Veteran Angus Sim challenges Department of Veteran’s Affairs with own satisfaction survey

30 May 2017

The Daily Telegraph article PAUL TOOHEY, News Corp Australia Network 30 May 2017

THE Department of Veterans Affairs’ latest glowing report on its own performance helping veterans has been challenged by an Iraq war vet who has produced his own comprehensive survey showing it continues to fail them miserably.

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Angus Sim, who suffers post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) after serving in Baghdad’s deadly red zone at the height of the war, conducted his own surveys of more than 700 veterans after the DVA published results in 2014 and 2016 showing high satisfaction among vets accessing claims and services.

Mr Sim’s detailed surveys show a complete reverse to the DVA results, which in 2014 claimed 89 per cent of clients were satisfied or very satisfied with DVA, and the 2016
results, which showed a drop to 83 per cent satisfaction.

Mr Sim’s surveys, networked on Facebook with the assistance of Brisbane barrister Greg Williams, showed that in 2015, 72 per cent of veterans were either unsatisfied or
extremely unsatisfied with DVA, which rose to 82 per cent in 2017.

“No one believes it,” said Mr Sim of the DVA surveys, conducted on its behalf by market research company Orima, for which taxpayers paid $174,500 in 2014 and $220,320 in
2016. “It’s done to make the department and the minister look good.”

In 2016, Orima surveyed 3002 DVA clients, almost two-thirds of whom were over the age of 65.
They were asked specifically about issues dealing with the DVA in the last 12 months — even though most of this cohort would have long since settled claims with DVA and had little contact with the department.
Nineteen per cent of that group were widows or widowers, meaning they had seen no service.
“That just shows they’re surveying people that are happy,” said Mr Sim. “They are 65 plus, the settled majority who’ve had their claims done and dusted.”

The high suicide rate among younger veterans is currently subject of a senate inquiry, (See all submissions here) which will examine complaints that DVA adds to stress with its slow processing of claims. A separate 2015 Senate report into DVA found its services lamentable.

Mr Sim, 32, believes DVA’s antiquated and unwieldy bureaucracy drives troubled vets further to despair.
In comments to News Corp, DVA agreed that “older clients have a higher satisfaction rate than younger veterans”.
It said targeting younger veterans who had experienced recent “warlike” service, to gauge their satisfaction, was not one of the sampling criteria.
“Connecting with younger veterans is a high priority for DVA, which includes the commitment to improve business and technology systems to be more client focused, responsive and connected,” it said.

With overall satisfaction among clients dropping six points between 2014 and 2016, it was examining the results “to better understand why there was a decrease”.
Mr Williams said DVA should conduct surveys that isolated different veteran age groups so a true picture of the satisfaction levels among recently returned vets could be understood.
“The books are cooked,” said Mr Williams.
“They’re cooked because the sampling was very biased to more elderly people and widows who are more than happy to take calls from Orima, because they have no dramas.
“The more pertinent issues relate to people who have been to Afghanistan and Iraq.”

ADSO Comment 
DVA consults with the veteran community and ex-service organisations direct and through its Consultative Fora  of which one is  the Younger veterans – contemporary needs forum (YVF).

It is appropriate for Angus Sim’s challenge to be considered by this Forum