According to Herb Ellerbock veterans’ superannuation is being unfairly indexed.
As part of last year’s Federal Budget the plan to index the Age Pension only to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and not benchmark against the Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE) or Pensioner Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI) was shelved, much to the relief of those who rely on the Government payment to fund or supplement their income in retirement. Yet, according to Herb Ellerbock, a retired member of the Australian Armed Services, veterans are being disadvantaged by a similar method of indexing their superannuation and it’s costing them dearly.
Mr Ellerbock from Rutherglen in Victoria has decided enough is enough and has taken a stand by starting a petition on Change.org. In his petition he notes that over the last 25 years superannuation payments have been systematically reducing due to the unfair method of indexing only to CPI. Such crippling reductions to superannuation payments affect as many as 50,000 men and women who have served their country or who have survived their serving partners and spouses. The reduction could be equivalent to about a third of what their payments would have been if they had been indexed as the Age Pension is and also benefitted from the positive effect of compound interest on such additional payments.
In fact, The Conversation has previously noted that, between 1989 and 2009, age, welfare and MPs’ pensions increased by 130 to 140 per cent, whereas military pensions only rose by 70 per cent over the same period.
But this is only part of the problem. Those individuals who are discharged before retirement age can opt to take a lump sum in advance to help them with the costs of assimilating back into civilian life. This is then deducted from their fortnightly pension payments once their pension is payable. The issue is that the amount deducted is based on life expectancy tables from 1962 and as life expectancy is now much longer, they can end up paying two or three times as much as they actually ‘borrowed’ from their superannuation.
Another bone of contention is that the Government holds the superannuation funds of those who are discharged before retirement age, indexing such funds against CPI only once a year. There is no provision for the individual to remove these funds and place in a superannuation fund that would perform better.
Alliance of Defence Service Organisations (ADSO) national spokesman David Jamison reports that all but a small number of service people were affected by these unfair measures. “It’s time the Government stopped stealing from ex-defence force personnel”, Mr Jamison said.
During the 2007 Federal Election campaign both parties noted the discrepancy and vowed to introduce legislation that would redress the balance, yet such legislation failed to materialise, with the GFC quoted as the reason it was unaffordable at that time.
Despite protests against all these discriminatory policies, little has actually been done to help those disadvantaged by the status quo. Mr Ellerbock notes that the men and women most affected by this measure are conditioned to obey orders and are not used to protesting, nor do they have a union to fight on their behalf. By not having a voice, this makes them an easy target for manipulation and exploitation.
The petition, Restore defence force superannuation payments to their rightful amounts, currently has just over 21,000 signatures, a few shy of its 25,000 target. So, if you truly value the service and sacrifice of those who have fought for their country, why not take the time this ANZAC Day to add your voice to their plea?
Why is it that we’re more than willing to send young men and women off to fight in wars or keep the peace in battles that are seldom ours to fight and yet we’re reluctant to offer support when our need for their services has passed?
It’s not just through unfair superannuation payments and financial assistance that we fail our heroes – homelessness and mental health are two of the biggest issues facing returned service people yet the resources are not there to access.
On returning from a tour of duty, especially for those serving in active combat zones, men and women can find themselves struggling with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and this can often end their service career. Faced with life as a civilian, they may have little experience of the outside world, particularly those who signed up straight out of school. Forging relationships, finding a job and even simple tasks like paying bills and managing a house may not come easily. And for those who left behind family and friends, they can return only to find everyone has moved on with their lives and there is no longer any space for them.
It’s not difficult to see how such knocks can quickly lead to these men and women finding their solace in drugs and alcohol, self harm and even suicide.
The systems are not there to support these men and women. Even the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), which processes claims for support, acknowledges that the system is archaic and has failed to transition into the digital age. Files are still handled manually and often end up on desks in large piles, not be being processed.
So, who’s to blame. Sure we can point the finger at the Government but until we all take a look at how we react to service men and women, then as the saying goes, ‘People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones’. Often we turn a blind eye to those who are homeless without fully understanding how they got there. We often snicker embarrassingly, or look the other way at those who are under the influence of alcohol without contemplating the demons that alcohol is meant to take away. And when we are offered a day off to commemorate the ANZACs, how many of us use it to reflect that we are where we are because of the men and women who fought for us?
While it's the Government and our Senate that has the final say-so on how we help our returning service men and women, it’s we, the voting people of Australia, who have the power to force change.
What do you think? Do you believe the Government and associated services can do more for service men and women? Should legislation be pushed through to ensure fair veterans’ superannuation payment? Have we lost respect for those who have served their country?