The Government Response (PDF 190 Kb) to Sealing a just outcome: Report from the Inquiry into RAAF F-111 deseal/reseal workers and their families provides some $55 million over four years, expanding the definition of eligible personnel, and the benefits and services available to them - to provide better access to care and compensation under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA).
An estimated additional 2400 personnel, including the ‘pick and patch’ workers and other trades, may now seek assistance if their health has been adversely affected. The costs of health care treatment and counselling are covered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs under the SHOAMP Health Care Scheme, which reopens on 12 May 2010.
To enable easier access to health care and compensation, the requirements for evidence to support claims are broadened – guidelines (PDF 28 Kb) have been developed for the use of statutory declarations as part of formal evidence to be considered, facilitating the claims process where official work-related records may be unavailable.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs will task a senior officer, with health and F-111 claims background, to oversee the implementation of this Response. That role will also include monitoring and analysing the nature of health issues arising for current and future claims - so that trends in any late-emerging illnesses are identified.
The ex-gratia payment scheme continues unchanged, with the exception that the Estates of deceased personnel who died prior to 8 September 2001 are now eligible to apply for ex gratia payments. The Government has elected not to extend the ex gratia payments scheme, beyond this measure. The scheme remains open to workers involved in the RAAF’s formal deseal/reseal work programs.
As part of the Government Response, this dedicated F-111 Government website, jointly hosted by the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs, provides information and assistance to F-111 fuel tank maintenance workers and their families, detailing the range of health services and compensation entitlements for affected workers, and the new eligibility requirements.
The Department of Defence has implemented a range of Occupational Health and Safety measures including the appointment of a senior physician in OH&S medicine.
The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade commenced its F-111 Parliamentary Inquiry in June 2008 and took evidence and histories from the fuel tank maintenance workers themselves. It also reviewed relevant scientific and health studies, and considered the services and supports provided to affected workers by the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs.
The Inquiry handed down its report Sealing a just outcome: Report from the Inquiry into RAAF F-111 deseal/reseal workers and their families on 25 June 2009. The report makes 18 recommendations, broadly relating to:
- health care and support for RAAF deseal-reseal workers and their families;
- access to compensation using the provisions of subsection 7(2) Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, (SRCA) - for conditions resulting from exposure to the chemicals used in the deseal-reseal process, as identified following the SHOAMP health study;
- access to ex-gratia payments;
- occupational health and safety issues specific to Defence and the Australian Defence Forces;
- future research into health issues affecting aircraft maintenance personnel.
In 2000 the Chief of Air Force commissioned a Board of Inquiry to examine aspects of the four formal deseal/reseal programs in relation to health, chemical exposure and work practices. The BOI researched over 1.5 million documents, covering a period of 27 years and took statements from over 650 individuals. The BOI produced 53 recommendations, all of which were accepted by the Air Force.