Veterans evicted for students

The Sunday Telegraph: Bruce McDougall. January, 28, 2008

WAR veterans have been removed from their waterfront hospital – home to some for almost 60 years – and forced to pay thousands of dollars extra to live in private nursing homes.

Despite a promise they would be allowed to see their days out at Rozelle’s Callan Park psychiatric hospital, the last of the World War II and Vietnam vets have had to make way for a planned $560 million university campus.

The Daily Telegraph has learned that World War II vet Rex Brackin, 93, has been hit with a nursing home bill $245 a fortnight higher than he was paying at Callan Park.

In a further insult Mr Brackin, who served in the RAAF and fought the Japanese over Papua New Guinea and Borneo, has been ordered to repay $52.47 the Federal Government claims it is owed.

Bureaucrats in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs sent him a letter stating the “overpayment” would be taken from his service pension at a rate of $4.04 a week.

Mr Brackin’s family say his health has deteriorated badly since leaving Callan Park in November last year.

“It’s basically been a death sentence because he has got so ill he is waiting to die,” son Geoff Brackin said yesterday.

“They sent him to a Burwood nursing home and cut his pension at the same time.

“Wouldn’t you think that with a 93-year-old man, a war veteran, they just would waive it (the overpayment)?”

A plan showing much of the 61ha site of the psychiatric hospital is set to become a campus of Sydney University for more than 6000 students and staff is on exhibition until February 22.

Rex was a leading aircraftsman with No. 75 Squadron. He enlisted in 1941, flying 37 sorties against the Japanese in the skies above PNG, Borneo and New Britain.

But he returned from the war a “different person”, affected by serious trauma, and is now classed as totally and permanently incapacitated with multiple health problems.

After leaving Callan Park his fortnightly costs soared from $441 to $686 – an extra annual slug of $6370.