Photography: Teagan Glenane
Veterans are often faced with challenges assimilating back into everyday civilian life, from the basics of medical care through to navigating claims with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
But it’s people like RSL Victoria’s Military Compensation Advocate, Adam Kent who are committed to supporting veterans access the support they need. Adam is part of the RSL’s state wide network of Advocates, based at ANZAC House and at many of the Sub-Branches.
Adam served full-time in the Army for five years and has remained a reservist. He went on to work in the mining industry for 10 years, but life after service wasn’t all easy. After two marriage breakdowns, Adam moved to Warrnambool. “I didn’t really know anyone and had some sort of issues...”
He became involved with the local RSL through RSL Active – a program he is now passionate about, after being on the receiving end of its many benefits. “With the journey that I had and a good understanding through my lived experience and how the RSL Active program really gave me that camaraderie again, I was then motivated to work with veterans.”
His own service history means Adam is relatable and can establish a rapport based on trust and understanding. He has story after story of the various clients he has supported over the last couple of years.
He regards his Advocacy work as the link veterans may need to navigate their way, whether they have just transitioned out, or have been out for decades. “Often, I’ll refer clients that are having mental health issues to Open Arms. I’ve sat with them at times to have an assessment over the phone and we also link them up to DVA services, like Home Help and rehab managers and medical providers too.”
“One bloke came to me in a really cloudy headspace. I could tell he would really benefit from getting involved, but it’s about being encouraging and not forceful – as soon as a veteran feels pressured they’ll run the other way. After a couple of months, he dipped his toes in and really embraced it and then that helped him turn his life around.”
Adam notes the ‘domino effect’ of veterans reaching out for support. This client has gone on to serve on the committee and successfully applied for a volunteer position with the Country Fire Authority – a significant achievement in his life.
“Another guy I met served for like 30 years or something and went to a medical appointment and they asked him about a Medicare card and he didn’t have one. They were talking to him like ‘what sort of weirdo in their 60s doesn’t have a Medicare card?’ He felt humiliated.”
“A guy came in for advocacy work and I got a claim up for him, which meant he could get incapacity payments. He was over the moon because that gave him a small, steady income, which was a bit more than Centrelink. Through that he engaged with RSL Active and has become a better version of himself and he’s really excelling. He now realises he has skills, and he can make a positive contribution to his community.”
“I had another who came to me, he was medically discharged from a knee injury and was really isolating himself and wanted a reassessment of his injury. When we got talking, I realised there were a lot more claims he was entitled to that he didn’t even realise he could get, including for mental health. He received a TPI pension, which is the highest you can get.”
Adam has not only witnessed some life-changing outcomes as a result the RSL’s advocacy service, but also seen many of those on the receiving end pay-it-forward by becoming mentors to others. Advocates are a critical link in supporting veterans and their families, and allows veterans to focus on their life and live the best version of it.
He says one of the most rewarding aspects of his job are some of the most challenging cases. “When you’ve got terminal [service accepted cancer, for example] clients and they come for an assessment because they’re worried about when they’re gone that their spouse will be looked after financially.”
Adam says there are so many veterans that don’t know what they’re entitled to and attempt to take on the paperwork and systems themselves.
"It’s just important to go through an Advocate, it would be a lot smoother and take the stress away."