Veterans' Affairs

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (DVA) purpose is to support those who serve or have served in the defence of our nation and their families and to commemorate their service and sacrifice by:

  • maintaining and enhancing the quality of life of clients by improving their financial resilience, self-sufficiency, and their physical and mental wellbeing, and
  • acknowledging and commemorating veterans’ service and sacrifice, and promoting an increased understanding of Australia’s wartime history.

DVA provides support and services to current and former members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and their families, including those living in regional and remote communities.

As at 31 December 2018, the DVA portfolio employed 2,083 staff under the Public Service Act. Of this total, 1,397 staff (67 per cent) were employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 620 staff (30 per cent) in other capital cities and 66 staff (3 per cent) in regional areas.

The Australian War Memorial is part of the DVA portfolio and of the 2,083 staff they accounted for 329 staff, all of whom were employed in Canberra.

DVA’s footprint includes regional office locations in Newcastle, Townsville, Lismore, Maroochydore and Launceston.

In the 2019-20 Budget, $11.5 billion will be provided to support around 283,000 clients, including veterans and dependants. The funding comprises $6.7 billion for income support and compensation, $4.7 billion for health services for veterans and their families, and $78.5 million for commemorative activities.

Most veterans and their families prefer to deal with DVA on the telephone or increasingly online, using new services such as MyService. For those who prefer face-to-face contact there are more than 170 access points across all states and territories of Australia, including in regional and rural areas via a network of government service centres and agents.

As part of the DVA Transformation, the partnership with the Department of Human Services (DHS) will continue to provide more opportunities for veterans and their families to connect with DVA through their network of offices and centres and through the DHS Mobile Service Centre in rural and regional areas.

DVA also offers outreach services including support for community-based activities such as grants, day club visits, men’s health peer education, visits to more than 40 ADF bases, and gives presentations on services and entitlements.

DVA also supports the acknowledgement and commemoration of those who served Australia and its allies in wars, conflicts and peace operations through promoting recognition of service and sacrifice, preservation of Australia’s wartime heritage, and official commemorations.

New Initiatives

Australian Veterans’ Wellbeing Package

This package, introduced in the 2018-19 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) period, included:

  • $11.1 million of funding over four years to develop the Veteran Recognition Program (the Program). The Program has been developed to encourage the Australian community to recognise and acknowledge the unique nature of military service, and support veterans and their families. This includes the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant underpinned by a Veteran Card, a Veteran Lapel Pin, Reservist Lapel Pin and an Oath.
  • $7.7 million over four years to the Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation to continue delivering support to the children of current and former ADF members who have been affected by mental illness. The Program will extend opportunities for children up to 18 years of age to participate in residential camps designed to build mental health literacy and develop skills and strategies in seeking help when they need it. This injection of funding will enable Kookaburra Kids to schedule more weekend camps and activity days nationally throughout each year.
  • $0.1 million will be provided over three years to transfer veterans covered by the reimbursement model under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 to the DVA White Health card (also referred to as the Single Treatment Pathway). This will provide veterans with a more timely, convenient and user-friendly method of gaining access to medical treatment.
  • $6.7 million will be provided over two years to help develop the Soldier On Fussell House accommodation facility at the Concord Repatriation Hospital in Sydney. Fussell House will accommodate the families of ex-ADF personnel who require treatment at the hospital and other hospital facilities within the Sydney region.

Putting Veterans and their Families First

The Government is committed to putting veterans and their families first and ensuring they receive the respect, recognition and support they deserve. In the 2019-20 Budget, the Government continues to invest in the transformation of the Department of Veterans' Affairs and will:

  • further enhance the MyService online portal to expand the types of claims that veterans can make online and streamline claim processing;
  • improve and simplify the telephone system and move to a single phone number, 1800 VETERAN;
  • introduce new information and communication technology systems to better serve veterans and their families in a more secure and reliable manner;
  • simplify and consolidate the list of aids and appliances provided to the veteran community;
  • increase the use of data and analytics, including improving treatment pathways and monitoring the quality of care provided to veterans and their families; and
  • continue to reform and improve inefficient and out dated processes.

Energy Assistance Payment

The 2019-20 Budget will provide a payment of a one-off, income tax exempt payment, of $75 for singles and $125 for couples, to over 3.9 million Australians who currently receive an eligible social security payment.  Over 224,000 veterans will receive this payment to assist with power bills and cost of living expenses.

