eligible for disability pension and medical treatment under the Act.

Statements of Principles

These statements list the factors that must exist to establish a causal connection between military service and a particular disease, injury or death. They are legislative instruments and apply to decisions about liability made under the Act and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004. All claims must be assessed against a statement where one exists. Statements are developed by the Repatriation Medical Authority, an independent statutory panel made up of five medical practitioners.

Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004

This Act provides compensation to current and former members of the Defence Force who suffer an injury or disease due to service on or after 1 July 2004. This includes reservists and cadets. It provides for compensation to dependants, and assistance such as childcare and counselling to current or former members and their relatives. The Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission was established under the Act and has similar functions to the Repatriation Commission, with whom it works closely. Benefits provided under this Act are in addition to a pension, allowance or other benefit afforded under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986.

The Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 provides similar rehabilitation and compensation to the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 but for injuries and diseases suffered up to 30 June 2004. It provides for permanent impairment compensation, incapacity payments and compensation after death.

Review of decisions

If a claim for a pension is not approved, a veteran can apply to have the decision reviewed by a DVA Review Officer. An application must be made within three months of notification of the decision in writing. Some decisions about veterans’ entitlements and military compensation made under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986, Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 and Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 can be reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. An application for a review by the AAT should be lodged within three months of the notification of the Review Officer’s decision.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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