'We've been conned': Defence retirees fuming over pension
FORMER service personnel from Ipswich are among thousands across Australia claiming the Federal Government is wrongly pocketing deductions out of their pension.
Goodna resident and former career soldier Kel Ryan is fighting to assist other former service personnel affected by the compulsory superannuation program, Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefit Scheme (DFRDB).
Ex-service personnel - many of whom are war veterans - claim they were offered the opportunity to take a lump sum upon their retirement, and that in return, they would repay it through a reduction in fortnightly payments.
The point of contention lies in the period of time the reduction in pension was intended to continue.
Former service people like Mr Ryan, Laidley resident Jim Nicholls and Silkstone Vietnam veteran Douglas Young all claim they were never told the reduction would continue indefinitely, irrespective of having reached an agreed age calculated on life expectancy.
"However, many years after reaching that agreed deadline, I find I'm still losing thousands of dollars a year by repaying a debt that has already been repaid many times over," Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan, who was in the Army for 24 years and is also the National President of the Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA), said he was focussed on forcing the government to apply up-to-date life tables in calculating lump sums and fortnightly payments for all DFRDB superannuants.
"Men and women who served their country for 20 years now find themselves at the mercy of a scheme that is denying them fairness in their later years," he said.
Federal Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester said veterans had simply misunderstood the scheme and there were no plans to make changes based on their claims.
The DFRDB Scheme is administered by the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme which maintains that members were made aware they would be facing a lifelong cut to their pensions, rather than one that lasted until they reached a set age.
Mr Ryan said Mr Chester's claim that veterans had "misunderstood" the conditions is simply not true.
"We can now show that, until the 2008/2009 DFRDB Annual Report was released, there was never a mention of our pension reductions being a lifelong impost.
"That report was the first indication we had - nothing more than a throw-away line - that this was how things were going to be from now on."
Mr Chester defended his Government's record on veteran's affairs, saying that since the Coalition came to power, changes to indexation are estimated to have provided $4 billion in additional pension benefits to military superannuants and their families.
"The scheme does not provide for an increase in pension if members live longer than their life expectancy factor," he said.
Laidley resident and veteran of 20 years with the RAAF Jim Nicholls said he found Mr Chester's explanation baffling.
"At the time we were told it was on the condition that when we reached a nominal life expectancy it would have been repaid and our pensions would all return to normal," Mr Nicholls said.
"My question is: How can 55,000 ADF people, including many senior officers, misunderstand what they were told?
"We feel we have been diddled, conned - whatever you want to call it - and we are still being conned today.
"We are all ageing and the government is ripping off thousands of vulnerable people who have served their country faithfully. Is this any way to be repaid?"