Department of Veterans’ Affairs responds to questions from News Corp Australia

17 Apr 2016

April 17, 2016 12:00am
Paul Toohey News Corp Australia Network

NEWS Corp Australia has asked the Department of Veterans’ Affairs a series of questions.Here are their responses below.

1. When will DVA fully digitise its systems so that claims officers can view claims on line?

New Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) client records are created digitally and remain in digital format.

DVA is on a path to digitising many of its paper processes and records. This is a large and complex change journey that will be carried out in stages, and will take a number of years to complete. DVA’s transition to electronic-files is in line with the Australian Government Digital Continuity Plan, and aims to complete the digitisation by 2020.

DVA complies with its records management responsibilities under legislation including the Archives Act 1983, Freedom of Information Act 1982 and Privacy Act 1988.

DVA is committed to the principles and practices set out in the Australian Standard AS ISO 15489-2002: Records Management, and standards and guidelines issued by the National Archives of Australia (NAA).

Transformation of DVA’s ICT and business processes is a key priority for DVA.

2. What is DVA’s response to the Senate inquiry’s finding that some veterans were leaving psychiatric wards and “being discharged into homelessness”, which considered this a “significant dereliction of duty” by DVA and health providers?

DVA’s contracts with private hospitals include an explicit requirement that a comprehensive discharge plan be in place which includes referrals to appropriate services.

There is a duty of care on any health facility to ensure that when they discharge patients, they have made adequate arrangements to ensure their ongoing care and wellbeing. This includes referrals to the patient’s general practitioner and other health professionals as required, communication with carers and family members, and ensuring that where social and welfare supports are required, that appropriate arrangements are in place. Similar arrangements apply to public hospitals.

The Government is considering the report of the Senate Inquiry into the Mental Health of Australian Defence Force members and veterans.

3. A common complaint across the country is that DVA has been broken up into silos, as part of cost-saving, meaning different aspects of one claim are processed in different places, resulting in both DVA and vets losing track of claims (which are also slowed as files are shifted in hard copy from place to place). What is DVA doing about this?

DVA is committed to client-focused, responsive, and connected service delivery. The Government is determined to improve the time taken to process compensation claims. DVA also responds to changes in the veteran community and provides flexibility as demographics change.

In line with this, DVA has changed the way it carries out Rehabilitation and Compensation business, including claims processing, by moving to a structure that allows sites to focus on building capability in specific work activities.

These changes aim to improve performance and consistency of decision-making, service delivery, and the overall client experience.

DVA will continue to maintain a national physical presence, across all states and territories and the Government is committed to maintaining a stand-alone department for veterans.

With regard to the issue of hard copy files being transported from place to place — DVA’s Digital Transition Strategy includes initiatives to digitise client files. These initiatives intend to reduce and eventually eliminate the delay of files being transported from place-to-place. Ultimately DVA’s intention is to cease the creation of new paper files entirely and for claims to be processed digitally.

4. Our investigation shows there is deep discontent with DVA among veterans, including calls for a Royal Commission. Does DVA accept that it has a lot of work to do to regain veteran confidence?

DVA welcomes a dialogue on client concerns, and working with the ex-service community is an important objective of the Department.

To do so, the Department works closely with the National Consultation Framework, a formal consultative structure designed to facilitate effective communication between the Department and the veteran and ex-service community.

It is made up of national and state and territory forums such as the Ex-Service Organisation Round Table, the Younger Veterans — Contemporary Needs Forum and the National Aged and Community Care Forum.

The goal of the National Consultation Framework is to regularly discuss issues affecting veterans and how the Department can better meet the needs of the veteran community, both on a national and state level. This ensures that state and territory forums engage with local contemporary veteran and ex-service communities and representation includes the broad-range of views of DVA’s diverse client base.

In addition, DVA maintains a comprehensive feedback system, which allows all members of the veteran community to voice any concerns. In the 2014-15 financial year, DVA received 3,743 individual pieces of feedback through this system, the majority of which were complaints.

The three common areas of complaints covered were the accessibility and responsiveness of client service; the provision of clear and correct information; and the service and performance of contractors or providers. On average these complaints were resolved within 13 days, with around 40 per cent of complainants indicating they were satisfied with this process. Only around 2% of complainants indicated that they were dissatisfied.

Originally published as DVA responds to News Corp