The purpose of Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is to support the wellbeing of those who serve or have served in the defence of our nation, and their families, by:
- Partnering with organisations and individuals to help design, implement and deliver effective programs and benefits, which enhance the wellbeing of veterans and their families.
- Providing and maintaining war graves and delivering meaningful commemorative activities to promote community recognition and understanding of the service and sacrifice of veterans.
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 30 June 2020, the Veterans’ Affairs Portfolio employed 2,080 staff under the Public Service Act 1999. Of this total, 1,396 staff (67 per cent) were employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 638 staff (31 per cent) in other capital cities and 46 staff (2 per cent) in regional areas.
The Australian War Memorial is part of the Veterans’ Affairs Portfolio and of the 2,080 staff they accounted for 334 staff, all of whom were employed in Canberra.
DVA’s footprint includes regional office locations in Newcastle, Townsville, Lismore, Maroochydore and Launceston.
Measures outlined in the Budget aim to ensure veterans and their families across Australia, including those in regional and rural areas, have access to the support they need during challenging times and beyond. New and expanded measures focus on helping veterans find a job after ADF service and supporting their whole-of-life health and mental health needs.
The Australian Government will promote better mental health care outcomes for veterans by increasing fees paid by DVA to mental health, social work and community nursing providers; and by providing training opportunities in veteran and military mental health for the psychiatry workforce. Eligibility for the Coordinated Veterans’ Care program is being expanded to allow access by White Card holders with a chronic mental health condition which DVA has accepted as being related to their military service.
Civilian employment opportunities for veterans will be boosted, and more support will be provided for veterans seeking to start their own business or explore entrepreneurial opportunities. The Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program is being broadened to further promote the wide ranging skills of veterans to employers and reward businesses for initiatives that support veteran employment.
A Joint Transition Authority established in Defence will ensure transition services and support mechanisms are working together to support ADF members and their families. This will give around 6,000 transitioning ADF members and their families the best opportunity for a successful transition into the civilian community each year.
As an extension of Veteran Wellbeing Centre network (connecting veterans and their families to a range of core services that will include support for transition, employment, health and social connection), DVA is undertaking two separate feasibility studies in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) to determine the need for further veteran wellbeing services in both regions. Outcomes from both studies are expected to provide further insight into potential options to inform future policy development.
In addition, expanding the Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling (Open Arms) Community and Peer Program to two additional regional locations – Maryborough and Nowra, will increase access to mental health support in areas of high demand for vulnerable or at-risk veterans and families. This will mean all Veteran Wellbeing Centres currently being established will have the support of a Community and Peer Team.
The DVA Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program provides eligible veterans with a specifically trained psychiatric assistance dog as an adjunct to treatment and management of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The scheme has national coverage, and providers are able to assist eligible and suitable veterans in regional areas with travel to undertake matching and training with a dog.
DVA’s Veteran Centric Reform Program, in partnership with Services Australia, will continue to transform the way DVA operates by modernising and providing faster, simplified and easier access to services and support. The way veterans and their families connect with DVA is continually being improved, particularly for those who are vulnerable or located in rural and regional areas, with 1800 VETERAN (1800 838 372) introduced as the primary access number for DVA and regular upgrades made to DVA’s online service, MyService.
While more veterans are engaging with DVA online, there are more than 170 face-to-face access points across all states and territories of Australia, including in regional and rural areas via a network of government service centres and agents.
In addition to Services Australia’s Mobile Service Centre, 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.
Defence Services Homes Insurance Scheme – expanding eligibility
As an election commitment, the Australian Government expanded eligibility from 1 July 2019 for coverage under the Defence Service Homes Scheme (the Scheme) to all current and former ADF members with at least one day of service.
Expanding the Scheme’s eligibility requirements will address the disparity in current eligibility criteria, ensure the Scheme supports all ADF members and veterans in recognition of their service and sacrifice to our nation, and provide greater peace of mind for both the deploying member and remaining spouse and family should an adverse event occur and an insurance claim is warranted.
The Scheme offers competitive home building insurance premiums, which are, on average 35 percent lower than that provided by other general insurers. This will assist in easing the cost of living for ADF members and veterans, and their families, especially those located in regional and northern Australia, where the ADF has a large presence and other insurers can charge high premiums for home building insurance.
Exempting Totally and Permanently Impaired (TPI) Pension Recipients from Allied Health Treatment Cycle – additional funding
As an election commitment, in the 2019–20 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook the Australian Government provided $17.4 million over four years from 2019-20, including $3.9 million in 2020–21, to exempt TPI pensioner from aspects of new allied health referral arrangements, known as the treatment cycle. Under this measure, TPI pensioners continue to access unlimited clinically appropriate physiotherapy and exercise physiology services under either an annual or ongoing referral.
Veterans' Wellbeing Centres
As an election commitment, in the 2019–20 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook the Australian Government provided $30 million over three years from 2019-20, including $10 million in 2020–21 to establish a national network of six Veteran Wellbeing Centres in Townsville, Queensland; Perth, Western Australia; Darwin, Northern Territory; Nowra, New South Wales; Adelaide, South Australia; and Wodonga, Victoria. The program seeks to deliver integrated support to veterans and their families from all levels of government, business and community partnerships. Once established, the Centres will help connect veterans and their families to a range of core services that will include support for transition, employment, health and social connection.
