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Chapter 7 — your health

This chapter is about the range of health support services available to you, including information about the DVA Health Cards, access to medical and health care providers, respite care, health care overseas, pharmaceutical services and mental health counselling.

DVA Health Cards

There are different levels of eligibility for treatment benefits. If you are eligible, a Gold or a White DVA Health Card entitles you to the services provided under the Repatriation Health Care system at DVA's expense.

The Gold Card — 'DVA Health Card — All Conditions within Australia' or 'DVA Health Card — Totally & Permanently Incapacitated' gives you access to a wide range of public and private health care services at DVA expense, for the treatment of all your health care conditions whether war or service related or not.

The White Card — ‘DVA Health Card — Specific Conditions’ gives access to a wide range of public and private health care services at DVA expense for the treatment of specific health care conditions. This can be for either:

  • specific disabilities and conditions accepted by DVA as war or service related, or
  • specific conditions accepted by DVA whatever the cause. These arrangements are also known as ‘Non-Liability Health Care’ and conditions covered are:
    • any mental health condition
    • cancer (malignant neoplasia)
    • pulmonary tuberculosis

Elsewhere in this guide, the conditions are referred to as 'special conditions' or accepted disabilities.

Veterans, members of the Australian Defence Force, or peacekeepers may also receive treatment for any unidentifiable condition that arises within 15 years of an eligible period of service. Treatment is provided until a determination is made about the nature of the condition and its relationship to service. Treatment will continue if the condition is service related.

You should present your Gold or White Card whenever you attend a health care provider, having checked that they accept the card prior to using their services.

If you lose your card

If your card is lost, stolen or damaged you should contact your nearest DVA office immediately so your card can be reissued. In the 3 to 4 weeks for your replacement card to arrive, your health provider may phone DVA to confirm your eligibility and entitlements.

Who is eligible for a Gold Card?

A Gold Card is issued under the Veterans’ Entitlement Act 1986 (VEA) to veterans of the Australian Defence Forces who:

  • receive service pension; and are within treatment income and assets limits, or
    permanently blind in both eyes
  • are aged 70 or over with qualifying  service
  • receive a disability pension
    at or above 100% of the general rate, or
    at or above 50% of the general rate and any amount of service pension
  • are ex-prisoners of war
  • receive an allowance for specific service-related amputations or blindness, or
  • are veterans who served in Japan as part of British Commonwealth Occupation Forces at any time between 31 January 1946 and 29 April 1952

A Gold Card is also issued to recipients of the war widow's or war widower’s pension.

A Gold Card is issued to those eligible for treatment under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) if:

  • a former member or entitled serving member has permanent impairment from accepted conditions assessed at or above 60 points
  • a former member or entitled serving member meets the criteria for the Special Rate Disability Pension payment (SRDP) (even if they don’t choose to take it), or
  • a wholly dependent partner or dependent child of a member is eligible for compensation for the member’s death.

British Nuclear Test Participants

All British nuclear test participants are eligible for a Gold Card. A British nuclear test participant is an Australian who was involved directly in the nuclear tests as a member of the Australian Defence Force or as a civilian. Civilian involvement includes involvement as a Commonwealth employee, a contractor providing services associated with the nuclear tests, and civilians not involved in the nuclear tests but who entered a nuclear test area at a relevant time.

See Factsheets:

A Gold Card is issued under the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests and British Commonwealth Occupation Force (Treatment) Act 2006 to:

  • Australian members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan at the end of World War Two, and
  • Australian participants in British Nuclear Tests in Australia.

See Factsheet:

Are there any limits or restrictions?

Yes, there are limits that apply to some services. For example, medical services are subject to the requirements of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). Some treatments require prior financial authorisation from DVA. Your Gold Card can only be used within Australia. These cards are not accepted by health providers outside Australia.

Who is eligible for a White Card?

A White Card is issued to veterans of the Australian Defence Forces who have an accepted disability or who are eligible for treatment under ‘Non-Liability Health Care’ arrangements. Transitioning members of the Australian Defence Force may be automatically provided with a White Card in order to access treatment for any mental health condition under Non-Liability Health Care arrangements.

You do not have to be in receipt of an income support pension or disability pension to be issued with a White Card. Veterans of British, Commonwealth and allied forces may also be issued with a White Card for disabilities accepted as war caused by their governments.

For more information about receiving a Gold Card or a White Card contact your nearest DVA office.

