The Australian Government has today committed $55 million to better support the wellbeing of Australian Veterans.
This commitment consists of $22 million in funding to provide psychiatric assistance dogs to veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and $33 million to extend access to free medical treatment for veterans.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Matt Keogh said the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program matches highly-trained dogs with veterans diagnosed with PTSD to support them through their clinical recovery.
“I am pleased to announce a boost of $22 million to ensure the ongoing operation of the critical Psychiatric Assistance Dogs Program which is changing the lives of veterans,” Minister Keogh said.
“This Government commitment will also extend support to eligible veterans who have privately sourced an accredited psychiatric assistance dog prior to the start of the Program in September 2019, including maintenance funding for expenses such as veterinary bills, pet insurance, and vaccinations.”
“By properly funding this important program, the Australian Government is continuing to address the needs of veterans living with PTSD as a result of their military service.”
The funding announcement comes as the Program celebrates a milestone 100 dogs placed with veterans, many of whom have experienced a positive shift in their wellbeing and relationships thanks to their assistance dog.
“It’s fantastic to see the positive impact this program is having on veterans. I’ve had individuals share with me the joy of finding a routine and getting out and about again. For many people with PTSD simply leaving the house is difficult, the assistance dogs have helped turn that right around,” Minister Keogh said.
“It is truly incredible the impact these dogs are making to help our veterans with day-to-day activities and gain back their independence.”
To be eligible for the Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program, veterans must have a Veteran Gold or White Card, have a current diagnosis of PTSD from a psychiatrist and be engaged in treatment with their mental health professional for a minimum of three months.
The free Provisional Access to Medical Treatment program provides access to medical treatment for twenty of the most commonly claimed conditions to veterans who have lodged a claim with DVA.
“We know veterans waiting for claims to be processed need support – this is a challenging time and dealing with a medical condition can make it even more stressful,” Minister Keogh said.
“I am very conscious of the compensation claims backlog, with some veterans waiting too long for their claims to be processed. This is unacceptable, the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) has been under resourced for too long.”
“The process of fixing that backlog by rebuilding DVA is now underway, with the Labor Government committed to employing more permanent staff in the Department.”
“This funding will ensure veterans can continue to access medical treatment for their condition while they wait for their claims to be processed. Ensuring veterans have access to treatment earlier can make a big difference to their recovery.”
“The Government is committed to a better future for veterans and this program will provide them with access to medical treatment when they need it,” Minister Keogh said.
To learn more about the Provisional Access to Medical Treatment program, visit the DVA website
For more information on the Psychiatric Assistance Dogs Program, visit www.dva.gov.au/dogs
VIDEO: Watch veterans share stories of how their psychiatric assistance dog has changed their lives for the better: How The Psychiatric Assistance Dogs Program is helping veterans with PTSD – YouTube
NOTE: high resolution video available on request.