A Small Step for Diggers' Families ... A Long Way to Go

Last week we saw some long overdue good news for the widows of our military personnel. But we have a long way to go to give them what they deserve: financial security allowing them to educate their children and to live with dignity.

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Last week, Minister for Defence Personnel, Greg Combet, announced increases of between 14 and 21% for members of the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme – all backdated to July 1 2007.

Widows of personnel who are killed on duty can choose a lump sum payment or a pension or a combination of both. The new lump sum for widows of privates has been lifted by 14%, up $72,000 to $579,000. A sergeant’s widow’s payout will also rise 14% from $672,000 to $765,000 and a captain’s similarly from $714,660 to $814,400.

A private’s widow’s pension will now be $37,487 (or $720 a week), up 21%. The sergeant’s equivalent will rise by 21% to $49,500 ($952 a week) and a captain’s also up 14% to $52,727 ($1013 a week).

But, bizarrely, the war widow’s pension is still indexed at a lower rate than a general welfare pension. Surely, this situation is absurd and insulting and must be changed as soon as possible.

The least our nation should be giving these bereaved families is financial security. The Defence Association believes that the families of those killed on active duty should receive a home and be paid the equivalent of the dead soldier’s salary until he would have retired.

Is this too much to ask from a nation that asked the soldier to put his life at risk for us?