See Factsheets:

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Access to Medical and Health Care Providers

Gold Card and White Card holders

If you have a Gold Card, or a White Card for an accepted disability or special condition, you can access general medical, dental and optometry services without a referral.

With a current referral from your general practitioner, medical specialist, treating doctor in hospital, discharge planner or equivalent allied health provider, you also have access to:

  • specialists
  • physiotherapists, occupational therapists, osteopaths and chiropractors
  • podiatrists
  • clinical psychologists, psychologists, mental health social workers and mental health occupational therapists
  • dietitians
  • speech pathologists, and
  • hearing services.

Services will only be provided to meet your clinical needs. Your health provider may need to seek DVA approval before a service can be provided.

You can locate health providers anywhere anytime via the National Health Services Directory (NHSD).

If you need to travel for treatment

DVA’s Repatriation Transport Scheme assists with travelling expenses for Gold Card or White Card holders who receive entitlements under the Veterans' Entitlement Act 1986.  These expenses are based on the cost of a veteran attending the closest practical health provider to their temporary or permanent residence.

Travel must be by the most economical and suitable means of transport available at the time. The scheme assists you and your medically required attendant with the costs of transport, accommodation and meals, but does not necessarily reimburse all expenses.  Any form of free public transport will not be reimbursed.

The department may provide a Booked Car with Driver (BCWD) and Ambulance services in certain circumstances.

Eligible veterans aged 80 years and over, or who (regardless of age) are legally blind, or are suffering from dementia automatically qualify for the use of BCWD services for travel to all approved treatment locations. Eligible veterans aged 79 years or younger are also eligible if specified medical and location criteria are met as detailed on factsheet HSV03.

Transport bookings can be made by using the MyAccount service or contacting DVA on 1800 550 455.

You can also claim reimbursement of your travelling expenses through the MyAccount service or by lodging a D0800 Claim for Travelling Expenses form.

See Factsheets:

Optical Services

Gold Card holders can obtain optical services, including optometric assessments for spectacles, contact lenses or low vision aids via any optometrist registered with DVA. Generally, in a two year period you may receive:

  • one pair of spectacles with bifocals, trifocals or progressive power lenses, or
  • one pair of reading and one pair of distance spectacles.

If your vision changes significantly before the two year period ends, you may receive replacement lenses.

White Card holders should confirm their eligibility with DVA for optical services before visiting their optometrist or ophthalmologist.

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Dental services

For Gold Card holders, DVA will pay for most dental services provided by a DVA registered Local Dental Officer (LDO). Services must be necessary to meet an assessed need. Some items are subject to an annual monetary limit or a time limit. Generally, you are entitled to new dentures every 6 years. Prior approval from DVA is required for earlier replacement.

For eligible White Card holders, DVA will pay for dental services that meet an assessed need associated with an accepted disability. White Card holders should contact DVA to confirm their eligibility before seeking dental treatment for accepted disabilities.

Hearing Services

Hearing services available to eligible members of the veteran community are administered through the Hearing Services Program (HSP), managed by the Department of Health.

Hearing services include assessments, rehabilitation and hearing aid fitting if required. Eligible persons who require a hearing aid can select a device from a range of high quality, fully subsidised devices to assist with managing their hearing loss. There are a vast range of high quality devices available free-of-charge to all eligible clients of the HSP. These devices contain a range of beneficial features and technologies to help manage the impact of your hearing loss.

In addition, eligible persons are able to access, at no cost, a range of assistive listening devices through DVA’s Rehabilitation Appliance Program (RAP), which can assist with hearing specific situations such as crowded environments, using the telephone or watching television. Your hearing services provider will discuss these options with you.

If you require hearing services, you can apply directly through HSP. Your hearing service provider can complete your application on your behalf.

Please note, you will need a medical certificate from your medical practitioner/GP to complete your application.

See Department of Health HSP — Veteran Specific Factsheet:

Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP)

This program provides eligible veterans, war widows and widowers with a wide range of aids and appliances to assist with daily living and to help them to remain independent in their own home. The RAP National Schedule of Equipment lists aids and appliances that are available, ranging from consumable items such as continence pads to mobility appliances, cognitive, dementia and memory assistive technology, prosthesis and falls prevention items.

Gold Card holders can receive appliances for a clinical need, as assessed by appropriate health professionals. White Card holders can do so only for their accepted disabilities or relevant determined conditions. Veterans and war widows who need assistance under the program should initially contact their GP.

If you need more information, contact your nearest DVA office.

