When her husband passed away from cancer at age 35 in the 1990s, Debbie was left to raise two children on her own. Although her husband was in active service in the Royal Australian Navy at the time and his death was deemed to be service related, Debbie’s compensation was minimal and left her with the mounting expenses of raising her nine and 11 year old children.
Thinking that war widow’s pensions were only for those who had lost partners in theatres of war, and accepting that the payout she received was her full entitlement, Debbie got on with the job of building a positive life for her children. She took on administrative and bookkeeping work to keep her family going, all the while unaware that she could have been receiving assistance for schooling and other expenses.
Years later, following an introduction to Mates4Mates, Debbie was encouraged to investigate her eligibility for a war widow’s pension. Following a discussion with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Debbie was keen to ensure she got her paperwork ‘right’ and was referred to two ex-service organisations for assistance. Advised by the first provider that she was not entitled to any further compensation, Debbie accepted this with good grace.
When she couldn’t rid herself of a nagging feeling that, because of her unique circumstances, there may be more to her case, she decided to give it one last chance. Debbie contacted RSL (Queensland Branch) and met Veterans Services Officer, Julie. Understanding the injustice of her situation, and determined to make up for lost time, Julie tenaciously set about working with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to review Debbie’s case.
Within four months, Julie secured her a War Widow’s Pension and a Gold Card. This means that Debbie not only has a steady income stream but can also rest easy knowing that, should she need to go to the doctor or hospital, her medical expenses and health care needs are covered.
In Debbie’s words:
“I was very pleasantly surprised when I was treated with respect, concern and genuine interest. [Julie] did not make any promises, other than to find out exactly what I might be entitled to and to endeavour to do her utmost to get me my entitlements.
I was amazed and very grateful for all her hard work when I was granted a war widows pension and that illusive gold card, but I was really blown away when it became apparent that I was to be granted a fortnightly pension.
It really is quite difficult to sum up my appreciation for Julie. It's not simply that she got me an incredible outcome … Her kindness, consideration, friendliness, commitment and her ability to go that extra mile and make me feel as if I was truly worth the effort, is something I will remember for a very long time.”
Although she had served in the Royal Australian Navy herself, and her son had also spent time in the Navy, Debbie was unaware that the RSL advocated for compensation entitlements for current and former servicemen and women and their families, free of charge, regardless of whether they are a member.