Veterans' Review Board
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About the VRB

What is the VRB and how does it operate?

 What is the VRB?
 Who are the members?
 How will members deal with my application?
 Can I talk to the members about my application?
 Do I have to attend my hearing?
 Can I be represented at my hearing?
 Can I bring a friend to my hearing?
 Where and when are VRB hearings held?
 What will it cost me?
 What about costs of obtaining medical evidence?
 Keep the VRB informed of you preparation
 What should I bring to my hearing?
 What happens at a hearing?
 What happens after a hearing?
 Change of address


Comments on our service

 How to make a complaint to the Board
 What information do I need to provide?
 Can I make a complaint if my case is still in progress at the Board?
 What if I am unhappy with a decision of the Board?
 How long will it take to resolve a complaint?
 What if I am not satisfied with the response to my complaint?



WHAT IS THE VRB?

The VRB is a tribunal created by the Australian Parliament to review decisions about Repatriation pensions (other than Service Pensions) and attendant allowance. It is independent of the Repatriation Commission and the Department of Veterans' Affairs. It is made up of members who review decisions, and staff who assist the members.

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WHO ARE THE MEMBERS?

There are Senior Members, Services Members and other Members. Senior Members are usually lawyers and they preside at hearings. Services Members are selected from nominations submitted to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs by ex-service organisations. The other Members have a wide variety of qualifications. All members are appointed by the Governor-General.

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HOW WILL MEMBERS DEAL WITH MY APPLICATION?

The VRB holds hearings to consider applications for review (cases). Most cases are reviewed by a panel of 3 members — a Senior Member, a Services Member and one other Member. Sometimes 2 members will review a case if the third member is ill or unavailable. Whenever it reviews a case, the VRB must apply the law as set out in the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 and other legislation. See the Links page for legislation on the Internet.

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CAN I TALK TO THE MEMBERS ABOUT MY APPLICATION?

Yes, but only at a hearing, which is held in private. The VRB encourages every applicant to take part in his or her hearing. You can do this by coming along to the hearing, or by asking the members to ring you during your hearing. It would be helpful if you would send copies of any papers that you think support your case as early as possible before the hearing.

This is a typical VRB hearing room.
Typical VRB hearing room

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DO I HAVE TO ATTEND MY HEARING?

No, but the members usually find it helpful to talk to you, preferably in person or otherwise by phone. The members will review your case in your absence if you do not wish to take part in the hearing, but they may still ring to ask you some questions to help them make their decision if you are happy to make yourself available for this.

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CAN I BE REPRESENTED AT MY HEARING?

Yes, but you do not have to be represented. The Repatriation Commission can also be represented but this does not often happen. You can be represented at the hearing at your own expense by anyone other than a lawyer (although a lawyer could help you prepare your case).

Some ex-service organisations, and some private individuals, provide assistance and representation for applicants. Most provide their services free, but some charge a fee. Most organisations have only a limited number of representatives, so there is often some delay before they can finalise the preparation of your case. Generally speaking, hearings of represented cases take longer to arrange than unrepresented cases. If you do decide to be represented, make the arrangements as soon as possible to avoid later delay.

The VRB will usually not arrange a hearing until you or your representative confirm that you are ready for a hearing. The "Certificate of Readiness for Hearing" is a document that must be signed to indicate you are ready for a hearing.

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CAN I BRING A FRIEND TO MY HEARING?

Yes. A friend or relative is always welcome, whether or not you are represented, but expenses cannot be paid for your friend or relative to attend your hearing.

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WHERE AND WHEN ARE VRB HEARINGS HELD?

The VRB holds hearings in each State capital and in Canberra. At times, hearings are also held in various regional centres. In Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne hearings are conducted every week. They are less frequent in other capitals and regional centres but are normally conducted when about 15 cases are ready for hearing.

If you are concerned about possible delay because of where you live you should discuss the matter with the VRB office in your state. We might be able to arrange a video hearing from your local regional centre. The VRB has arrangements with a number of regional colleges, universities, and hospitals to hire their video facilities. This may allow you to travel to your local video facility for a hearing, which would be conducted in private by television cable link between that facility and the VRB in a capital city.

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WHAT WILL IT COST ME?

The VRB does not impose any fees or charges. The Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) will usually be able to pay travel costs based on the reasonable distance you needed to travel to the hearing. See Travelling Expenses Information sheet (PDF version) or Travelling Expenses Information sheet (RTF version).

Please note: If the VRB regularly conducts hearings at a place near where you live, but you choose to attend a hearing somewhere else (which you may do), DVA may only pay you the expenses you would have been entitled to had you attended a hearing at the closer locaility. The fact that you might have chosen a representative at that distant location may not be regarded as a suitable reason for travelling to that place for a hearing. The VRB does not process travel expense claims, but we will tell you more about how to claim when we let you know the date for your hearing.