Open Arms—Veterans & Families Counselling Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training workshops for Returned and Services League of Australia volunteers

From 1 July 2019, the Australian Government will provide more than $4.0 million over four years for Open Arms—Veterans & Families Counselling (formerly VVCS) to partner with the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) and leverage the RSL network across Australian to promote mental health training through the veteran community. Open Arms—Veterans & Families Counselling will deliver the mental health training nationally to ensure more people in the veteran community have the skills and confidence to help reduce the rate of suicide, especially among young veterans who have recently transitioned out of the Australian Defence Force.

Improved Access to Health Care for Australian Civilian Surgical and Medical Team members who worked in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972

$22.2 million over five years from 2018-19 will be allocated to provide the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Card—All Conditions within Australia (Gold Card) to eligible members of Australian Civilian Surgical and Medical teams who worked in South Vietnam from October 1964 to December 1972 under the South East Asia Treaty Organization aid program.

Partner Service Pensions—eligibility alignment

$6.2 million will be provided over four years from 2019-20 to ensure equal treatment of former spouses and former de-facto partners of veterans concerning access to the partner service pension when they separate from their veteran partner.

Both former spouses and former de facto partners of veterans will be able to continue to receive the partner service pension after their relationship with their veteran partner has ended, including as a result of family or domestic violence.

Assistance for veterans prescribed anti-malarial medications

$2.1 million will be provided over four years from 2019-20 to provide a national program to deliver comprehensive health assessments for veterans who used the anti-malarial medications mefloquine or tafenoquine during their service in the ADF. Any veteran who has concerns about the potential health effects of having taken mefloquine or tafenoquine during service can gain access to a comprehensive health check by a general practitioner. The check will provide a whole-of-person assessment that may identify potential service related illness, disease or injury, and where appropriate referral for further specialist assessment, treatment and support.

Enhanced Employment Support for Veterans through the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program

The Enhanced Employment Support for Veterans program provides grants to organisations which support veterans such as Ex-Service Organisations to assist or facilitate them finding employment. The program is part of the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program. The measure will commence on 1 January 2020 and will align and complement existing DVA programs. The measure includes $16.2 million to provide grants over four years from 2019-20 to 2022-23.

Current Initiatives

Veteran Payment

As part of a package of measures in response to the Senate’s report on the Inquiry into suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel, the 2017-18 MYEFO provided $16.1 million over four years for the Veteran Payment. This income support payment assists vulnerable veterans until their claim for liability for a mental health condition has been determined.

It provides early access to financial support vocational and psychosocial rehabilitation, including financial counselling and budgeting.

The payment commenced on 1 May 2018, and is available to veterans who meet the eligibility criteria, including those located in regional Australia.

Extended Family Support for Veterans

This initiative provides improved family support to contemporary veterans during challenging periods, including at times of family crisis. The 2017-18 MYEFO provided $7.1 million over four years to fund this initiative. The support includes key psychosocial interventions, such as greater access to childcare and counselling to enable the family unit to maintain its connections to community, employment and social interaction.

Eligible veterans are those who have warlike service under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 and a current rehabilitation plan. Childcare assistance is capped at $10,000 per child per financial year (under school age) and/or $5,000 per child per financial year (primary school) for Commonwealth approved childcare. Brief intervention counselling is capped at four sessions per year for up to five years and is available to an eligible veteran’s immediate family members, partner, children, siblings and/or parents.

The widowed partners of eligible veterans (those with warlike service who are killed on warlike service, or who die by suicide following warlike service or whose death is determined to be a service death), are eligible for childcare assistance and household services and counselling to assist them to adjust to life after the death of their partner.

The initiative commenced on 1 May 2018, and is available to veterans who meet the eligibility criteria, including those located in regional Australia.

GP Health Assessment for Five Years Post-Discharge

This initiative provides all ADF personnel transitioning to civilian life from 1 July 2019 access to an annual comprehensive health assessment by a General Practitioner (GP) for the first five years post‑discharge. All ADF members with at least one day of continuous full‑time service, including Reservists, discharged from 1 July 2019 are eligible to access the Annual GP Health Assessment using the DVA Health Card.

The Annual GP Health Assessment significantly increases the opportunity for GPs to identify and treat mental and physical health concerns in ex-ADF members early, facilitating earlier recovery and minimising the impacts of mental health concerns on individual functioning, quality of life and workforce participation. A behavioural insights trial will also be conducted over the first three years to establish the most effective mechanisms to encourage ex-ADF members to undertake the assessment.

