The battle goes on

IT might be tucked away at the back of the Jamberoo RSL Hall, but the Illawarra Veterans Entitlement Service is no stranger to David and Goliath battles - fought free of charge.

IVES is searching for more volunteer advocates and donations to help it handle its 200 new cases and 50 hearings a year, ranging from Bega to Dubbo.

Assisting war veterans gain their entitlements, it lodges claims and appeals decisions with the Veterans Review Board and even the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

Honorary secretary Peter Ellis said the most common claims in older veterans were gas exposure and wear and tear on the body.

"Just wear and tear with age because the service gave them more wear and tear in that time and made it worse later on," he said.

IVES advocate and barrister Glenn Kolomeitz expected the rate of post traumatic stress disorder would increase due to the numbers of servicemen and women who went to Iraq and Afghanistan, but also harassment.

"The Veterans Entitlements Act, which is what most of [the claims] do come under, is beneficial, but there's some more recent legislation called SRCA, the Safety Rehab and Compensation Act, which applies to servicepeople plus other public servants - that's not beneficial," he said.

"We're seeing the Department [of Veterans Affairs] briefing out all the SRCA stuff out to national law firms for the AAT appeals and they treat it like another compensation insurance litigation."

He recently represented a young woman who was left psychologically and emotionally vulnerable.

The appeal was unsuccessful, but Mr Kolomeitz believed the woman would be able to claim under the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce.

"Without the Vietnam Veterans Federation in Canberra providing advocates like these guys [at IVES], and then getting me on board as a free barrister at the appeal, she would have been doing it by herself," he said.

"She couldn't afford lawyers and in all honesty, that would be a nightmare for this young girl who's very ill anyway."

Mr Ellis said IVES supported RSL pension officers with their clients.

"They've got the job and responsibility, but no one supports them, so when they need advice, where do they go?" he said.

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