Advocate delivers financial security for veteran family

06 March 2024
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How one RSL Queensland Compensation Advocate delivered financial security to the family of a dying veteran.

Content warning: this article mentions terminal illnesses and personal loss.

When Cathy Farleigh looks back over the past couple of years, it’s impossible to hold back tears.

Her husband Garry, a veteran who served for 20 years in the Australian Army, was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma that led to a 16-month battle before the doctors admitted defeat in December 2021.

Garry Farleigh

On Boxing Day 2021, Garry lost that battle.

“When we were presented with that diagnosis and told there was nothing the doctors could do, it just took the feet out from under us,” Cathy says.

“We went from being a family who thought we were on top of this melanoma to being a family that had to quickly figure out how to say goodbye. His pain medication wasn’t being metabolised and his liver was shot.

“All we could do was take him home from the hospital because his only wish was to be there with his family around him until he passed.”

It was in those final weeks, while despairing over the financial future of his family, that Garry told his wife he wished there was something he could do. 

“So, I said, ‘Why don’t I go and talk to a compensation advocate at RSL Queensland?’ He was a typical vet who didn’t like receiving help, but this time he said yes. He was worried for me,” Cathy says.

“I had no idea what services we could access or what RSL Queensland could do. All I knew was that Garry had a part pension from when he left the Army and I thought maybe he’d be able to get another $50 a fortnight.

“So, I reached out, and that’s when I met Deanna Pringle.”

Deanna, a Compensation Advocate based out of the Toowoomba office, who also served in the Defence Force before transitioning into the Reserves, was quick to act knowing Garry’s time was coming to an end.

Farleigh family

“Our first meeting was at 10am at the RSL Queensland office. Deanna started going through the support that was available and then said she could apply for a Veteran Gold Card for Garry. But she warned me that it could take time,” Cathy says.

“I left that office at 10am and four hours later she called and said, ‘I can’t believe I’m telling you this, but Garry has been approved’.

“When I passed on the news to Garry he just cried and cried. He said: ‘You’ll be all right now’. 

“We had made some alterations to the property so he could be comfortable, and this Gold Card meant we’d get financial assistance for them, not to mention assistance for medications.

“And for Garry, well, this meant he could relax and just enjoy his time with our girls.”

Gary was first diagnosed in June 2020. Over the course of 16 months, he underwent six surgeries and 25 radiation treatments.

In December, the family all came together for a final family photo shoot. Garry passed away just days later.

Cathy says Deanna became a beacon of light in their darkest of times.

“During that time, she just took all the care and concern away. And while I know it’s part of her job description, there are people who simply do their job and there are others who do it with such beautiful grace,” she says.

“She made such a difference to our lives.”

For Deanna, who joined RSL Queensland in January 2020, it’s indeed more than just a job; it is a means to change and improve the lives of veterans and their families.

Deanna Pringle

“Before this role, I served for several years and then ended up recruiting for Defence. During my time I had some injuries but getting medical support from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) isn’t always straightforward,” she says.

“Now, as a Compensation Advocate I get to support people through their initial claims process and if we’ve got a diagnosis, I can submit a claim on their behalf through DVA.

“Cathy is a beautiful lady and when we were able to get that Gold Card for her and Garry in a matter of hours, she just couldn’t thank me enough. She sent me a morning tea platter and wrote me a personal letter. The effort she put in was so humbling.

“Making the toughest time in Cathy’s life a little easier is a strong reminder of why I do this job.”