See Factsheet:  

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Community Nursing

Community nursing provides clinical nursing and/or personal care services to eligible members of the veteran community in their own home. Community nursing services can assist with medication, wound care, hygiene and help with showering or dressing. Community nursing services can help to restore or maintain your health and independence at home and assist you to avoid early admittance to hospital or residential care.

Community nursing services are provided by a mix of personnel including registered and enrolled nurses and nursing support staff, who work within the framework of their relevant national standards.

See Factsheet:

Medical Grade Footwear

Gold Card holders can receive medical grade footwear if assessed by a podiatrist, or appropriate health professional, as having a clinical need; and where stock footwear cannot be used, for the purpose of alleviating the effect of a recognised medical foot condition. Some White Card holders can also receive medical grade footwear if the clinical need is related to their accepted disabilities or relevant determined conditions.

If you need to go to hospital

DVA purchases hospital services from both the public and private sectors, ensuring access to a comprehensive range of inpatient, outpatient, emergency and mental health hospital services for the veteran community. DVA has arrangements with public hospitals, former repatriation hospitals, contracted private hospitals, mental health facilities and day procedure centres in all states and territories to treat eligible clients. All contracted private hospitals, mental health and day surgery facilities have met all appropriate licensing, accreditation and quality standards. Your treating doctor or specialist can organise admission to any of the above facilities that will meet your treatment needs. A list of all contracted private facilities can be found on Hospitals and Day Procedure Centres.

For more information about the hospital arrangements you can contact your nearest DVA office.

See Factsheet:

If you need an ambulance

If you need an ambulance in an emergency, dial 000

People with a DVA treatment entitlement may be eligible for ambulance travel to the closest hospital nearest medical facility that can treat their clinical need. DVA defines emergency as a situation where a patient requires immediate treatment in circumstances where there is serious threat to health or life. If there is a medical emergency and your LMO is not available, you or someone on your behalf may order ambulance transport. If you require transport in a non - emergency situation, such as to attend a medical appointment or hospital, your LMO, General Practitioner, hospital physician or hospital discharge planner can arrange ambulance transport if you meet State health and ambulance authorityspecific guidelines. The transport must also be to or from the nearest clinical facility to your current residence, whether temporary or permanent, that can treat your clinical needs. Prior approval is not required in the preceding situation except in SA and WA.

For more information about eligibility for ambulance travel contact your nearest DVA office

See Factsheet:

Respite care

Respite gives carers a break by temporarily relieving them of their caring responsibilities. A carer can be a friend, partner or family member who provides ongoing care, attention and support to a person who is frail or severely incapacitated to enable that person to continue to reside in his or her home. Respite care is not limited to a person who is receiving a carer service pension.

DVA offers respite care to:

  • the carer of an eligible veteran or war widow/er
  • an eligible veteran or war widow/er who is a carer, and
  • an eligible veteran or war widow/er who is a self-carer (eligible for residential respite only).

There are three types of respite care available through VHC:

  • in-home respite
  • residential respite, and
  • Emergency Short-Term Home Relief (ESTHR).

In-home respite allows the carer to have a break while a substitute carer comes into the home to take over the caring role.

Residential respite provides short-term care for an eligible veteran or war widow/er in an Australian Government-subsidised aged care facility or, depending on the circumstances, in other types of care accommodation.

ESTHR provides emergency care when the carer is unexpectedly unable to continue the caring role.

To access respite care, from your landline call your VHC assessment agency on 1300 550 450.  If you are using a mobile phone, please telephone DVA on 1800 555 254 for a direct telephone number to your VHC assessment agency. The VHC assessor will discuss your circumstances with you to identify which services you need.

See Factsheet:

For information about how your pension is assessed whilst in residential respite refer to Chapter 4 - Living Arrangements.

Health care overseas

Your Gold or White Card can only be used within Australia.  These cards are not accepted by health providers outside Australia. Any health care costs accepted by DVA will be limited to your accepted disabilities and the costs usually associated with your care provided in Australia. Health care costs will not be met where your main reason for travel is to obtain health care overseas. You will need to advise DVA, prior to your departure of your intention to travel or live overseas if you wish to claim any DVA health benefits while overseas.

You can use your MyAccount service to view your accepted disabilities and notify DVA of your intention to travel.

Note: There is a form available when travelling overseas (D0578 — Notification of Overseas Travel). Contact your nearest DVA office if you intend travelling.

Travel insurance — We recommend that you consider hospital and medical insurance cover. If you travel in countries which have reciprocal health care arrangements with Australia, you may wish to use these arrangements.

