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Program 1.2 Veterans’ Disability Support

Objective

Program 1.2 delivers disability pensions, allowances and special purpose assistance to eligible veterans and members of the Australian Defence Force and Peacekeeping Forces under the Veterans Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) and related legislation.

The program provides compensation to eligible veterans (including Australian merchant mariners) and members of the Australian Defence Force and Peacekeeping Forces for the tangible effects of war or defence service. Eligible persons receive disability pensions and ancillary benefits.

Overview

In 2012-13:

  • 13 781 primary claims were finalised, with 20 147 conditions being determined, with an acceptance rate of 64 per cent
  • the mean time taken to process VEA compensation claims was 79 days.

The forecast reduction in the number of disability pensioners continued with a drop of 4.5 per cent from 110 644 as at 30 June 2012 to 105 705 as at 30 June 2013. This compares with 116 498 as at 30 June 2011, 122 355 as at 30 June 2010 and 128 120 as at 30 June 2009. Over the same five-year period there has been a 26 per cent reduction in primary claims for disability pension received from 18 359 in 2008-09 to 13 604 in 2012-13.

Expenses

Numbers of disability pensioners are expected to reduce by around five per cent per year over the forward years. Expenses are expected to reduce as the veteran population reduces in size.

Administered and Departmental expenses
  2012–13 PBS1 ($ million) Estimated actual2 2012–13 ($ million) Outcome 2012–13 ($ million)
Administered 1512.1 1531.5 1535.3
Departmental 41.1 42.8 45.7
Total resources 1553.2 1574.3 1581.0

1 PBS in performance reporting tables means Portfolio Budget Statements.

2Estimated actual means the estimated expense or total for 2012-13 provided in the 2013-14 Portfolio Budget Statements. As the Budget is released in May each year but the financial year does not close off until 30 June, the current year numbers in the Budget can only be estimates.

Deliverables

In order to deliver disability pensions to veterans under the VEA and related legislation the Department undertakes the following activities:

  • processing new disability pension claims
  • processing applications for increases in disability pension
  • processing loss of earnings, attendant allowance and recreation transport allowance claims
  • processing section 31 reviews
  • processing section 137 Veterans’ Review Board (VRB), and section 37 Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) reports
  • delivering the Vehicle Assistance Scheme.
Number of disability pensioners
  2012-13 PBS Estimated actual 2012-13 Outcome 2012-13
Quantity: Number of disability pensioners 105800 105400 105 705

Key performance indicators

Mean number of days to process a primary claim
  2012–13 PBS Estimated actual 2012–13 Outcome 2012–13
Timeliness: Mean number of days to process a primary claim 75 (target) 75 79
Price: Average cost per disability pensioner $122 $122 $128
Quality: Critical errors <5% (target) <5% 1.6%

Report on performance

Number of disability pensioners

The forecast reduction in the number of disability pensioners continued in 2012-13 with numbers dropping by 4.5 per cent, continuing the trend of 2011-12 where the percentage drop from the previous year was five per cent. Figure 9 shows this trend over the past five years.

Disability pensioners 2008-09 to 2012-13 shown as number of pensioners, comparison over the last 5 financial years.

Figure 9: Disability pensioners 2008-09 to 2012-13

There were 13 604 primary claims (applications for disability pensions, applications for increases in disability pension and assessments/reviews) received in 2012-13 compared with 14535 claims in 2011-12, a decrease of 6.4 per cent.

The number of primary claims finalised in 2012-13 totalled 13 781 compared with 14 387 in 2011-12. The applications for disability pensions finalised represents 20 147 conditions being determined, with an acceptance rate of 64 per cent.

As at 30 June 2013 there were 3111 primary claims on hand compared with 3291 as at 30 June 2012.

Figure 10 shows pension activity under the VEA for the past five years.

Number and type of pension activity under the VEA 2008-09 to 2012-13

Figure 10: Number and type of pension activity under the VEA 2008-09 to 2012-13

Table 6 details the 15 most frequently claimed disabilities under the VEA (based on Statements of Principles) in 2012-13.

