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"Without RSL DefenceCare I’d be Stuffed"

Jim joined the Navy at 22 years old. He trained as a chef at sea and on shore. Navy life was initially enjoyable, and the sense of responsibility was fulfilling. However, struggles with mental ill health led to homelessness and depression.

With support from RSL DefenceCare, Jim is now taking small steps to make big changes in his life. 

Life in The Navy

“Joining was good,” says Jim. “I was younger obviously and I made a lot of friends.”

He enjoyed the first five years of his service but began struggling with mental ill health in 2015. There were “a few incidents that happened that weren’t all that great.” He refers to this period as the bad part of his time with the Navy.

Unfortunately, Jim’s mental health didn’t improve quickly. He fought hard to stay in the Navy but was bitterly disappointed when he was forced to medically discharge in 2017.

Depression and Homelessness

Things became worse for him after leaving. Jim struggled to integrate back into civilian life and found it difficult to get a steady job. 

He had no money and didn’t trust anyone enough to ask for help. With no source of income, he found himself homeless, living in his car with his dog.

His depression became severe, leading to suicidal thoughts.

“You just think of the worst,” says Jim. “You just don't want to live. There are no words to describe [that feeling].”

Word of Mouth

Jim says that there was no information during discharge about what was available to him outside of the Navy. 

Eventually, he heard through word of mouth that someone from RSL DefenceCare was seeing appointments on HMAS Kuttabul. A Claims Advisor worked with Jim and lodged a claim for his mental health to DVA. 

Unfortunately, the claim was rejected. He was encouraged to appeal the decision and referred to James Dallas for assistance with his appeal at the Veterans’ Review Board.

Jim found it difficult to trust people, particularly people he didn’t know well. Opening up to James was a big challenge for him.

Support from RSL DefenceCare and DVA

Over time, the relationship with James and the RSL DefenceCare team strengthened and he feels he has been supported by RSL DefenceCare from day one. 

Navigating the Department of Veterans' Affairs claims process and the Veterans’ Review Board appeal “was very daunting”. The letters he received didn’t make sense to him, appearing “unreadable”. RSL DefenceCare helped him through this.

Fortunately, with the help of James Dallas, his appeal at the Veterans’ Review Board was successful. 

As such, he is now eligible to receive interim compensation as he continues to undergo treatment. His medical costs, including stays in a mental health hospital, are covered by DVA, and he receives fortnightly incapacity payments.

Jim has peace of mind that DVA will provide him with the medical care he requires for his mental health. He continues to receive incapacity payments which offer him financial independence and enable him to focus on his health. 

Looking back, he now feels DVA have also been good to him when he reached out for support.  

Life has changed for the better for Jim, especially during this last year. 

While the prospect of dealing with DVA once terrified Jim, he is now happy to highlight the help he has received through the Department, particularly the coverage of his medical costs.

He says the support he has received from RSL DefenceCare has been “comforting”.

“If I didn't have RSL DefenceCare, I'd be stuffed.”

Jim’s Life Now

Things are far from perfect for Jim but they’re much better than they were.

He recalls a memory from recruit training of an instructor yelling at him that it was the “one-percenters that made a difference”. Now he thinks of the one-percenters making the difference in his day-to-day life.

“I go through ups and downs and appreciate that they’re just ups and downs,” says Jim.

He accepts that sometimes he can’t stop himself feeling bad but that he can work really hard on it. 

He acknowledges that he can’t always do this on his own and needs help to do it. Recently, he has reunited with his family and is open to their support.

What’s Next for Jim?

Jim plans to be readmitted into a mental health clinic and attend a seven-week course on managing anxiety. 

For Jim this is a big step. A year ago, he wouldn’t know what he would be doing later that day. Now he has a plan and a goal.

“This course is huge for me,” says Jim. “It's a proper course. Being educated is a new experience. I don't even know what to expect.”

As well as the anxiety course, Jim has contacted Veteran Sport Australia who are providing financial assistance for a gym membership. He plans to go once a week and work up to going more in the future. 

Jim’s Advice to other Veterans

Jim’s advice for other veterans is to “get help and get an advocate.”

He hopes his story will encourage other veterans to speak up about the problems they face and ask for help. If this applies to you, you can contact RSL DefenceCare.

You Can Help Veterans Like Jim

Donate today and you can support RSL DefenceCare to perform vital work in helping veterans through times of crisis. 

There are many Australian veterans out there who struggle with mental ill health day-to-day. With your support, RSL DefenceCare can continue to make a difference to their lives.

“If I didn't have RSL DefenceCare, I'd be stuffed.” – Jim