‘They tortured him’: Mum’s torment over digger’s death
ANOTHER grieving mother has joined the call for a Royal Commission into treatment of veterans, citing her "torturous" battle with defence authorities almost two years after her son's death.
Lisha Taylor's son, Sapper Jason Grant was sent to Afghanistan twice, but returned home with an official diagnosis of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PSTD), major depression and anxiety and was medically discharged on 30 May 2013.
According to Mrs Taylor, he returned home "shattered" after a shooting near-miss - which left a bullet hole in his backpack strap - in a firefight with the Taliban. He also watched another mate die in action.
But he struggled to receive help or compensation from defence authorities.
"He served his country valiantly, and he continued to fight for compensation until it killed him, he was abandoned by the organisation who had responsibility to care for him," she says.
"I don't want any other mothers to join this club. What's it going to take until they call a Royal Commission?"
Sapper Grant died aged just 32 from a heart attack on 12 July 2017, while still in the middle of a prolonged fight with the Department of Veterans' Affairs over his PTSD claim.
"My son struggled to continue his fight for compensation until it killed him and it feels DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) are now attempting to take me down the same path," Mrs Taylor said.
"Jason was very concerned about being placed on increasing doses of antidepressants and (psychotropic medication) Seroquel to help with nightmares but told me a possible side effect with long term use could be heart problems.
"He had been experimenting by self-medicating with alcohol and non-prescription drugs as nothing seemed to be helping."
She shared a house with Jason, who signed up for service at the age of 20, and when he left the army, was still "going through multiple hoops" and attending a rotating list of different DVA appointed doctors to receive compensation for the PTSD, despite an earlier official diagnosis.
"He'd said he just wanted to move on with his life."
In his official submission for compensation, Jason described how during his second deployment he saw his mate killed in action in June 2011, and was greatly affected, then was sent out on patrol a few days later with his helicopter receiving rocket fire.
"A week later I was on night patrol mission and encountered a man who I seemed suspicious as he was trying to escape," Jason wrote "The man engaged me with 10-15 rounds from an AK47 at a distance of 5 metres, a fight to death with automatic weapons."
Mrs Taylor said Jason had a split second warning and jumped back onto his backside and opened fire at the same time and hit the man.
"I've got the audiotape, he'd lost radio but it was still taped and you can hear Jason shouting to his friend, I'm not hit, I don't know why I'm not hit.
"He said 'I should be dead'. He could also hear the sound of the other man trying to breath, a gurgling sort of sound."
"He said he when he got changed he took his pack off his back and there's a bullet hole underneath in his pack strap right next to his skin, in front of his chest.
"He used to sit and look at that pack strap, and play the audio, over and over and over and try and figure out how many survived."
Jason left Afghanistan two weeks later, after a non-denominational counsellor, an official "Padre", was unavailable for counselling and he was told by his superiors to "harden the f … up".
After his medical discharge, in order to qualify for compensation, his condition had to be certified by DVA appointed doctors as "stable", but this process was drawn out over years.
"Just one example is on one of his many appointments for a review, already anxious and stressed about the long drive into the city (in Melbourne) in heavy traffic and finding parking, he arrived half an hour early," Mrs Taylor said.
"The doctor who had never met Jason before thanked him for being early thus allowing him to catch an earlier flight home to Sydney and had no interest in his case.
"He proceeded to ask him irrelevant questions not pertaining to his medical conditions and the letter came back he had not got enough points."
Mrs Taylor says on another occasion the DVA lost his files.
After his death, the department finally conceded he had more than enough points to warrant compensation, but she is still awaiting the finalisation of the case, three weeks before the second anniversary of his passing.
"His estate is frozen, we're waiting for DVA to do the right thing and in a lot of ways I feel I've turned into Jason - they tortured him and now I feel they're trying to do the same to me.
"I would like to ask each and every single parliamentary member how many more families are to suffer this heartbreak before something is done to change this broken system?"