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Program 1.4: Assistance and Other Compensation for Veterans and Dependants

Description

To deliver other allowances and assistance to eligible veterans and dependants under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 and related legislation including home support loans, funeral benefits, prisoner of war ex gratia payments and payments on behalf of Commonwealth and allied countries. The Department also provides assistance to the Ex-Service Organisations (ESO) community through Building Excellence in Support and Training (BEST) grants and funding the Advocacy Training and Development Program (ATDP).

Delivery

To deliver other allowances and assistance to eligible veterans and dependants under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 and related legislation, by:

  • processing funeral benefit claims
  • processing claims for and maintain housing loans
  • providing grants funding to eligible ESOs for provision of services to support the veteran community
  • providing ESO representatives with essential skills for pension and compensation claims and welfare work.

Funeral benefits

Under the VEA, a funeral benefit is a one-off payment of up to $2,000 to assist with the funeral costs of an eligible Australian veteran or dependant. Assistance may also be provided with transport costs from the place of death to the normal place of residence. Funeral assistance available under the MRCA and the SRCA is delivered under Program 1.6.

Funeral benefits paid

Table 7 shows the number of VEA funeral benefits by type paid to eligible people over the past five years.

Table 7—Number of funeral benefits by type paid to eligible people 2012–13 to 2016–17
  2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17
Dependant 193 180 138 152 125
Extreme disablement adjustment 1,605 1,445 1,426 1,347 1,399
Former POW 104 75 61 66 43
Medical institution 3,769 3,190 2,746 2,391 2,013
Needy circumstances 46 36 34 31 33
Service related 141 146 77 79 90
Special rate/SDA 736 673 761 659 478
Transport 34 33 21 29 22
Total 6,628 5,778 5,264 4,754 4,203

POW = prisoner of war, SDA = Special disability Allowance

Over the past two years the amount paid has reduced from $9.40 million in 2015–16 to $8.18 million in 2016–17. This amount paid was below the budget estimate of $9.08 Cost of funeral benefits 2012–13 to 2016–17


Figure 7—Cost of funeral benefits 2012–13 to 2016–17

This image shows costs for funeral benefits processed 2012–13 to 2016–17 outstanding at 30 June

Over the 2015–16 and 2016–17 years the intake of funeral benefit claims decreased by 10.0 percent, from 5,357 to 4,822. This figure is consistent with the decline in expenditure over recent years together with the decline in the veteran community population. There were 51 outstanding funeral benefit claims at 30 June 2017. Figure 8 shows the outcomes for funeral benefit intake, disposal and cases outstanding for the past five years.


Figure 8—Claims for funeral benefits processed 2012–13 to 2016–17

This image shows claims for funeral benefits processed 2012–13 to 2016–17, shown as number of cases: intakes, disposals and outstanding at 30 June

Time taken to process

The average time taken to process funeral benefit claims decreased by one day to seven days in 2016–17, which is below the target processing time.

Figure 9 shows the average processing time against target for this activity over the past five years.


Figure 9—Average processing time for funeral benefits claims 2012–13 to 2016–17

This image shows average processing time for funeral benefits claims 2012–13 to 2016–17, shown as number of calendar days

Quality

The 0.8 percent critical error rate in 2016–17 is well within the benchmark of 5 percent, as in each of the past five years.

Table 8 shows the critical error rate for this activity over the past five years.


Table 8—Critical error rate in processing funeral benefit claims 2012–13 to 2016–17
  2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17
Critical error rate (%) 2.4 3.3 0.0 1.5 0.8

Defence Service Homes loans

In 2016–17, the Defence Service Homes loan scheme continued to provide quality services to veterans and ADF personnel. Under the scheme, individuals may access subsidised housing loans of up to $25,000 and/or home support loans of up to $10,000, depending on their eligibility. Due to the ongoing decline in the client base, the number of housing loans has decreased. This decline is in line with projections, as the scheme membership is limited to those who first enlisted in the ADF before 15 May 1985.