This initiative was announced as part of 2017-18 MYEFO for $2.1million. This proposal builds on the existing one-off ADF Post-Discharge GP Health Assessment and the online assessment tool developed as part of that Budget measure, which is now embedded in GP practice software. The one-off GP health assessment will continue to be available for all ex‑ADF members who transition both before and after 1 July 2019.

Wellbeing and Support Program

The 2017-18 MYEFO provided $4.0 million over two years for a DVA’s case management service, which aims to provide tailored support to two groups of veterans and their families who have medical and non-medical complex needs:

  • recently transitioned (medically or administratively) members
  • veterans who have discharged for some time, maybe years, and have fallen into crisis.

The Wellbeing and Support Program will provide a dedicated case manager who is part of a team of multi-disciplinary professionals that support the veteran and their family for a 24-month period. At the centre of the Program will be medical case management so that complex needs are coordinated through various health providers, including the general practitioner.

A pilot of the service began in July 2018. As at 7 March 2019, 144 cases have been assessed with 47 being accepted.

The Program will provide the opportunity to find the best case management model and service delivery method to achieve effective outcomes for these two veteran groups.

The Wellbeing and Support Program partly addresses recommendations 1 and 15 of the Senate’s report on the Inquiry into suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel.

The Wellbeing and Support Program provides DVA with a service delivery mechanism to reach out to identified vulnerable veterans. The pilot aims to assist these veterans to receive and engage in tailored services and support they need from wider community resources and government programs. This pilot will be available for veterans in regional parts of Australia.

Scoping Study to Professionalise Veterans’ Advocacy

The MYEFO 2017-18 provided $1.7 million in funding over two years to evaluate professional advocacy models operating across Government in Australia and overseas to determine the model appropriate for the Australian veteran community.

The Study is part of a package of measures in response to the Senate’s report on the Inquiry into suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel, which will examine advocacy models to service veterans in both metropolitan and regional Australia.

The Study has been completed and advice is being provided to Government.

Support for Veterans through Improved Compensation Arrangements

This initiative provides former members of the ADF who are unable to work with fortnightly compensation payments equivalent to their normal earnings where they are engaged in an approved fulltime study program as part of the DVA rehabilitation plan. The 2018-19 Budget provided $10.8 million over the forward estimates with commencement on 1 November 2018 and conclusion on 30 June 2022.

It provides financial surety to veterans through their medical discharge into rehabilitation and then into ongoing remunerative work, where possible. Ongoing financial security is paramount to this veteran cohort, and this initiative provides support through study to facilitate reskilling, long-term self-sustainability to mitigate future reliance on the incapacity payment system.

Eligible veterans in regional areas may gain access to this support through an approved rehabilitation plan.

Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program

The Prime Minister launched the Veterans’ Employment Program on 17 November 2016 with the aim to raise awareness of the unique skills and experience that veterans can bring to businesses and increase employment opportunities in the business community.

The Government provided $2.7 million over four years in the 2017-18 Budget to implement a number of initiatives under the Program. These included establishing an Industry Advisory Committee and annual awards to recognise the achievements of companies in creating employment opportunities for former members of the ADF.

The Industry Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment has been established under the Program to develop advice on practical measures to embed veterans’ employment strategies into the recruitment practices of Australian businesses. The Committee provided its second progress report to the Minster for Veterans’ Affairs in December 2018.

Annual awards have also been established to recognise the achievements of companies and individuals in creating employment opportunities for former members of the ADF. The 2019 Awards were held on 5 March 2019, showcasing businesses across Australia that employ or support veterans and highlighted the significant contributions being made by veterans in the civilian workplace, or who have established their own business.

A 2018-19 Budget measure provided additional funding of $8.3 million over four years to continue to implement these initiatives, and to implement two new initiatives. A framework was launched in November 2018 to allow businesses to publicly commit to support the employment of veterans. The other initiative will provide additional support from 1 July 2020 to veterans who are finding the transition to the civilian workforce challenging, including assistance with the preparation of civilian resumes, assistance with translating military skills into civilian language, interview coaching, mentoring and pre- and post-employment coaching services.

Mental Health Treatment for Australian Defence Force Reservists with Certain Service

This 2018-19 Budget initiative provided an additional $2.2 million to extend eligibility for mental health treatment to certain Reservists. The initiative provides health care treatment for certain conditions under DVA arrangements without the need to link the condition to the person’s military service, and without the need for a compensation claim.

