Veterans Rehabilitation

Contributed by Robin Creyke and Peter Sutherland and current to July 2018.

Rehabilitation programs are available under the VEA (Part VIA) and the MRCA (Chap 3) to improve the quality of life of a veteran and to assist the veteran to adapt to, and recover from any injury or illness relating to service. A decision concerning rehabilitation is made by the person’s rehabilitation authority.

The rehabilitation provisions of the MRCA are based on Pt III of the SRCA and continue and expand upon the central importance of rehabilitation in the SRCA scheme. The VEA previously placed less emphasis on rehabilitation and generally treated rehabilitation as an option available to an injured veteran rather than as an integral part of a workplace health and safety, rehabilitation, compensation, and transition to suitable employment continuum. This approach to VEA is changing over time and the Department is moving towards a greater integration of rehabilitation under the VEA, MRCA and SRCA/DRCA.

Veterans’ Vocational Rehabilitation Scheme

The Veterans’ Vocational Rehabilitation Scheme (VVRS) was made in 1997 under s 115B VEA to regulate the provision of vocational rehabilitation for veterans covered by the VEA. The 1997 Scheme was revoked (because of imminent sunsetting) and remade in substantially the same terms by the “Veterans’ Vocational Rehabilitation Scheme” (Instrument 2015 R11; F2015L01263), commencing on 14 August 2015. Clause 1.2 of the VVRS sets out the following Objectives and Principles of the Scheme:

1.2.1 The objectives of the Scheme are to assist veterans to find, or continue in, suitable paid employment, with particular emphasis on:
(a) facilitating the transition from service in the Australian Defence Force to suitable paid employment;
(b) assisting those veterans whose jobs are in jeopardy to retain suitable paid employ­ment; and
(c) in conjunction with Part VIA of the Act, providing an income safety net for certain veterans in receipt of pensions under sections 23 or 24 of the Act, or invalidity service pension, who wish to engage in suitable paid employment.

1.2.2 The principles of the Scheme are that:
(a) participation in the Scheme is voluntary;
(b) a rehabilitation plan is to be approved only if the veteran has undergone an assessment of rehabilitation capability by a suitably qualified person;
(c) rehabilitation services are to be provided only in accordance with an approved plan that has been developed and agreed with the veteran;
(d) rehabilitation services are to be provided only if the Commission is satisfied that these services will result in a suitable paid employment outcome;
(e) rehabilitation services are to be approved according to principles of cost-effectiveness and will generally be the minimum necessary to achieve a suitable paid employment outcome;
(f) there are no penalties for withdrawal from or failure to complete an approved program, although rehabilitation services may be discontinued in such circumstances;
(g) rehabilitation services are not to be provided concurrently with another vocational rehabilitation program.
Note: “suitable paid employment outcome” is defined in paragraph 1.3.1.


Chapter 5 of the VVRS provides for notification of decisions under the Scheme and gives a right of review, initially by a different delegate of the Commission, and then by the AAT.

Rehabilitation under the MRCA

Section 38 MRCA states the aim of rehabilitation:
The aim of rehabilitation is to maximise the potential to restore a person who has an impairment, or an incapacity for service or work, as a result of a service injury or disease to at least the same physical and psychological state, and at least the same social, vocational and educational status, as he or she had before the injury or disease.

See the following DVA Factsheets for general information on rehabilitation under the MRCA:
  • MRC05 – Rehabilitation;
  • MRC10 – Motor Vehicle Compensation Scheme (MVCS);
  • MRC34 – Needs Assessment;
  • MRC41 – Attendant Care;
  • MRC42 – Household Services.
There must be an initial assessment of the person’s capacity for rehabilitation. The examination is paid for by the Commonwealth, including costs of travel for the assessment. If the person is to undergo a rehabilitation program it will be provided by an approved provider. Rehabilitation can include the provision of, or alteration to, aids and appliances.

A person’s right to compensation can be suspended if the person fails to undergo the examination or the program without a reasonable excuse: ss 50, 52. What amounts to a reasonable excuse was discussed in Re Perrin and Telstra Corporation Ltd [1994] AATA 712; Re Oakes and Comcare [1995] AATA 311; and Re Wilkinson and Australian Postal Corporation [1998] AATA 849. Dissatisfaction with the terms of a program is not a reasonable excuse: Australian Postal Corporation v Pascoe [2003] FCA 390. The sanction only applies if the refusal relates to the injury relevant to the rehabilitation program: Australian Postal Corporation v Sinnaiah [2013] FCAFC 98; (2013) 136 ALD 536.


Under the MRCA decisions in relation to rehabilitation assessments and programs are reviewable by the VRB and on further review by the AAT. A decision to suspend compensation is reviewable by the AAT, and there is a further right of review by the Federal Court.

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