Table 6: Top 15 most frequently claimed disabilities under the VEA
Disability Number accepted Acceptance rate Number rejected Total
Osteoarthritis 1824 77% 540 2364
Sensorineural Hearing Loss 1672 99% 16 1688
Tinnitus 1475 98% 23 1498
Lumbar Spondylosis 1118 83% 222 1340
Solar Keratosis 795 99% 11 806
Non Melanotic Malignant Neoplasm of the Skin 681 99% 8 689
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 483 80% 118 601
Depressive Disorder 293 64% 167 460
Ischaemic Heart Disease 287 64% 158 445
Hypertension 135 33% 275 410
Alcohol Dependence 247 62% 150 397
Cervical Spondylosis 86 24% 268 354
Acquired Cataract 349 99% 3 352
Chronic Bronchitis 253 77% 74 327
Rotator Cuff Syndrome 70 27% 191 261
Total 9768 81% 2224 11 992

Time to process

The average time taken to process all VEA claims (applications for disability pensions, applications for increase in disability pensions and assessments/reviews and war widow/ers pension claims at the primary level) was 79 days compared to 74 days in 2011-12 and a target of 75 days.

Price

The unit cost in 2012-13 is reported as the program staff and administrative expenses (departmental) per disability pensioner. The average cost of $389 per disability pensioner in 2012-13 was above the estimate of $372.

Quality

The performance standard applied to assess the quality of decision-making is a critical error rate of less than five per cent. Sampling conducted on disability claims during the year 2012-13 returned a 1.6 per cent critical error rate compared with 2.2 per cent in 2011-12.

Merit reviews

The merit review information below refers to all merit review activity related to decisions made under the VEA.

There are three levels of merit review activity open to clients under the VEA. These are:

  • section 31 – where a reviewable decision is reviewed by a delegate not involved in the original decision-making process
  • section 135 – where the VRB reviews decisions, a report is then prepared by DVA under section 137 of the VEA
  • section 175 – where, if a client is still dissatisfied with the VRB decision, they can appeal to the AAT on certain grounds. Following receipt of an appeal by the AAT, DVA prepares a report under section 37 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 (AAT Act).

Section 31

There were 1580 section 31 reviews decided in 2012-13, with a mean time taken to process of 17 days, within the 40-day target.

Section 137 reports

In 2012-13, 81 per cent of reports for the VRB were prepared within the target of 42 days compared with 57 per cent in 2011-12. The number of outstanding reports to be prepared has reduced from the previous year, from 3911 at 30 June 2012 to 182 at 30 June 2013.

1. This figure was incorrectly reported as 218 in the 2011-12 Annual Report.

Section 37 (AAT Act) reports

In 2012-13, 88 per cent of reports for the AAT were prepared within the 28-day target compared with 82 per cent in 2011-12.

Finalised activity

Merit review finalised activity consists of cases completed by DVA review officers under section 31 of the VEA, and the preparation of documentation for the VRB in accordance with section 137 of the VEA and for the AAT in accordance with section 37 of the AAT Act. The total number of finalised review activities in 2012-13 was 4588 compared with in 4392 in 2011-12.

Table 7 shows a breakdown of activity in the three levels of merit review under the VEA for the past five years.

Table 7: Detailed merit review activity under the VEA 2008-09 to 2012-13
Activity 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13
Section 31          
Applications received 1488 1427 1192 1257 1534
Time taken to process 21 24 25 22 17
Decisions 1467a 1417 1242 1225 1580
Affirmed 599 604 575 574 946
Varied1 788 759 618 589 588
Withdrawn 80 54 49 62 46
On hand 101 111 61 93 47
Section 137 (VRB)          
Applications received 3634 3427 3004 2847 2592
Reports % completed within target 77 71 87 57 81
Reports prepared 3218 3530 2986 3005 2801
On hand 461 358a 376 391a 182
Section 37 (AAT)          
Applications received 582 447 404 341 287
Reports % completed within target 90 90 92 82 88
Reports prepared 585 492 404 345 286
On hand 81 36a 36 28a 29

1 Note: Additional detail on decision varied by the VRB is available in the Commissions’ annual reports in this volume.

a These figures were incorrectly recorded in previous annual reports.

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