Vietnam veteran and President of the NSW Branch of the Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL), Don Rowe OAM, MAICD has seen a lot of change in DVA over the years. He says the care and compassion that the Department provides has improved over time and it is doing more for members of the veteran community than ever before.
He points to his personal observation that, as a Department, he sees that the question now being asked is, ‘how can we help this person?’ Don says it is obvious that DVA staff are being encouraged to look for reasons why a claim should be accepted or why a veteran should be assisted, rather than ‘look for a reason why not’.
‘I hear encouraging stories from various people about their interactions with DVA. In the main, it’s the personalised care that they get from staff in DVA that makes their dealings easier. Some have one or two points of contact that give them an even greater sense of support. This has made a big difference to the reputation of the Department.’
Don reflected on changes in the approach to, and treatment of, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), not just by DVA, but by veterans themselves. ‘Men of my father’s generation did not talk about PTSD, let alone access help from the Department for their PTSD. To that end, it is not only DVA that has come a long way in recognising and treating mental health issues, but the veterans themselves have come a long way in talking about PTSD and mental health generally, asking for, and accepting, help. So DVA is doing a lot, but it’s a generational shift as much as anything, in that the mindset of the veterans has changed,’ he said.
When thinking about the rise of social media, Don says he does not think that platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have replaced (or can ever replace) the care that is shown to these men and women by departments and organisations such as DVA and the RSL. In fact, he agrees with many that social isolation is a bigger issue than ever, so while some people may feel connected with their friends and their support networks, many feel more isolated than ever before.
‘As we all know, the demographics of members who serve has changed. Years ago, a person completed their service and returned to their home town and resumed life on the farm or in the town, city or industry in which their family were based. They married locally, and socially they maintained close ties to their local community. That’s where their local RSL fitted in. It is no longer that simple or predictable. Times change and the social dynamics of young people change. But, as far as the department goes, it should be a real positive for DVA staff to hear that DVA’s existence matters to all, despite changes in society and demographics, the department provides the care and compassion that is much needed, and much appreciated,’ Don said.