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BEST Grants Program – Program Guidelines

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Introduction

The Building Excellence in Support and Training (BEST) Grants Program forms part of the Government’s commitment to support the role of ex-service organisation pension and welfare practitioners and advocates, who provide advice and assistance to the veteran and Defence communities.

  • One BEST grant round is undertaken each year, with grant offers being made approximately Mid-Year for the following financial year.
  • The round is open for applications for four weeks, in February.  Opening and closing dates are provided on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) website prior to the opening of the round.  
  • No late applications will be accepted.
  • The BEST application form is available on the DVA website during the application period.  Applications will not be considered unless submitted on the form.
  • The provision of misleading information on a grant application may result in action to recover monies and may impact on future BEST Grant eligibility. 
  • Completed application and supporting documentation should be sent to:
    Manager Grants Administration

Department of Veterans’ Affairs
GPO Box 9998
ADELAIDE   SA   5001

  • All BEST applications are processed at the Adelaide DVA Office.  Applicants are welcome to contact the Adelaide office on the number below to discuss their application before lodgement.

If you need more information about BEST, or assistance with your application, you can phone the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for the cost of a local call on 133 254, or 1800 555 254 if you are outside a major city.  Use a normal landline phone if you can.  Mobile phone calls may cost you more.

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Overview of the Building Excellence in Support and Training (BEST) Grants program

1. Aim of the BEST Grants program

The Building Excellence in Support and Training (BEST) Grants Program is administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA).  The aim of the Program is to assist the veteran and defence communities by providing support and resources to Ex-Service Organisation (ESO) practitioners for pensions, advocacy and/or welfare work.

BEST assists ESOs by providing a contribution to the work of these practitioners. It does not fully fund an organisation.  

2. BEST Objectives, Outcomes and Funding Priorities

Objectives

The objective of the BEST program is to assist ESOs to:

  • improve the quality of claims received at the primary determining level;
  • reduce the rate of appeals to the Veterans’ Review Board (VRB) and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT); and/or
  • promote the provision of welfare services to the veteran and defence community. 

Outcomes

The program seeks to ensure:

  • the veteran and defence communities will benefit by having better informed ESO practitioners who can ensure claims lodged with the Department are of a high standard and contain all required information to enable timely and quality decisions;
  • ESO practitioners will assist in improving claims assessment efficiency; and
  • the veteran and defence communities will have access to pensions, advocacy and welfare-related information.

Funding Priorities

Funding priority for BEST activities must be given to organisations providing significant pension claims and welfare support activities for current and former Australian Defence Force (ADF) members and their families under the:

  • Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986;
  • Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988; and/or
  • Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004.

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Who is Eligible for BEST Grants

3. Eligible Applicants

To be eligible for BEST funding, an applicant organisation must be both:

  1. an incorporated body, in accordance with the relevant state or territory legislation; and
  2. a bona fide ex-service organisation (ESO).  For the purposes of BEST grants a bona fide ESO is considered to be an organisation:
  • whose membership consists primarily of veterans, past and present members of the ADF and/or their dependants;
  • which is established primarily to provide pensions, advocacy and/or welfare assistance to veterans, past and present members of the ADF and/or their dependants; and
  • which does not operate as a business or charge any fee for acting on behalf of the veterans, past and present members of the ADF and/or their dependants in the provision of claims or welfare services.

A bona fide ESO which is not incorporated may apply for BEST funding under the sponsorship of another eligible ESO (Clause 5).

4. Applicant Categories

There are three categories of applicants who may apply for BEST Grants:

Single applicant

A single applicant is an incorporated ESO that satisfies the requirements of Clause 3 above and is applying for funding for their own organisation.

Sponsoring applicant

A sponsoring applicant is an incorporated ESO, which satisfies the requirements of Clause 3 above and is applying for funding on behalf of one or more organisations that may or may not be incorporated.

Centre, Group or Joint Venture applicant

This category is used where several single ESOs have joined together to pool and share resources.

For this category evidence of a formal agreement between all organisations must be provided. The formal agreement must indicate each organisation’s involvement, responsibilities and agreement to the Performance Objectives. The evidence may consist of:

  • articles of association;
  • a Memorandum of Understanding;
  • contractual agreement; and/or
  • other valid documentation indicating that the organisations involved in the centre, group or joint venture have agreed to firm and workable arrangements. 

This arrangement must be confirmed by signatories from all organisations involved.  A signatory from one organisation cannot also be a signatory on behalf of another organisation.

