Under this outcome DVA works to maintain and enhance the financial wellbeing and self-sufficiency for eligible persons and their dependants through access to income support, compensation and other support services, including advice and information about entitlements.
DVA achieves this goal by applying the following strategies:
- increasing awareness and understanding of compensation, rehabilitation and income support schemes among veterans, war widow/ers, serving members, former defence force members, and their families and advocates
- assisting eligible persons and their dependants to receive their correct entitlements through effective advice and efficient claims determinations and review
- integrating rehabilitation as a key consideration in compensation policy and decision-making
- engaging younger veterans and Australian Defence Force (ADF) members in policy development and review
- ensuring that the changing needs of eligible veterans, especially those with complex needs or severe disabilities, are addressed
- securing continuing access to home loan and insurance services for eligible members of the veteran and defence force communities
- continuing, in conjunction with the Department of Defence, to implement the recommendations accepted by Government in its response to the Review of Military Compensation Arrangements
- continuing to implement the recommendations from the Review of DVA-funded Ex-service Organisation Advocacy and Welfare Services.
Key developments in 2012-13
Review of Military Compensation Arrangements
As part of the 2012-13 Budget, the Government responded to the Review of Military Compensation Arrangements, accepting 96 of the 108 recommendations made in its report.
Forty-five of the 96 accepted recommendations were implemented by 1 July 2013, with the remainder to be implemented over the next two to three years.
Of the accepted recommendations, the main initiatives improving benefits are as follows:
- A new method for calculating permanent impairment compensation across multiple Acts under the MRCA was introduced and applies to decisions after 1 July 2013. All those who have claimed permanent impairment compensation under MRCA since its commencement on 1 July 2004 will be reassessed and many will receive increased compensation. This reassessment of approximately 1850 claims will commence in January 2014 and is expected to take two and a half years, with the oldest cases reviewed first.
- There will be provision of a Repatriation Health Card – For Specific Conditions (White Card) and the supplementary payment for pharmaceuticals to former ADF members with chronic health conditions accepted under the SRCA (subject to a needs assessment showing long-term treatment needs) from 10 December 2013. Those former members who already have a DVA treatment card will have eligibility on that card expanded to include all SRCA conditions.
- Permanent impairment compensation under the MRCA for multiple conditions may be paid as each condition stabilises, rather than people having to wait for all conditions (including those accepted under other Acts) to stabilise (effective 1 July 2013). This means earlier access to compensation for the lifestyle effects of the conditions. There will also be greater use of interim payments of permanent impairment compensation, including imputed lifestyle effects.
- There will be greater flexibility in compensation payments following the death of a member or former member of the ADF. Wholly dependent partners will be able to convert part of their periodic compensation to a lump sum, rather than having to make the existing choice between an ongoing periodic payment or converting the whole amount to an age-based lump sum (effective 1 July 2013).
- There will be an increase in the Eligible Young Person periodic payment, payable under the MRCA following the death of a member or former member of the ADF, to match the SRCA equivalent (effective 1 July 2013).
- Compensation payable for the cost of financial advice will now cover legal advice and will increase for MRCA beneficiaries who have a choice about how they want to receive their benefits. The limit increases to $2400 from 1 July 2013. This will now cover legal advice on such choices and will continue to be indexed.
Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme
The Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme (DSHIS) is administered by DVA and provides insurance to eligible veterans and current and former serving ADF members. In early 2013, the Scheme was awarded the title of 2012 General Insurer of the Year as part of the Roy Morgan Research 2nd annual Customer Satisfaction Awards, recognising outstanding service for the veteran and ADF communities.
During 2012-13, DVA continued to review and improve rehabilitation policy and procedures affecting current and former ADF members, maintaining a focus on best practice and looking to accommodate the changing needs, expectations and circumstances of clients.
Throughout this year there has been increasing interdepartmental cooperation and involvement with the ADF rehabilitation program policy area in communicating and promoting consistent work practices and entitlements for ADF members. This increasing cross-departmental focus is reflected in changes to the DVA/Defence Rehabilitation Advisory Committee (RAC), and an increase in Defence membership on the RAC. The Committee’s relationship with both DVA and the Department of Defence is vital in the development of rehabilitation policy and delivery.
Advice received from the RAC meetings directs approaches and practices for the future of rehabilitation programs within both departments. The new partnership arrangement will allow the RAC to broaden the focus of rehabilitation to cover rehabilitation issues that affect serving members, reservists, veterans, former serving members and their families. DVA is also refining early intervention strategies and collaborating with Defence to ensure that the timing and effectiveness of rehabilitation are improved for discharging military personnel who have sustained a service-related injury and are transitioning into civilian life.
Many complex and sensitive policy scenarios were submitted for consideration by the Commission, which provided endorsement, direction and clarification on these matters. The Commission provided endorsement on matters such as the promotion of retraining through tertiary education to restore injured people to at least their pre-injury potential as prescribed by the MRCA.
The National Institute of Labour Studies at Flinders University has undertaken research on providing pathways to young veterans for a successful transition into the civilian workforce. This study will better inform DVA’s programs by documenting a client’s expected outcomes, estimating the impact of the type of disability on their employability and identifying training options that will better link to improved client outcomes. The Review of Military Compensation Arrangements recommended a major longitudinal study of the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs provided by Defence and DVA, and this study will commence in 2013-14.
Considerable work was undertaken during the year to introduce a new model for the provision of rehabilitation services to eligible clients through an expansion of current outsourced arrangements. The tendering component of the project did not proceed as overall value for money for the Commonwealth could not be established from the tenders.
In 2013-14, DVA will re-examine the model for provision of its rehabilitation services to find the best possible approach for DVA clients. Rehabilitation is a growing part of DVA’s business and more young men and women who are veterans or former and serving ADF members will access rehabilitation now and in the future, regardless of their service.
Priorities for 2013-14
DVA’s priorities for compensation and support in the year ahead are to:
- continue efforts to improve the efficiency and timeliness of the claims process
- assist Government in responding to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) Review of the SRCA
- implement mental health eligibility and income support means testing changes arising from the 2013-14 Budget
- continue working with ex-service organisations to ensure appropriate support for veterans through programs such as Building Excellence in Support and Training, the Training and Information Program and Veteran and Community Grants.
The implementation of the Government’s response to the Review of Military Compensation Arrangements will continue and work will be undertaken to implement recommendations on:
- a single appeal pathway
- scoping of a new advocacy model
- examining MRCA incapacity payments
- scoping opportunities for streamlining the administration of military compensation and superannuation invalidity and death benefits
- a long-term study of the effectiveness of rehabilitation.
DVA has reviewed the delivery of rehabilitation services under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA), SRCA and MRCA with a specific focus on those under the age of 50 with VEA eligibility. The Commission has agreed to the recommendations from this review to ensure that rehabilitation services provided meet DVA rehabilitation principles and alignment is consistent under all three Acts. The proposed changes will improve current aspects of the VEA rehabilitation scheme to a more whole of person approach and further encourage participants to remain in the workforce. These recommendations will be provided to Government for consideration.