Mother says DVA “torture” killed veteran

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The mother of an Afghanistan veteran who died of a heart attack at 32, blames the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for his death. Caitlyn Quinn reports.

 

A broken-hearted mother has blamed the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for “torturing” her 32 year-old son to death.

Afghanistan veteran Jason Grant began his battle with the government four years ago and died in July of a heart attack.

“That was the biggest stress in his life, dealing with DVA,” Mr Grant’s mother, Lisha Taylor said.

“It was only a couple of weeks before he died that I hugged him and told him how proud I was of him.”

Her son enlisted in 2004 in the Royal Australian Engineer Corps as a sapper and was deployed in Operation Slipper as a combat engineer.

His nine year’s duty included active service in Afghanistan in Operation Slipper, Australia’s contribution to the International Security Assistance Force that ran from 2001 to 2014.

Dr Jerry Gelb, a psychiatrist who has worked with returned soldiers for over 30 years, says he has treated thousands of veterans who have been “brutalised by the system.”

“The fewer the stresses (veterans) have to deal with, the lower the impact on their condition and on their health either of suicide or of illness.”

Dr Gelb describes the compensation process as a “maze” that is “almost impossible for the average veteran to get their head around all the ins and outs.”

“Whilst one can’t say that stress causes people of 32 to have a heart attack, what one can certainly say is it’s an additional factor, an additional stressor that can certainly be said to contribute to the overall disability, dysfunction and distress that veterans have to go through.”

Ms Taylor believes a Royal Commission is needed to investigate the DVA.

“It must be a fear for any parent who’s got a son or a daughter with post traumatic stress disorder or any other mental problems, if they’re dealing with DVA, God help them,” Ms Taylor said.

“I dread to think that another family will go through this, but I know they will. It’s not the end of it, not until something drastic is done about DVA, it’s just going to keep going on.”

Mr Grant wrote a letter to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs detailing the “many distressing events” that he experienced during his deployment to Afghanistan.

“I was involved in many fire fights and was consequently shot at personally on numerous occasions,” he stated in the letter.

He details at one point a “man and I were locked in a fight to the death with automatic weapons.

“I feel that I have suffered a significant injury as a direct result of my deployment experiences.”

Ms Taylor said: “He said he was on borrowed time because he said he was convinced that he was going to get killed over there because they were flying out in helicopters every day and getting in fire fights.”

She kept his pack strap that shows where a bullet was millimetres from hitting his chest.

“I was so proud of him, I always was,” Ms Taylor said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Grant began his fight for compensation after he was medically discharged in 2013 with post traumatic stress disorder.

He claimed he suffered “nightmares, flashbacks, pervasive thoughts, anger problems, emotional numbing, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, severe depression, emotional and social withdrawal, hyper vigilance, avoidance and mood swings.”

Ms Taylor described his condition as “a diagnosis for life.”

His compensation was rejected after receiving 49 out of the 50 points required.

Ms Taylor will take the case to the veteran’s review board as, “he would definitely want me to continue it on his behalf.

“He wanted to be done with it all, for it all to be finished and completed.

“I have to be grateful that I spent the last four years of his life with him,” Ms Taylor said.

In a recent statement the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan said: “The Government has seen examples where the current support services were not good enough.”

He also addressed the case of Jesse Bird, a veteran who took his own life in June and admitted that the government had let him down.

“Jesse’s case highlights the complexity and breadth of the challenge the Department of Veterans’ Affairs faces to support our veterans, particularly those with mental health conditions,” Mr Tehan said.

“This Government will continue to prioritise mental health support for our veterans.”