In these cases one organisation must be nominated as the representative applicant.  The representative applicant for a centre, group or joint venture is the organisation that is:

  • an incorporated ESO which satisfies the requirements of Clause 3; and
  • applying for funding as the organisation representing a centre, group or joint venture arrangement. 

Responsibilities of an Applicant who is a Sponsor or a Centre, Group or Joint Venture Representative

The sponsoring or representative applicant’s responsibilities are:

  • to bear executive management responsibility and be accountable to DVA for the appropriate use of grant funds in accordance with the terms of the grant;
  • to take responsibility for the receipt and distribution of grant funds;
  • to take responsibility for the collection, collation and provision of all audit, reporting and acquittal of the documentation for the grant; and
  • in a sponsoring, centre, group or joint venture arrangement, to provide evidence of a formal agreement between all organisations.   

5. Eligible Practitioners

BEST funding is available to support the work of advocates, pension officers, welfare officers and administrative assistants.  These roles are:

Advocate

An advocate usually prepares cases for review before the VRB and/or the AAT. 

Pension Officer

A pension officer assists veteran and defence community members and their dependants to prepare and lodge compensation and benefits claims with DVA.

Advocates and pension officers must obtain and maintain appropriate levels of training under the Training and Information Program (TIP), have suitable experience in case management and be accredited by their ESO.

Administrative Assistant

An administrative assistant provides general secretarial and administrative assistance and/or office management services to support the work of advocates and pension officers.

Welfare Officer

A welfare officer provides veteran and defence community members with information on, and assists with, access to health, housing and other community services and benefits.  A welfare officer must also obtain and maintain appropriate levels of training under TIP and be accredited by their ESO.

ESOs requesting a BEST grant must provide workload statistics for paid and volunteer advocates and pension and welfare officers for the previous calendar year.  These workload statistics provide the basis for calculating grant offers and a guide to workload definitions is provided on the DVA website.

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What can be Funded

Grant assistance is available for two categories of expense incurred by ESOs undertaking pension and welfare work:

  • salary assistance; and
  • administrative assistance. 

These categories are outlined below:

6. Salary Assistance

BEST salary assistance is provided as a contribution to the salary of full‑time and part‑time advocates and pensions officers who help applicants with pension work.  Salary assistance is also available as a contribution to the salary of administrative officers who support advocates and pensions officers undertaking this pension work.

Pension work consists of the following claim types:

  • primary level DVA pension claims;
  • successful VEA Section 31 Review applications;
  • review applications to the VRB;
  • reconsiderations under SRCA or MRCA; and
  • appeals to the AAT. 

Each ESO is responsible for determining how it remunerates its paid practitioners. Employee on-costs such as superannuation, leave entitlements etc. are not to be funded with grant monies.

7. Administrative Expense Assistance  

BEST administrative expense grants are provided to assist with the purchase, and ongoing expense, of capital equipment, office consumables and local travel. 

Unlike salary assistance, grants to support administrative expenses are available for items supporting pensions AND/OR welfare work.  Grants for these items will therefore be calculated based on an organisation’s pensions AND welfare workload.

8. Eligible and Ineligible Items

BEST Funding is available as a contribution to expenses which can be shown to be directly related to the support required by pension and welfare practitioners and advocates in providing advice to the veteran and Defence communities.

Examples of expenses that would be eligible for BEST funding include:

  • answering machines, bookcases, brochure holders, chairs, tables;
  • filing cabinets, compactus;
  • computer hardware, scanners, tablets, appropriate computer software; and
  • white boards, printing and printer supplies.

Items which would not be eligible for funding include:  

  • honoraria:
  • utility costs covering electricity, gas, water etc.;
  • the cost of leasing premises (including rent) or purchase of real property;
  • council rates;
  • office expenses and fees including insurance, advertising expenses, audit fees and bank fees;
  • any travel costs beyond the local district where the organisation operates or has its usual place of business;
  • legal consultation costs, including litigation; and
  • air conditioning units, televisions or refrigerators.

Further examples of items that would be considered as eligible or ineligible are provided on the DVA website.

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Application Process

The BEST grants application form (PDF 116 KB) is made available on the DVA website during the application period.

To help applicants fill in the grant application form a Guide to completing the Building Excellence in Support and Training (BEST) Grant Application Form is also made available on the DVA website at the same time as the application form.

The guide includes comments and explanations about some of the more complex questions in the application form. 

Please note that the correct completion of the application form, in particular the grant amount requested and workload undertaken questions, is essential to the accurate calculation of grant amounts. 

An applicant may be required to provide evidence to support the information provided on their application form.  This is especially likely if workload amounts have varied significantly from one round to another.