Subsidy paid

Defence Service Homes loans are provided by Westpac Banking Corporation, which is subsidised each month under the Defence Service Homes Act 1918 to offer discounted interest rates to Defence Service Homes clients. The rate is set at 1.5 percent below the average standard variable home loan rate but is capped at 6.85 percent a year.

The Westpac interest subsidy totalled approximately $0.837 million in 2016–17, which was less than the previous year's total of $1.030 million. The benchmark interest rate on which the subsidy amount is based fell during the year, in line with general interest rate changes.

Number of housing loans

The number of housing loans on which the subsidy was paid fell to 6,669 in 2016–17, down 20 percent on the previous year's total of 8,322.

Figure 10 shows the reduction over the past five years in the number of housing loans maintained.


Figure 10—Number of housing loans maintained 2012–13 to 2016–17

This image shows number of housing loans maintained 2012–13 to 2016–17, comparison over the last 5 financial years

Certificates of entitlement issued

There were 230 applications for certificates of entitlement received in 2016–17, 102 less than the 332 received in 2015–16. A total of 197 certificates were issued, comprising seven for additional advances, 50 for housing support loans and 140 for other forms of assistance.

Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme

The Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme (DSHIS) offers home building insurance and, in partnership with QBE Australia, provides a range of other personal insurance products to eligible members of the veteran and ADF communities.

The total number of building policies in place at 30 June 2017 was 55,838, compared with 58,825 in 2015–16. There was a continued decline in the number of policies held by older veterans, partially offset by an increase in policies held by veterans from recent campaigns and ADF members who are eligible under the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme.

In 2016–17, DSHIS reported a loss of $0.780 million. This result was driven by costs associated with Tropical Cyclone Debbie (totalling $5.803 million) and several large storms in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

Claims

A total of 8,029 claims ($31.5 million) were received from DSHIS clients during 2016–17, compared with 7,376 ($27.63 million) during 2015–16. DSHIS has received 606 claims for Tropical Cyclone Debbie to date, and there was a 22 percent increase in other storm-related claims compared to 2015–16.


Table 9—Proportion of DSHIS claims settled within targets 2012–13 to 2016–17 (%)
  Three-month target Result Six-month target Result
2012–13 80 75 95 91
2013–14 80 76 95 91
2014–15 80 80 95 94
2015–16 80 72 95 89
2016–17 80 79 95 93

DSHIS = Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme

Quality

DSHIS conducts regular surveys of settled claims for quality assurance purposes. During 2016–17, 1,200 claims were reviewed. Feedback indicated that 97 percent of clients surveyed were satisfied with the way in which their claim had been handled.

During 2016–17, 10 matters were referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service for resolution. This represented less than 0.001 percent of claims received.

Veterans' access through community agencies

DVA provides information services and community support through more than 150 contracted agents across regional Australia. Agencies include the Department of Human Services (DHS), Service Tasmania, the Queensland Government Agent Program, and Community Resource Centres in Western Australia.

Over the previous five-year reporting period, the number of clients using these services has decreased. As part of the Department's transformation, and through the work of the Veteran Centric Reform program, DVA will continue to examine service delivery options for clients in the community to ensure that they remain relevant and accessible.

Table 10 shows the number of contacts made through agencies and their costs from 2012–13 to 2016–17.


Table 10—Number and cost of contacts through agencies 2012–13 to 2016–17
  2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17
Contacts (no.) 23,805 18,743 14,537 10,073 6,072
Expenditure ($) 965,725 934,632 686,581 262,7381 498,160
  1. This figure includes a reconciliation adjustment of $209,331 against the 2014–15 financial year.

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Client Satisfaction Survey

The 2016 Client Satisfaction Survey was conducted by ORIMA Research, an independent research company, through a computer assisted telephone interview process. A representative sample of 3,002 DVA clients from all Australian states and territories, age demographics and client types participated in the survey. The survey asked participants about their experience with DVA's services over the previous 12 months.

