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GP: Veterans are dying because of medical assessment process

STILL BATTLING: Afghanistan veteran Adam Marsh is thankful to the people at Remembrance House for saving his life.
STILL BATTLING: Afghanistan veteran Adam Marsh is thankful to the people at Remembrance House for saving his life. Jorge Branco

ADAM Marsh was serving in Afghanistan when he first realised he needed help.

The Burpengary former infantry corporal had been suffering mentally from what he'd been through in Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan and he didn't want to turn out like so many veterans he knew.

He didn't want to fight his demons by taking it out on his family.

He was medically discharged from the Royal Australian Regiment in 2012 with post-traumatic stress disorder. In April the ABC reported the number of serving and former soldiers who had committed suicide was more than triple Australia's combat toll in Afghanistan.

The father-of-three said he too would be dead if he hadn't discovered Remembrance House in Burpengary and the veteran support network it offered.

Adam's story is a tragically typical tale of returned servicemen and women and their dealings with the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Afghanistan veteran Adam Marsh is thankful to the people at Remembrance House for saving his life. Photo Jorge Branco / Caboolture News
Afghanistan veteran Adam Marsh is thankful to the people at Remembrance House for saving his life. Photo Jorge Branco / Caboolture News Jorge Branco

He believes many of his problems stem from his dealings with the department since leaving the military.

"My marriage basically fell apart, not because of anything to do with my issues or anything like that, I could deal with that," he said. "It was the unknown of how long this process would last."

Adam shared his story last week at a meeting of veterans pushing for gold card guaranteeing medical treatment to be granted automatically to those who served in conflict zones

The forum, chaired by Dr Ray Huntley and attended by MPs Wyatt Roy and Teresa Gambaro and Tasmanian Senator-elect Jacqui Lambie, discussed making the card a condition of service.

Of the dozens of veterans present only one had received a gold card within four years of applying. Many had waited more than 10 years; some as long as 30.

Mr Roy said the proposal had merit and he would raise it with Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson.

Dr Ray Huntley addresses the forum. Photo Jorge Branco / Caboolture News
Dr Ray Huntley addresses the forum. Photo Jorge Branco / Caboolture News Jorge Branco

People are dying

Dr Huntley has been working with veterans for 40 years and has seen more broken men and women than he cares to count.

The GP of 45 years is among a passionate group of people desperately pushing to automatically grant medical gold cards to military personnel returning from conflict zones.

He said people were dying because of the complicated assessment process.

"These guys are damaged. They are severely damaged," he said.

"To say that some aren't and why should we give them a gold card is absolutely ridiculous."

But he said in some cases it was the process of applying for a gold card itself, over and above any trauma they sustained fighting for their country, which led to severe mental illness and suicide.

"These guys are at home in war zones. That's what they're trained for. They feel comfortable about it. When they go from the army life into the community and start this process it's the process that destroys them," he said.

If you need help, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Topics:  veterans


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