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Jamieson and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission

[2010] AATA 778

TRIBUNAL Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Brisbane
MEMBERS M J Carstairs (Senior Member)
Associate Professor J B Morley RFD (Member)
DECISION The decisions under review were affirmed
ISSUES Permanent impairment not as a result of compensable condition - incapacity - liability for psychiatric sequelae

Facts

Mr Jamieson served in the Australian Army Reserve and sustained injuries on field exercises in Singleton in October 2003 and November 2004.  He claimed compensation under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA).  A delegate of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC) accepted liability for:

From this favourable determination, other claims followed for permanent impairment, continuing incapacity and psychiatric disorder due to chronic pain from Mr Jamieson’s orthopaedic conditions.  The determinations in relation to these other claims came under review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (the Tribunal).

Issues before the Tribunal

The issues to be determined by the Tribunal were:

The Tribunal's Consideration 

Permanent impairment
Firstly, the Tribunal considered whether Mr Jamieson was entitled to permanent impairment compensation.  To succeed in this claim, he needed to establish that as a result of the compensable conditions he had suffered an impairment that had stabilised and was likely to continue indefinitely (s68 of the Act).

The Tribunal turned to the medical evidence to determine the central issue of whether Mr Jamieson had suffered an impairment.  There was medical evidence that Mr Jamieson’s back condition as related to his defence service would resolve in the short term, and the Tribunal accepted that Mr Jamieson aggravated his underlying back condition.  Therefore, the Tribunal was not satisfied that Mr Jamieson suffered an impairment as a result of the compensable conditions.

Incapacity payments
The issue for the Tribunal was whether Mr Jamieson had recovered from the compensable injuries.  The Tribunal found that Mr Jamieson had lumbar spinal degenerative changes which were symptomatic before his first service-related injury in October 2003.  The Tribunal also concluded that the service-related aggravations of Mr Jamieson’s back and neck were temporary and no longer contributed to his incapacity, and he now had no service-related injury of his left shoulder.

Liability for psychiatric conditions
The Tribunal noted the Act provides for a definition of service injury at s27, and ultimately a finding that a condition is a service injury requires the evidence must satisfy connections set out in relevant Statements of Principles.  The Tribunal considered the chronic pain factor in the relevant Statement of Principles for depressive disorder.  The parties agreed that any chronic pain which Mr Jamieson suffers needed to be related to service injury and not to pain experiences due to degenerative conditions in his back, neck and shoulders.  As the Tribunal had decided that Mr Jamieson had recovered from the aggravation of his degenerative injury, his claim could not succeed.  Mr Jamieson’s claim for alcohol dependence on the basis of his depressive disorder also failed.

Formal decision

The Tribunal affirmed the decisions under review.

Editorial note

In Jamieson the Tribunal dealt with a number of matters which flowed from the initial acceptance of liability for his orthopaedic conditions.  The outcome of the claim for permanent impairment impacted on the success of the other claims for continuing incapacity and psychiatric disorder.

Further reading:

For further reading on permanent impairment compensation, incapacity payments and liability claims please see VeRBosity Special Issue 2006 (Handbook for Representatives), Chapters 14-15.  For incapacity payments please also see Verbosity Vol 24 No. 2 pages 78-85.

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