Tribunal Member: Anna Burke

The applicant served in the Australian Army Reserve (the Reserve) for 21 years and reached the rank of Corporal. She served the majority of her time working under office conditions in the recruitment department of the Reserve. The applicant lodged a claim with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) seeking compensation for right knee osteoarthritis arising from her service. The applicant lodged an additional claim for spine damage. The Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (the Commission) rejected the applicant’s claims. The Veterans’ Review Board (VRB) affirmed the decision to refuse liability. The AAT was asked to review the decision, noting that the applicant limited her claim to the right knee injury only. 

The issue to be determined by the AAT was whether the claimed condition of osteoarthritis of the right knee arose during the applicant’s service. There was no incident report or complaint of right knee pain in any of her military medical records. However, the applicant’s general practitioner had notes of a knee injury sustained on New Year’s Eve in 2011. 

When determining whether they are liable for a claim of injury due to osteoarthritis of the knee joint, the VRB requires that during the applicant’s defence service, she was required to kneel for an hour on the majority of days for a continuous period of at least two years[1] before the condition worsened. Medical evidence was provided to the AAT by an orthopaedic surgeon who said that it wasn’t common for someone undertaking office work to present with such a condition.

The AAT was not satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the applicant’s condition of right knee osteoarthritis was connected with her defence service. The material before the Tribunal did not indicate that the applicant’s predominantly clerical work within the recruitment section required her to be kneeling or squatting. The AAT affirmed the decision by the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission to reject liability for the condition.

Read the full decision on AustLII.