A number of questions in the 2016 survey were aligned with previous surveys to allow for the responses to be compared with past results. New, topical questions were included in 2016 to improve understanding of client satisfaction with DVA's digital offerings, clients' use of technology and the experience of clients transitioning from the ADF to civilian life.

The survey results show that 83 percent of veterans are satisfied with DVA overall and that older veterans remain more positive about DVA's service delivery (92 percent) compared to younger veterans (49 percent for veterans under 45 years).

The 2016 Client Satisfaction Survey questions and results (presented in a two-page fact sheet and more detailed results summary) are available on the DVA website at Consultation and grants—Client satisfaction survey (www.dva.gov.au/consultation-and-grants/client-satisfaction-survey).

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Building Excellence in Support and Training

Eligible people often receive advice on DVA entitlements from veterans' pensions and welfare officers who work, in many cases voluntarily, for ex-service organisations (ESOs). Those officers are generally themselves veterans or family members of veterans.

Building Excellence in Support and Training (BEST) is an annual grants program that supports pensions and welfare officers by assisting ESOs to cover a range of salary and administrative costs directly associated with the delivery of advocacy services.

In recent years, the Department has made changes to the program to better meet the needs of veterans and ESOs. The reforms were implemented following detailed discussions with the ex-service community, in particular with its peak body, the Ex-Service Organisation Round Table.

In the 2016–17 funding round, a total of $3.848 million was provided to 144 ex-service organisations under BEST. This compares with $3.778 million provided to a total of 126 organisations in 2015–16. The amount included $1 million restored to the program in 2014–15.

The workload funding formula continued to be refined. The formula takes into account the complexity and time involved in the claims and welfare work undertaken by ex-service organisations and recognises an organisation's entire contribution by including the work done by both paid and volunteer officers.

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Table 11 shows the total allocation and numbers of grants made under BEST in the past four financial years, along with allocations for future years.

Table 11—Building Excellence in Support and Training allocations and grants 2013–14 to 2018–19
  2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19
Total allocation ($m) 2.788 3.772 3.778 3.848 3.830 3.824
No. of grants approved 135 141 126 144 - -

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Advocacy Training and Development Program

The ATDP supports ESOs to improve advocacy services to the veteran community by providing a nationally accredited training program to ensure that advocates meet competency standards before providing advice to clients on entitlements. The blueprint for the ATDP, as a more contemporary approach to advocacy training and the next evolution of the Training and Information Program (TIP), was developed in conjunction with the Ex-Service Organisation Round Table.

A key focus of the ATDP approach is for advocates to learn on the job, under the guidance and support of a mentor. Additional online and face-to-face training is provided to assist advocates to consolidate their learning.

Under the legislation relating to the vocational education and training sector, accreditation is achieved by completing the required competencies through the training program or by undertaking a recognition of prior learning (RPL) process. The Department has engaged a registered training organisation to assist with the RPL process. That organisation has developed a process that is simple and poses the least impact on ESOs and advocates, while meeting the Australian Skills Quality Authority standards.

In 2016–17 there were 303 new trainees enrolled for ATDP level 1 training.

Advocates that began training under TIP are being encouraged to continue in their roles through obtaining RPL. The RPL process has initially focused on level 2 advocates, as these advocates play a central role in the work of most ESOs. After two initial trials the RPL process was rolled out in the major capital cities and some regional centres commencing late in 2016. In association with the RPL course the ATDP is providing two additional courses, for mentors and assessors, that were not available under TIP.

By 30 June 2017, some 209 compensation advocates and 143 welfare advocates had been accredited under the ATDP through the RPL process, through 23 RPL courses held in 19 cities and three regional centres.

In 2016–17, a select number of specialised TIP courses were also provided between June 2016 and December 2017 to support advocates that commenced their training under TIP during the transition to the new program.

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