Kel Ryan talks about Defence pensions.
Kel Ryan talks about Defence pensions.

Retirees vow fight after pension inquiry

RETIRED Defence Force personnel have vowed to keep up the pressure on the Federal Government despite a disappointing outcome to a recent investigation into their pension payments.

Retired RAAF member Jim Nicholls, of Laidley, is one of thousands of former defence personnel who claim the government has continued to wrongly take a deduction out of their pension in exchange for a lump sum - known as a commutation - that they collected upon their retirement.

Pension recipients claim they were told the fortnightly deduction from their payment would only continue over a predetermined normal life expectancy, whereas the government claims the retirees have misunderstood how the scheme works, and that the deduction is permanent. Retirees like Mr Nicholls have had enough deductions taken to pay back the lump sum multiple times.

The investigation itself, announced by Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester in March 2019, was conducted by Commonwealth Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe PSM and concluded in December.

"The ombudsman's power of investigation was to determine whether the law was correctly administered or not, but in only the third paragraph of the foreword to his report, he pre-empted his conclusion: 'At law, commutation is not a loan, but a permanent exchange of one type of entitlement for another. The result is a permanent reduction to retirement pay'," Mr Nicholls said.

"Despite Mr Manthorpe's assertion, a handbook dated October 1988 and issued to RAAF personnel states otherwise."

In the handbook, retirees were told the commutation would be repaid "over your normal life expectancy".

Goodna resident, former career soldier and National President of the Defence Force Welfare Association Kel Ryan has been among those calling for an investigation into the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefit Scheme (DFRDB).

Mr Ryan said a subsequent apology issued to pension recipients was a "bureaucratic out" and an insult.

Mr Ryan said the Defence Force Welfare Association would issue a response to the investigation, refusing to accept the apology.

"We won't be put off by an apology. This is a government issue that the minister has to answer to," he said.