COVID-19 Response Package – maintaining support for Veterans
Supporting Veteran Wellbeing through Early Access to Medical Treatment
In the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update, the Australian Government provided $2.9 million over two years from 2020–21 to extend the trial of the Provisional Access to Medical Treatment Program. This program provides access to medical and allied health treatment for eligible veterans on a provisional basis for one or more of the 20 most commonly accepted conditions. The program contributes positively to veteran wellbeing by providing provisional access to treatment while their claim is being considered.
Support for Highly Vulnerable Veterans through the Wellbeing and Support Program during the COVID-19 Pandemic
In the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update, the Australian Government provided $2.8 million in 2020–21 to provide support to vulnerable veterans and their families with complex medical and or psychosocial needs to access their DVA entitlements and health services to support their independence in the community. Each veteran has access to intensive community-based case management to support engagement with health and rehabilitation services.
Mental Health and Suicide Prevention for Veterans
Specialist Client Coordinators to Support Younger Veterans Aged 30 Years or Under
In the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update, the Australian Government provided $6.4 million over four years, including $1.6 million in 2020–21, to deliver tailored case management support for veterans who are administratively or medically discharged to ensure access to DVA entitlements and relevant health services.
Establishing a Veteran Family Advocate
In the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update, the Australian Government provided $2 million over four years, including $0.5 million in 2020-2021 to directly engage with the families of veterans and be their voice to help shape policy and improve the design of veteran programs and services provided through the Veterans’ Affairs Portfolio, including those relating to veteran mental health. The Veteran Family Advocate will also work closely with the National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention so that recommendations made by the Commissioner can be rapidly translated into advice to the Australian Government on policies and programs that better support veterans and their families. The Veteran Family Advocate is a member of the Repatriation Commission and, subject to the passage of legislation, will be appointed to the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission.
Mental Health Support for Veterans and Their Families
The Australian Government is committed to putting the wellbeing of veterans and their families first by providing a package of initiatives in the 2020-21 Budget to support veterans’ mental health and wellbeing.
This package included:
Increasing DVA Fees to Improve Access to Mental Health Support for Veterans
$94.3 million over four years, including $11.8 million in 2020–21, to provide for a one-off fee increase and fee simplification for mental health providers, social workers and community nurses, as well as additional training places for psychiatry registrars in military and veteran mental health. The wellbeing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are particularly acute for vulnerable cohorts, including veterans with ongoing mental health concerns, veterans requiring aged care support, and ADF members transitioning to civilian life. Targeted funding in these priority areas will strengthen the capacity of the healthcare workforce to provide timely and high quality services to veterans and their families. This measure will benefit veterans and providers across Australia, including in regional areas. In particular, this measure aims to improve health services in regional and remote areas by strengthening the viability of providing treatment in traditionally thin markets and giving veterans a greater choice of mental health and community care providers.
Expansion of Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling
$5 million over four years, including $0.8 million in 2020–21, has been allocated to expand and evaluate existing mental health and suicide prevention services delivered by Open Arms, including increased community and peer support in regional Australia.
This includes funding of $3.4 million to expand the Open Arms Community and Peer Program to two additional regional locations – Maryborough, Queensland, and Nowra, New South Wales. This will increase access to mental health support in areas of high demand for vulnerable or at-risk veterans and families. The two Community and Peer Teams will increase the case management services available to 6,000 veterans and their families in these regions.
The $5 million also includes $1.1 million to introduce web-based Community and Peer Forums nationally for vulnerable veterans with specific needs especially when caring for an individual at risk of suicide or experiencing suicide bereavement, and will improve accessibility of care for veterans and their families in rural and remote areas. The online web forums have the potential to support up to 4,000 veterans and their families in highly vulnerable cohorts.
Expansion of the Coordinated Veterans' Care Program to White Card Holders
$2.4 million over four years, including $0.3 million in 2020–21, has been allocated to expand eligibility for the Coordinated Veterans’ Care (CVC) program from 1 July 2021 to White Card holders with a mental condition accepted as being related to military service. This proposal also seeks to review the CVC program’s payments and structure to take into account the findings of the Productivity Commission. Eligible veterans in all parts of Australia, including regional areas, can participate in the program.
This initiative will strengthen health outcomes for vulnerable veterans with complex health needs through access to the benefits the CVC program has to offer, including effective management of their chronic mental health condition, improved quality of life and reduced unplanned hospital admissions.
Broadening the Prime Minister's Veterans' Employment Program
This measure provided $6 million over four years, including $1.1 million in 2020–21, is provided to broaden the services and support available through the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program. The funding will provide for continued awareness raising of the benefits of employing veterans, including through annual Awards. It will provide training support for ADF transitioning members choosing to consider small business and entrepreneurship, and will build the evidence base for future veteran employment initiatives. This measure will benefit veterans and their families across Australia, including in regional areas