A coroner has found there were significant failures in the treatment of an Afghanistan war veteran by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs before he took his life in 2017.
Jesse Bird, 32, died alone and surrounded by service medals and paperwork for his military compensation claim. In handing down the findings, Victoria Coroner Hawkins recommended the department be subject to independent audits of its handling of veterans’ compensation claims.
“I find that Jesse’s personal difficulties were exacerbated by the frustrations he experienced in interacting with, and navigating, DVA’s complex compensation and rehabilitation system,” Ms Hakwins said.
Just days before he died, Mr Bird wrote a complaint to DVA pleading for help to receive incapacity payments and warning he had come close to becoming a suicide statistic.
It followed a phone call with a DVA staff member which Mr Bird later wrote had left him feeling that she “doesn’t care and cannot wait to get off the phone with me.”
Ms Hawkins criticised the communication of the rejection as lacking “appropriate compassion and empathy”, which aggravated Mr Bird’s ill mental health.
“I further note that I found it alarming that a record was not made of the DVA Team Leader’s telephone discussion with Jesse until 29 June 2017, after DVA had been informed of Jesse’s death, and a detailed account of the discussion was not recorded until 19 July 2017,” the coroner said.
In a cruel twist, Mr Bird’s associated claim for incapacity payments was accepted less than two weeks after his death. His suicide was previously the subject of a Defence Department review, which made 19 recommendations to overhaul the compensation process. Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester said the government acknowledged there were failings in the handling of Mr Bird’s case
This year, following a Save Our Heroes campaign by the Telegraph, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an independent commissioner would investigate veteran suicides.
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We must provide better support for our returned military service men and women.
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Better Veteran Services
Australian returned service men and women deserve better care and support on completion of their military careers. Our policy will see veterans who complete a minimum employment contract or personnel who have been injured during their military service provided with housing and guaranteed employment opportunities that support their return to civilian life.
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