Ronaldson Media Release – Rehabilitation and reducing claim times target of 2015–16 DVA Budget

12 May 2015

The 2015 Budget for veterans continues to deliver on the Government’s commitment to recognise the unique nature of service and is part of the Government’s plan to build a strong, safe and prosperous future for all Australians.

A greater focus on complex case coordination, rehabilitation, reducing claim processing times and improving long-term health impacts through early intervention are key initiatives of the Budget for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA).

The 2015 Budget delivers more than $12 billion for veterans’ affairs, including $6.5 billion for pensions and $5.5 billion for health care.

The Budget delivers $10 million to boost the number of case coordinators in DVA.

The increasingly complex nature of claims being made to DVA requires a more tailored approach. This funding will expand our existing case coordination services to ensure improved, timely and tailored service delivery for veterans and their families.

Since coming to Government we have worked hard to reduce the processing times for all DVA claims. Swift resolution of claims is a vital part of early intervention. Progress has been made and we recognise that we need to continue to focus on making further reductions to claim times as earlier intervention leads to better long-term health outcomes for our veteran community.

Despite an overall reduction in DVA clients, largely due to the sad but inevitable decline in the numbers of Second World War veterans, we are seeing increased numbers of claims from veterans of recent wars who have multiple conditions, including at least one mental health condition. Additional case coordinators will help improve the processing times for these complex claims.

The Government will also make changes to the Veterans’ Vocational Rehabilitation Scheme (VVRS) to assist veterans with injuries in getting back to work. We know that many of our veterans who have been injured, wounded or ill want to get back to work. These changes will ensure their pension safety net better reflects their transition back into work. Getting back to work can be a very important part of the recovery.

Improvements to the VVRS will allow veterans to take the important first steps to returning to the workforce with the support of the compensation system should they need to take another break from employment.

Consistent with the Government’s pre-election commitment to give Defence Force Retirement Benefit (DFRB) and Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefit (DFRDB) military superannuants aged 55 and over access to the best indexation arrangement from three indices (Consumer Price Index (CPI), Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI), and Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE)), the Government will continue to index service pensions, war widows pensions, income support supplement, veteran disability pensions (including the Special Rate or Totally and permanently incapacitated (TPI) pension), wholly dependent partner payment and special rate disability pension against these three benchmarks.

The 2015–16 Budget also includes:
– $3.7 million to extend the in-home telehealth trial for veterans and war widows, an initiative aimed at keeping veterans in their own home and own community for longer

– streamlining the pathway for review of decisions about entitlements made under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004

– providing further funding for the Centenary of Anzac programme to support additional events commemorating battles that occurred on the Western Front during the First World War and key anniversaries from other conflicts

– extending tax deductibility status for the National Boer War Memorial and the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial projects.

The DVA Budget for mental health will remain uncapped and be driven by demand from clients.

Over the past 12 months, the Government has expanded access to the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS). We have also made it easier for veterans dealing with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, plus substance and alcohol use disorders, to access free and immediate treatment for their conditions regardless of whether they are related to service.

This Government is delivering on its commitment to honour the unique nature of military service.

Media enquiries: Minister Ronaldson: Mark Lee 02 6277 7820 or 0408 547 381
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203

Tuesday, 12 May 2015 BUDGET VA043