Prior to this initiative, permanent full-time ADF service and Reservists with continuous full‑time service were eligible for this support. From 1 July 2018, Reservists with Disaster Relief or Border Protection Service, or who have been involved in a serious training accident, are also now eligible. Eligible Reservists in regional areas gain access to mental health care without the need to prove the condition has arisen from their military service and without the need for a diagnosis.

The initiative builds on the 2017-18 Budget measure Mental Health Treatment for Current and Former Members of the Australian Defence Force—expanded access.

Long Tan Bursary

The Long Tan Bursary provides up to $12,000 over three years to eligible children and, from 1 July 2019, grandchildren of Australian Vietnam veterans who served in the Vietnam War between 31 July 1962 and 30 April 1975 to establish themselves in post‑secondary education.

This acknowledges the intergenerational emotional, physical and social effects of service in Vietnam, and provides educational support to children and grandchildren in regional areas.

Expanded Access for Non-Liability Health Care—Mental Health Treatment for Current and Former Members of the Australian Defence Force

Non-liability health care provides free treatment for certain conditions without the need to link the condition to the person’s military service, without the need for a diagnosis or a compensation claim. The 2017-18 Budget provided $33.5 million over four years to extend the range of mental health conditions treated under the non-liability health care arrangements.

From 1 July 2017, treatment became available for any mental health condition for anyone with permanent ADF service or Reservists with continuous full-time service.

Open Arms—Veterans & Families Counselling

Open Arms—Veterans & Families Counselling (Open Arms) provides free and confidential, nation-wide counselling and support for war and service-related mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

Open Arms also provides relationship and family counselling to address issues that can arise due to the unique nature of military service. Open Arms counsellors have an understanding of military culture and can work with clients to find effective solutions for improved mental health and wellbeing.

A family inclusive service, Open Arms client eligibility has expanded over time. Today, Open Arms supports not only current and former ADF members, but also their immediate family. Supporting families is fundamental to the Open Arms service delivery paradigm, which recognises that military trauma rarely impacts on the individual alone. The 2017-18 Budget provided $8.5 million over four years to make Open Arms even more accessible to families by extending access to the partners and children of current and former ADF members who hold a Repatriation Health Card—Gold or White for an accepted mental health disability. The former partners of eligible ADF personnel will also be able to gain access to Open Arms support for five years following separation or while co-parenting a child under the age of 18.

Regardless of where you reside in Australia—in a city, in rural or in regional Australia—Open Arms counsellors are available to support ADF veterans and their families.

Saluting Their Service

Saluting Their Service is the Australian Government’s ongoing commemorations grants program. Under Saluting Their Service, funding is available for projects, including events and activities that are directly commemorative of Australia’s involvement in war, conflict and peace operations.

The program provides grants of up to $4,000 under the Community Commemorative Grants category for projects that assist people at a community level and enable small communities to build memorials and preserve wartime memorabilia that are locally significant.

Funding is also available under the Major Commemorative Grants category of the program for significant projects at a national, state or territory level.

Grants are approved each year across Australia, many in regional areas.

As at 6 February 2019, a total of 104 grants have been provided in 2018-19, ensuring valuable funding reaches veteran communities across the country, including regional Australia.

Over the remainder of 2018-19, there are three more rounds of Saluting Their Service grants to be assessed.

Coordinated Veterans’ Care Mental Health Pilot

The Coordinated Veterans’ Care (CVC) Mental Health Pilot was introduced in the 2017-18 Budget with funding of $3.6 million over the forward estimates.

The Pilot will test whether the use of a digital coaching application (the app) can assist veterans to manage mild to moderate mental health concerns, in conjunction with traditional treatment through a GP. The Pilot is leveraging the existing CVC Program, which uses a team-based model of care, led by a GP, and supported by a practice nurse.

Veterans enrolled in the Pilot have access to coordinated care from their GP for up to 12 months and access to the digital coaching app. The app will prompt various health messages along with ‘light touch’ cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) sessions over a six- to eight-week period. The app was developed by Clevertar, a digital specialist in health care. Technical and clinical coordination for the Pilot will be provided by Tunstall, a health call monitoring facility. The Pilot will be independently evaluated by the University of South Australia.

The Pilot is primarily targeting rural and remote regions in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania with high populations of veterans, and where mental health services can be difficult to access. In June 2018, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs agreed to the rollout of the Pilot to 10 Primary Health Networks (PHNs). On 8 January 2019, the Minister agreed to expand the Pilot to two metropolitan PHNs, Brisbane North and Adelaide.

Recruitment for the Pilot concludes on 30 June 2019.

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