The role of the RMA is to determine Statements of Principles (SOPs) for any disease, injury or death that could be related to eligible military service, based on sound medical-scientific evidence. The SOPs state the factors which "must" or "must as a minimum" exist to cause a particular kind of disease, injury or death. The SOPs are disallowable instruments (legislative rules) which are tabled in both Houses of the Australian Parliament and are binding on decision makers at all levels, including the courts.
In considering whether to determine SOPs, or reviewing the contents of SOPs, the RMA undertakes an investigation of the particular kind of injury, disease or death. Investigations can be undertaken by the RMA on its own initiative, upon request by an eligible person or organisation as provided for in the VEA or at the direction of the Specialist Medical Review Council (SMRC).
In some instances the RMA decides that it cannot determine a SOP, or cannot amend the contents of a SOP. In such cases the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) requires that the RMA make a written declaration and give reasons for the decision.
On occasions, the RMA has declined to undertake an investigation, or, following an investigation, declined to determine SOPs on the grounds that a matter is not a ‘particular kind of injury, disease or death’ as defined by the VEA.
A legal summary of the RMA’s approach to what is a disease, injury or death is available here.
In carrying out its duties the RMA is bound by relevant sections of the VEA: PART XIA. A summary of the concept of 'beneficial legislation' and its interactions with these sections of the VEA and the procedures of the RMA is available here.
How we make our decisions
The RMA practices and procedures document details how the RMA undertakes its role of conducting investigations and reviews and determining SOPs.
The RMA is assisted in its role by a team of medical researchers who undertake literature reviews, and prepare briefing papers to inform the Authority in its deliberations. The guidelines for researchers document sets out the processes and procedures used by the medical researchers in their role.
The Members of the RMA are medical practitioners and scientists appointed by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs on a part-time basis. A handbook designed to provide an introduction, background and context to the role and operations of the RMA for Members on their appointment, and for reference and guidance thereafter in their role, is available here.
Seeking a review of an RMA decision
Under the VEA, a range of eligible persons and organisations have a right to request the SMRC to review decisions of the RMA in relation to the contents of a SOP, not to make a SOP, not to amend a SOP, or not to carry out an investigation. This right must be exercised within three months of the decision being made by the RMA. Further information about requesting a review by the SMRC, and the activities, operations, current reviews and past decisions of the SMRC can be obtained here.
The details of the RMA’s activities throughout the year are contained in our Annual Report.
The Government has agreed that, at an opportune time, a clause requiring the RMA to table an annual report will be included in a future proposed amendment to the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986. A copy of the Australian Government response to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee Report Annual reports (No. 1 and No. 2 of 2019) is available here.