9. Applying for Funding

There is one (1) BEST funding round each year. 

The opening and closing date for applications are advised on the DVA website prior to the opening of each funding round. The round is generally open for applications in February each year. 

Applications for funding must be made on the current BEST application form and applications must be postmarked or date stamped in a DVA office on or before the closing date.

Late applications will not be accepted

Grants are not guaranteed in any year.  An ESO should not consider that any funding received is ongoing or indicates a likely outcome for subsequent applications.  All applicants must reapply for funding in each funding round.

10. Assessing Eligibility

Applications are assessed on merit to establish eligibility for funding.  To be considered for a grant, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • the applicant must meet the organisational eligibility criteria;
  • the amount requested must be for eligible items;
  • the grant must be to assist the applicant in meeting the aims, objectives, outcomes and funding priorities of the BEST Program;
  • all identified workload is undertaken by practitioners with up to date TIP training;
  • the applicant has secured or is seeking additional resources from another source.  This can be financial or in‑kind e.g. volunteer labour costs or free/ subsidised office space;
  • the applicant has acquitted all previous BEST grants (if applicable);
  • the applicant has not received a grant from another source which fully funds the same purpose; and
  • the applicant is not charging for services provided to the veteran and defence community.

11. Grant Calculation

The grant amount offered to eligible applicants is calculated based on:

  • an applicant’s requested grant amount and workload information provided in the completed grant application;
  • the total amount of funding available; and
  • the BEST grant calculation formula.

A comparative analysis is made of all eligible applications and grant offers determined by applying the grant calculation formula to each applicant’s workload statistics.  

The formula calculates each organisation’s workload as a percentage of the work undertaken nationally in the previous calendar year.  This percentage is then applied to the available BEST monies to calculate each eligible applicant’s grant offer.  

As the formula is based on workload it provides a transparent, equitable, and repeatable way to calculate grants.  The formula is reviewed on a regular basis in conjunction with relevant stakeholders to ensure that the funding provided continues to meet the needs of ESOs and the veteran and Defence communities as well as aligning with overall government objectives.

The workload formula and how it is applied is explained in detail in the Explanation of the BEST Grant Calculation Formula document on the DVA website.  

Once all applications are assessed and calculated by DVA the recommendations are forwarded to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.  Final decisions on all applications are at the discretion of the Minister.

As the overall amount applied for is often in excess of the available grant funds the calculation formula may result in some applications not being approved or being approved for a reduced amount.

12. What Happens Next?

It is expected that the Minister will announce successful grantees in approximately June of each year. Grants are then generally offered to successful applicants early in the financial year to enable a planned approach for the expenditure of grant monies. Funding will be for the period of one financial year.

Unsuccessful Applicant Notification

If applicants are unsuccessful they will be advised of the reasons for the decision and may discuss this further with DVA.

Successful Applicant Notification

Successful applicants will be advised of the outcome and will be requested to enter into an agreement accepting the grant and associated terms and conditions.  

13. Grant Agreement

Successful applicants must sign and return the agreement before payment is made.  All relevant documentation should be signed and lodged with DVA promptly on receipt of the Minister’s letter and or advice.  

Failure to do so will delay grant payments.  Grant offers not accepted by the end of the financial year for which the grant was offered will be withdrawn.

The Agreement also notes that:

  • Funds cannot be used for purposes other than those specified in the  agreement;
  • Unspent funds must be returned to DVA within a reasonable time and in line with the set acquittal period for expending grant funds;
  • The applicant must ensure they have professional indemnity insurance available through the Veterans’ Indemnity and Training Association Inc. (VITA), or a similar insurance provider; and
  • The grantee is required to ensure that practitioners in its organisation and organisations it may be sponsoring will:
    • undertake the appropriate levels of TIP training and/or refresher training; and
    • abide by the TIP Code of Ethics.

Goods and Services Tax (GST) Requirements

If an applicant organisation does not have an Australian Business Number (ABN) it will be required to provide a statement by a Supplier (reason for not quoting an ABN to an enterprise).  This is an Australian Taxation Office (ATO) form which can be accessed at the ATO website. If the statement is not provided the ATO requires that withholding tax provisions are applied to all grant payments.

Where applicant organisations do have an ABN appropriate GST provisions will be applied to the Grant, depending on whether or not the Applicant is registered for GST. If GST is added to the Grant a valid tax invoice must be provided prior to the grant being paid.  Grant recipients may either:

  • generate and provide a tax invoice to DVA prior to processing the grant payment; or
  • enter into an agreement which will allow the Department to generate a Recipient Created Tax Invoice on behalf of the grant recipient.  