Please note: Expenses for representation, advice, or witnesses are your responsibility.

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WHAT ABOUT COSTS OF OBTAINING MEDICAL EVIDENCE?

You can apply to DVA for reimbursement of the costs (including associated travel costs) of obtaining medical evidence in support of your application to the VRB. Certain conditions apply and you should contact the local office of DVA for details. The VRB does not process these claims.

Please note: The application for reimbursement must be made within 3 months after the relevant documentary medical evidence was submitted to the Board, and for associated travel costs within 3 months after the travel.

See the separate page on "Preparing for a hearing at the VRB". (Note: This link will open a new browser window. Simply close the window to return to this page.)

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KEEP THE VRB INFORMED OF YOUR PREPARATION?

You or your representative should regularly tell your VRB Case Manager what is being done to gather further evidence for your hearing. Doing this will let us know that you are actively pursuing your case, and will give us an idea when you might be ready for a hearing. In some cases the Case Manager might be able to assist if you are having difficulties gathering evidence. We want to hear your case as soon as possible. If we do not hear from you or your representative, we will write to you, asking you to tell us what is being done to pursue your case.

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WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO MY HEARING?

First, you should bring your copy of the Departmental report that was sent to you by DVA. You should also bring any other papers you think will support your case, for example, doctors' reports, service records, diaries. However, it is important that you send copies of these to the VRB as early as possible before your hearing (at least by the time the "Certificate of Readiness for Hearing" has been sent to the VRB). If your representative has these documents, you should make sure he or she has sent copies to the VRB.

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WHAT HAPPENS AT A HEARING?

Members will do their best to make you feel at ease. However, they may need to ask you some questions to clarify the evidence in your case and to help them decide whether your claim should be granted or refused.

Hearings are recorded on audio tape and are kept for two years. If you want a copy of the tape you should write to your VRB state office.

The members will not be able to tell you their decision at the hearing.

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WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A HEARING?

The VRB will mail the decision and reasons to you as soon as possible after the hearing, usually within a few weeks. The VRB will also tell you about any appeal rights you may have should you be dissatisfied with the VRB's decision. If you were represented at your hearing, a copy of the VRB's decision and reasons will be sent to your representative. The VRB cannot discuss the reasons for the decision in your case.

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CHANGE OF ADDRESS

You MUST notify BOTH the VRB and DVA as soon as possible if you change your address.

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HOW TO MAKE A COMPLAINT TO THE BOARD

Our service charter sets out the standards of service you can expect. If you are not satisfied with the standard of service you have received, you can make a complaint to the Board in writing, in person or over the phone to your local Registrar. Alternatively, you may forward a written complaint marked ‘confidential’ to:

National Registrar
Veterans’ Review Board
GPO Box 1631
Sydney NSW 2001

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WHAT INFORMATION DO I NEED TO PROVIDE?

When making a complaint please provide as much detail as possible including:

Please note that if you do not wish to provide your name this may limit our capacity to investigate and respond to your complaint.

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CAN I MAKE A COMPLAINT IF MY CASE IS STILL IN PROGRESS AT THE BOARD?

You can make a complaint if your case is still in progress at the Board and it will not affect the outcome of your case. We may not be able to provide a final response to your complaint until a final decision has been made, as we cannot intervene in the decision making process.

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WHAT IF I AM UNHAPPY WITH A DECISION OF THE BOARD

Please note that once a final decision has been made, the Board cannot reopen the case.

If you are unhappy with the Board’s decision, you may consider lodging an appeal with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). Please note that there is a time limit to apply to the AAT. For more information about the AAT please visit www.aat.gov.au

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HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO RESOLVE A COMPLAINT?

If your complaint is made in person or over the telephone, we will try to resolve it immediately, but a longer time may be needed. We will consult with VRB members if your complaint relates to them.

If you complain in writing we will respond within 20 working days. However, if your complaint is complex, it may take us longer to investigate and respond. In this case, we will keep you informed of progress.

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WHAT IF I AM NOT SATISFIED WITH THE RESPONSE TO MY COMPLAINT?

If you are not satisfied after we have investigated your complaint, you can contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

You can make a complaint to the Ombudsman in person, over the phone, in writing (by letter, email, fax or SMS) or over the internet. For more information, call the Ombudsman's office on 1300 362 072 or visit the Ombudsman's website.

For privacy-related complaints, if you are not satisfied after we have investigated your complaint, you can contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

You can make a complaint to the OAIC in writing (by letter, email or fax) or over the internet. For more information, call the OAIC on 1300 363 992 or visit the OAIC website.

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