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Outcome 1: Compensation and support

DVA maintains and enhances the financial wellbeing and self-sufficiency of eligible persons and their dependants through access to income support, compensation, and other support services including advice and information about entitlements.

To fulfil Outcome 1 objectives, DVA aims to:

  • increase awareness and understanding of compensation, rehabilitation and income support schemes among veterans, war widows and widowers, serving members, former defence force members, and their families and advocates
  • assist eligible persons and their dependants to receive their correct entitlements through effective advice and efficient claims determinations and review
  • position rehabilitation as a key consideration in compensation policy and decision-making
  • engage younger veterans and Australian Defence Force (ADF) members in policy development and review
  • ensure that the changing needs of eligible veterans, especially those with complex needs or severe disabilities, are addressed
  • secure continuing access to home loan and insurance services for eligible members of the veteran and defence force communities
  • continue, in conjunction with the Department of Defence (Defence), to implement the recommendations accepted by Government in its response to the Review of Military Compensation Arrangements.

Key developments in 2013–14

Compensation claims processing

A priority for DVA in 2013–14 was improving the efficiency and timeliness of processing compensation claims under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA), the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA) and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA). DVA developed and is progressively actioning four key strategies: reducing work on hand; improving client communication and engagement throughout the claims process; improving case management practices; and reviewing and improving business processes.

Actions that reduced the time taken to process claims under the three Acts included:

  • reducing claims on hand by using new workload management and forecasting tools that allow for better monitoring, reporting and distribution of work nationally
  • working with claimants to resolve case-specific issues to avoid processing delays
  • promoting the On Base Advisory Service (OBAS) and MyAccount and supporting the Training and Information Program
  • improving training, guidance and support for claims assessors, including through the development of planning tools and templates and better use of DVA’s internal medical advisers.

In May 2014, an independent report made 40 recommendations for improving compensation claims processes. The recommendations are being validated by DVA. The accepted recommendations will be part of a transformation programme progressed over the next two years.

New administrative protocols were introduced for MRCA cases to keep claimants informed of the claim’s progress.

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation, to promote current and former ADF members’ physical, mental and emotional health, wellbeing and capacity to function in the community, is a growing part of DVA’s business.

In 2013–14, DVA focused on building internal and external stakeholders’ understanding of the Department’s holistic rehabilitation approach and reviewing and improving rehabilitation policy and procedures, to assist people to recover after a service-related injury or illness. The Rehabilitation Review Project initiated a wide-ranging consultation process to explore issues impacting on clients’ rehabilitation services and how best to provide sustainable rehabilitation outcomes.

This work was and continues to be supported by the joint DVA–Defence Rehabilitation Advisory Committee, which advises how DVA and Defence can work together to promote best practice and keep abreast of emerging issues in rehabilitation, injury management and research. The committee has guided the focus of the research into pathways for veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce being undertaken by the National Institute of Labour Studies at Flinders University and the next steps for the longitudinal study into rehabilitation.

The Rehabilitation Review Project and the DVA–Defence Rehabilitation Advisory Committee illustrate DVA’s commitment to developing strong working relationships with providers and people within the two departments to ensure that coordinated rehabilitation services are delivered as early as possible after injury. Working with Defence to provide rehabilitation support for injured or ill part-time reservists, where their injury or illness might impact on their role within the ADF and their civilian employment, was a particular focus in 2013–14.

Communication activities promoting rehabilitation in 2013–14 highlighted the range of assistance that can be provided and tailored to meet people’s individual circumstances. Rehabilitation success stories are featured on the DVA website, with each story demonstrating people’s resilience and determination to live as full a life as possible after injury.

Review of Military Compensation Arrangements

In 2013–14, DVA continued to implement the recommendations of the Review of Military Compensation Arrangements. By 1 July 2014, 70 of the 96 accepted recommendations had been implemented. The key initiatives included:

  • improvements to the way permanent impairment payments are calculated under the MRCA
  • improvements to compensation provided under the MRCA for dependents following the death of a member or former member of the ADF
  • provision of a Repatriation Health Card – For Specific Conditions (White Card), issued in December 2013, to former ADF members with chronic health conditions accepted under the SRCA.

Review of Veterans’ Advocacy Training

In November 2013 and March 2014, the Ex-Service Organisation Round Table was consulted about, and expressed support for, a review of veterans’ advocacy training. It particularly noted the need to strengthen the partnership between the ex-service organisation community, the Training and Information Program and DVA.

In March 2014, the Department commissioned the Review of Veterans’ Advocacy Training. Brigadier William Rolfe AO (Ret’d) was engaged to review and scope options for strengthening the advocacy training framework. A registered training organisation was also engaged to provide expert advice.

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 ADF members.

In early 2014, and for the second year in a row, DSH Insurance received the Roy Morgan Customer Satisfaction Award for General Insurance. This award is an independent external measure and recognises outstanding service for the veteran and ADF communities.

The Government will provide $200,000 in 2014–15 to undertake a scoping study on the future management and operations of DSH Insurance by an insurance industry expert. The scoping study will inform the Government on options for more efficient DSH Insurance operations.

Firefighter research

On 9 September 2013, DVA commissioned two research initiatives – a case file review and a literature review – in response to concerns about health and compensation issues raised by a group of current and former Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) firefighters.

Dr Graeme Peel, a Brisbane-based occupational and public health medical specialist, delivered the case file review on 7 February 2014.

Professor Tee Guidotti, an internationally renowned world expert on occupational health risks of firefighters, delivered the literature review on 28 February 2014.

The reports by Dr Peel and Professor Guidotti were considered by the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission in May 2014. Discussions relating to the research were held between the Department and the firefighter group in Townsville on 11 April 2014.

Online claims and processing

Since December 2013, income support recipients have been able to advise of changes to their income and asset details and lodge claims online.

Priorities for 2014–15

DVA’s priorities for compensation and support in the year ahead are to:

  • continue to improve the efficiency and timeliness of compensation claims processing
  • develop and implement a strategy to trial an enhanced vocational rehabilitation programme which includes a stronger focus on assisting clients to obtain and maintain suitable employment
  • implement changes arising from the 2014–15 Budget
  • consider the outcomes of further research related to occupational exposures and health effects of former RAAF firefighters
  • continue to work with ex-service organisations to ensure that appropriate support is provided for veterans through programmes such as Building Excellence in Support and Training, the Training and Information Program and the Veteran and Community Grants Program
  • strengthen compliance measures to help ensure that income support assistance is targeted to those who have an entitlement and that pensioners continue to receive correct payments
  • continue working with the Department of Social Services and the Department of Human Services to implement the Aged Care Reform programme.

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 long-term study of the effectiveness of MRCA rehabilitation arrangements
  • the adoption of a single appeal pathway for the MRCA
  • the education of serving members and ex-service organisation representatives in relation to the compensation schemes
  • a review of incapacity payment provisions
  • a review of options for streamlining the interactions of military invalidity and death superannuation and military compensation arrangements
  • a review of the Special Rate Disability Pension.
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