Advice regarding the proposed GST arrangements will be provided to each successful applicant at the time the funding agreement is forwarded.

Funding Variations

Grantees may apply for a variation to their agreement provided the request for consideration of the variation is made in writing to DVA and prior to the completion of the grant period.

Only the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs can approve a request to vary the terms of a grant once it has been approved.

All requests for variations of the grant purpose must be made before grant funds are re directed to other purposes. If grant funds are spent on purposes other than those specified in the Deed of Agreement before a variation is approved the funds may be required to be repaid.

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Accountability and Reporting

14. BEST Funded Equipment

Applicants must ensure that all BEST funded equipment:

  • is used primarily for pensions and/or welfare work;
  • is secured in a suitable and safe manner;
  • is configured to ensure the confidentiality of any client information or files stored on or in that equipment;
  • is insured by the grant recipient; and
  • is listed on an equipment register which is available to DVA on request.

After the grant period, any capital equipment purchased under the funding agreement belongs to the ESO.  The ESO is responsible for this equipment, any ancillary operational costs, and any ongoing costs or repairs to that equipment.

15. Record Keeping

All ESOs that receive BEST funding are required to record and maintain information supporting the information they provide on their application and their use and expenditure of grant funds.  

This information must be made available upon request from DVA.  It may be required for the purposes of acquittal of the BEST funds and/or departmental or external audit of the BEST program.

The information required will depend on the nature of the grant, but may include:

  • records detailing the individual pension cases and welfare work referred to on the application form;
  • an Equipment Register for all capital equipment purchases funded under the grant;
  • a Travel Log for all travel expenses claimed and funded under the grant;
  • invoices, receipts or other information for capital equipment purchases;
  • invoices, receipts or other information for any office consumables where the single purchase was $100 or more;
  • if salary assistance is provided, evidence of who has been paid, the number of hours worked and in respect of what activities; and/or
  • any additional information outlined in the Grant Agreement.

16. Six-Month Progress Report

For all grants, a six month Project Evaluation Report, addressing the Performance Objectives and outlining compliance with the requirements under the Grant Agreement is required.  

The report will include, but may not be limited to:

  • number of claims and appeals prepared and comparison with previous claims and appeals workload; and
  • welfare workload undertaken and comparison with previous welfare workload.

DVA will discuss any risk that the agreed Performance Objectives for the remainder of the grant period may not be achieved with the ESO.  Any significant remaining risk to the performance objectives may affect the outcome of any subsequent BEST applications.  

17. Grant Acquittal

Acquittal processes are the main means by which DVA ensures that the grant funds are used efficiently and for the purposes for which they were granted.

The documentation required for acquittal of the grant is detailed in the Grant Agreement. At a minimum, a 6 and 12 month Project Evaluation Report and a Statement of Compliance are required.

BEST grants are made on an annual basis for each financial year with the funds generally being released at the start of the financial year. As acquittals are due 30 days after the end of the project period (30 June each year) this generally means the funds for each financial year will be released before the acquittals for the previous financial year have been received by DVA. 

Payment of BEST funding for the following financial year will be dependent on all earlier grants, other than the immediate previous financial year, being fully acquitted.

The 6 Month Project Evaluation Report must be completed and returned to DVA by mid February of the financial year for which the grant is approved.  Future BEST grant funding will not be available until all Project Evaluation Reports have been provided.

All acquittal documents must be completed within 30 days of the end of the Project Period and returned to DVA within a further 14 days.

All requests for audit and other documentation must be complied with in the timeframes set out in the request letter.

Failure to meet these requirements will impact on receiving future assistance under BEST.

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Supporting Documents

The following documents are available on the DVA website to help in applying for a BEST grant:

BEST Grant Application Form (PDF 116 KB)

This form must be used to apply for BEST grants. It will be available on the website while the grant round is open.

Guide to Completing the BEST Application Form

This document contains detailed information to assist applicants complete the Building Excellence in Support and Training (BEST) Application Form.  The guide includes comments and explanations on some of the more complex questions in the application form.  The guide is available at the same time as the application form.

Summary of Eligible and Ineligible BEST Administrative Items

Two categories of administrative items are eligible for grants.  This document outlines these categories and provides a list of example items in each category.

Workload Definitions

The Application Form for BEST grant funding assistance requests statistical information on the workload of practitioners, both paid and voluntary.

This document contains definitions which clearly identify and categorise the work carried out by practitioners, as required for the application form.

Explanation of the BEST Grant Calculation Formula

BEST grants are calculated using a formula.  This document explains the formula and how it is applied.

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