DVA Minister Release – Delivering on Mental Health and Enhanced Support for Veterans

3 May 2016

In the 2016–17 Budget, the Turnbull Government’s focus is on ensuring the mental health needs of our veterans are met through early intervention strategies, as well as improving our capability to provide better customer service and support for veterans and their families, now and into the future.

The 2016–17 Budget provides $37.9 million to extend the non-liability health care initiative, which expands eligibility for treatment of mental health conditions to all current and former permanent members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), irrespective of how long or when they served, or the type of service.

Dan TehanThe Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Dan Tehan, today said eligibility for early access to mental health treatment had been streamlined for permanent ADF members.

“This means that anyone who has ever served in the ADF permanent forces will be eligible for treatment for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and alcohol and substance abuse,” Mr Tehan said.

“These eligible veterans will receive a Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) White Health Card, which provides additional benefits including access to counselling from the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service.

“We recognise that current and former serving personnel may develop these conditions and that the earlier an individual seeks treatment, the more effective the likely health and other outcomes. Funding for mental health treatment is demand-driven and not capped—if an eligible person requires treatment, it is funded.

“In addition, we have extended funding for veteran suicide awareness and prevention workshops. The Government will provide $1.0 million to continue training members of the broader ex-service community to recognise and assist those at risk of suicide, and to pilot a new suicide prevention initiative.”

The Turnbull Government will not proceed with the 2014–15 Budget measure to end the three month backdating of veterans’ disability claims, reinstating funding of $37.8 million over the forward estimates.

“I have been working closely with the ex-service organisations and this 2014–15 Budget measure raised considerable concern in the veteran community. I am pleased that this measure will not proceed, allowing for veterans to receive a disability pension that is backdated three months from the receipt date of the claim to DVA,” Mr Tehan said.

“Since becoming Minister for Veterans’ Affairs another major issue raised with me by ex-service organisations is the delays processing claims because of the outdated DVA ICT systems.

“This Government continues to listen to the needs of our veteran community, particularly the need to decrease claims processing times and improve support systems. “This is why we are investing a total of $24.8 million to design a transformation program that aims to deliver better customer service for veterans, underpinned by better processes and technology.”

A major overhaul of DVA’s ICT systems would underpin significant improvements to the way the department conducts its business and, consequently, provides services to veterans and their families.

“In addition, $23.9 million has been allocated in the Budget to enable DVA to maintain its critical compensation processing systems while developing the detailed transformation program,” Mr Tehan. said

“In developing the plan, the aim will be to revolutionise the way DVA interacts with, and delivers support and services to veterans and their families for decades to come.”

Mr Tehan also acknowledged the service and sacrifice of current and former serving ADF members and veterans, who have defended our values and freedoms.}

“It is important that we acknowledge our veterans in a respectful way through commemorative services, maintenance of war graves and memorials, and cultural and educational activities,” Mr Tehan said. “This is why the Turnbull Government’s 2016–17 Budget is providing $7.5 million to refurbish and rebuild 3,800 war graves and memorials that have deteriorated in Australia and Papua New Guinea, and to undertake essential safety and maintenance work at the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum in Thailand to accommodate the significant number of people who visit this commemorative site.”

Additional Bdgeut measures for veterans include:

• $5.5 million to ensure that eligible veterans receive incapacity payments through to ‘pension age’ as it progressively advances to 67 years in July 2023

• $2.7 million for a new case management system for the Veterans’ Review Board (VRB) that will streamline processes and reduce backlogs by allowing veterans to lodge appeals, manage them, and monitor their real-time progress electronically.

• the national rollout of a Veterans’ Review Board alternative dispute resolution model that has been successfully trialled in NSW/ACT, that saw 57 per cent of applications finalised without the need for a full hearing and, being finalised within two months rather than the usual 12 months.

• $2.1 million for the Kookaburra Kids Foundation to support children whose parent/s are a serving ADF member or veteran affected by mental illness, including PTSD.

 • $10 million to support the Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience travelling exhibition of Australia’s involvement in the First World War and subsequent Century of Service of Australia’s Armed forces in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

Media enquiries: Minister Tehan’s Office: 0415 566 976 Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 45 46). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.