Jesse Bird
Jesse Bird

Coroner finds failures in lead-up to veteran’s suicide

A coroner has found there were significant failures in the treatment of an Afghanistan war veteran by the Department of Veterans' Affairs before he took his life in 2017.

Jesse Bird, 32, died alone and surrounded by service medals and paperwork for his military compensation claim. In handing down the findings, Victoria Coroner Hawkins recommended the department be subject to independent audits of its handling of veterans' compensation claims.

"I find that Jesse's personal difficulties were exacerbated by the frustrations he experienced in interacting with, and navigating, DVA's complex compensation and rehabilitation system," Ms Hakwins said.

Jesse Bird as a young soldier.
Jesse Bird as a young soldier.

Just days before he died, Mr Bird wrote a complaint to DVA pleading for help to receive incapacity payments and warning he had come close to becoming a suicide statistic.

It followed a phone call with a DVA staff member which Mr Bird later wrote had left him feeling that she "doesn't care and cannot wait to get off the phone with me."

Jesse Bird in combat in Afghanistan in 2009.
Jesse Bird in combat in Afghanistan in 2009.

Ms Hawkins criticised the communication of the rejection as lacking "appropriate compassion and empathy", which aggravated Mr Bird's ill mental health.

"I further note that I found it alarming that a record was not made of the DVA Team Leader's telephone discussion with Jesse until 29 June 2017, after DVA had been informed of Jesse's death, and a detailed account of the discussion was not recorded until 19 July 2017," the coroner said.

Jesse Bird with girlfriend Connie Boglis.
Jesse Bird with girlfriend Connie Boglis.

In a cruel twist, Mr Bird's associated claim for incapacity payments was accepted less than two weeks after his death. His suicide was previously the subject of a Defence Department review, which made 19 recommendations to overhaul the compensation process. Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester said the government acknowledged there were failings in the handling of Mr Bird's case

This year, following a Save Our Heroes campaign by the Telegraph, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an independent commissioner would investigate veteran suicides.

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Originally published as Coroner finds failures in lead-up to veteran's suicide

esse Bird’s parents John and Karen Bird. Picture: Ian Currie
esse Bird’s parents John and Karen Bird. Picture: Ian Currie

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