Note: For information about reciprocal health care arrangements, contact your nearest Medicare office.

For information about payments and benefits whilst overseas see If you travel or move overseas in Chapter 4 — Living Arrangements and Chapter 10 — Payment of Pensions.

See Factsheet:

DVA Health Card - For Pharmaceuticals Only (Orange Card)

British, other Commonwealth or allied veterans with qualifying service from World War I or World War II, aged 70 years or over, who have been resident in Australia for 10 years or more, may be eligible to receive a Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Card (Orange Card). The Orange Card entitles you to receive a wide range of pharmaceuticals including medicines and wound care items and nutritional supplements prescribed by your doctor for the treatment of your medical conditions, under the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Note: The Orange Card is for PHARMACEUTICALS ONLY and cannot be used for any medical or other health care treatment.

See Factsheet:

Pharmaceutical Services

Gold Card and Orange Card holders have access to a wide range of pharmaceuticals including medicines, wound dressings care items and nutritional supplements prescribed by their doctor for the treatment of their medical conditions. If you have a White Card, you can receive pharmaceuticals including medicines, wound care items and nutritional supplements for the treatment of your accepted war or service-caused injury or disease, or the treatment is for a specific condition under Non-liability Health Care.

You are required to pay a patient co-payment ($6.40 for 2018) for each pharmaceutical item until you reach the Safety Net Threshold. After you reach the Safety Net Threshold, your medicines are free for the rest of the calendar year. There may be an extra charge for higher cost brands or therapeutic groups of some items.

From 1 January 2016, pharmacists may choose to discount the patient co-payment by up to $1.00. This is not mandatory and it is the pharmacist’s choice whether or not to provide a discount. The option to discount the co-payment does not apply for prescriptions which are an early supply of a specified medicine. The value of any discounted co-payment will count towards your safety net threshold.

In 2010 the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) safety net threshold is $390 for concessional card holders. This is the equivalent of 60 prescription at the full value of the co-payment.

Once you have made co-payments to the value of the Safety Net Threshold you will only have to pay any brand premium charges for your medicines and wound care items for the rest of the calendar year. In order to access the PBS Safety Net arrangements, it is advisable to maintain a record of your expenditure on full price and discounted co-payments on a Prescription Record form which is available from your pharmacist.

Veterans who are eligible under the Veterans’ Pharmaceutical Reimbursement Scheme may receive a reimbursement for out of pocket costs associated with the concessional pharmaceutical co-payment, which will include any discounted co-payment. (See Chapter 6 — benefits and services).

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Mental health and counselling

If you need or want to discuss mental health support, you can:

  • visit DVA's online mental health website and mobile apps through the At Ease portal
  • talk to your GP, who may also refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist, mental health social worker, or mental health occupational therapist if needed, or
  • talk to Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling (formerly known as Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS)) by calling 1800 011 046

DVA can pay for the treatment of any mental health condition for anyone who has had permanent service in the Australian Defence Force, whatever the length or type of service. You don’t need to make a compensation claim to access these arrangements — see Non-Liability Health Care (NLHC) or email

Reservists with any period of continuous full-time service may also be eligible for mental health treatment under NLHC arrangements. This may be through prior service in the permanent forces of the ADF, or if they have been deployed on continuous full-time service, or if they have undertaken a continuous full-time service contract.

Reservists without continuous full-time service may still be eligible for mental health treatment under NLHC, provided they rendered Reserve Service Days with:

  • Disaster Relief Service (for example, Operation Vic Fire Assist)
  • Border Protection Service (for example, Operation RESOLUTE), or
  • involvement in a serious service-related training accident.

Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling provides free and confidential 24/7 counselling and mental health support to current and former ADF members with at least one day continuous full-time service, along with their partners and children of any age. Since 1 July 2017, ex-partners are also able to access support for up to five years or whilst co-parenting a minor with an ADF member.

A family inclusive organisation, Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling offers a wide range of treatment options and programs for war- and service-related mental health conditions. The service also offers relationship and family counselling to address issues that can arise due to the unique nature of military service. Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling staff have an understanding of veteran and military culture that assists them to deliver specialised support and care to members of this community.

This can include:

  • individual, couple and family counselling and support for those with more complex needs
  • services to enhance family functioning and parenting
  • after-hours crisis telephone counselling
  • group programs to develop skills and enhance support
  • information, education and self-help resources
  • referral to other services or specialist treatment programs.

For more information or to talk to a counsellor please call Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling on 1800 011 046 (24/7).

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