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Tribunal: Senior Member I Alexander

The AAT set aside a decision of a review officer of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (the Commission). The Commission compensated the applicant for a service-related knee injury but found the development of his schizophrenia was not due to his Defence service. The Tribunal, in a substitute decision, distinguished between an adjustment disorder, which arose out of the applicant’s Defence service and could be compensated, and his schizophrenia, which although it developed while he was in the service, was unrelated.

The Commission must accept liability for an injury or disease if it is service related.[1] The important questions for the AAT in its review of this workers’ compensation claim were:

  • what was the date of clinical onset of the applicant’s schizophrenia?
  • did he suffer a significant mental health disorder—an unspecified anxiety disorder—at the same time as his schizophrenia became worse?
  • after he contracted the condition did his Defence service contribute to or aggravate it?
  • was the applicant unable to get the appropriate clinical help for his schizophrenia?

The evidence of the applicant’s psychiatrist was that his heightening stress, anxiety and suspicion, were a reoccurrence of the earlier adjustment disorder.

However, the Commission’s psychiatrist diagnosed the applicant’s disorganised thoughts and cognitive impairments as the early stages of the psychiatric condition of schizophrenia, with no preceding anxiety or adjustment disorder.

The AAT preferred this medical evidence. At the hearing, the Commission accepted liability for the adjustment disorder and agreed to compensate the applicant for the three months that he was unwell before recovering. However, there was no evidence he was unable to access appropriate clinical management for his schizophrenia. The Tribunal found the Commission was not liable to compensate him as his Defence service did not contribute to it.

Read the full decision



[1] Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission Act 2004 (Cth), s 23(1)(a), s 27.