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Tribunal: Senior Member JC Kelly

In this review, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) made a preliminary decision concerning a war widow’s entitlement to a pension.

The applicant applied for a war widow’s pension following the death of her veteran husband to the Veterans’ Review Board. They affirmed a decision of the Repatriation Commission (the Commission) that the veteran’s death was not related to service and therefore a war widow’s pension was not payable to the applicant under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (the Act). The applicant then applied for a review by the AAT.

During the hearing, the parties agreed to have determined as a preliminary question the kind of death the veteran suffered and whether the veteran’s death was war-caused. The Commission conceded that, if the kind of death suffered by the veteran was found to be Fibrosing Interstitial Lung Disease (FILD), the requirement of the Act would be met. However, they claimed the veteran’s death was from sepsis and hospital acquired pneumonia during treatment for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL).

The AAT considered medico-legal evidence from both parties which focused on linking aspects of the veteran’s service, including smoking and exposure to asbestos and benzene, with both medical conditions he suffered (NHL and FILD).

The Commission contended that the applicant’s medical evidence was not prepared by respiratory physicians so should be given little weight. They claimed that their medical evidence emphasised Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as the significant lung condition rather than FILD.

The AAT did not agree that such a finding could be made considering the medical evidence of all the doctors, regardless of their speciality, and supported the overall findings that the possible cause of death were sepsis, pneumonia, COPD, FILD and NHL.

The AAT noted that the Commission had earlier made the concession that if a cause of death was found to be FILD, then the requirement of the Act would be met. The Tribunal decided the preliminary requirement was met and that a directions hearing would be listed to progress the case.

 

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