Department of Veterans’ Affairs ‘cruel and inhumane’, widow of ex-serviceman says – Michmutters

Department of Veterans’ Affairs ‘cruel and inhumane’, widow of ex-serviceman says

A woman whose husband took his own life after a decade of serving in the Air Force has described the Department of Veterans’ Affairs as “cruel” and “inhumane”.

Madonna Paul’s husband Michael died in 2004 after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental health issues.

Ms Paul told the Hobart sitting of the Royal Commission into Defense and Veteran Suicide that early in their marriage, Mr Paul was a “really easy-going guy” who “just loved life”.

She said his behavior changed after raising concerns with his superiors at the Swartz Barracks in Queensland about the safety of Nomad Aircraft, which had been nicknamed “Widowmaker”.

“Eventually he was called in and was told to shut up … do your job,” she said.

In 1991, one of the Nomad Aircraft crashed, killing all four crew members — an incident his wife said would change his life forever.

Ms Paul told the commission she was not aware of any debriefing or any critical incident discussions being offered in the wake of the crash.

“He would come home from work and sit in the dark,” she said.

“His moods became very erratic, there was some aggression.”

Eventually, the couple was offered a social worker at the Air Force Base in Townsville.

“And I never got to meet her, but Michael did. And he told me that she had said that we just have marriage problems,” Ms Paul said.

“I was just shocked because I knew that before. And I never did. I’d never met her. So she’d made a call without talking to me.

“I commenced marriage counselling, thinking that was the issue, that obviously somebody’s told him that’s the issue, but it wasn’t.”

Light aircraft trip in storm triggered ‘complete breakdown’

The commission heard that after being discharged from the Australian Army in 1994, Mr Paul was “relaxed for a bit” before having a “complete breakdown”.

“He was on his first light aircraft trip … when they hit a storm,” Ms Paul said.

“He called me when they landed and told me what had happened, and he was crying. And he said, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t get on these aircraft and keep doing this’.'”


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