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Current or transitioning ADF member

Making the change to civilian life

Did you know that 45% of all ADF members who transitioned in 2015 served four years or less?

Eventually all Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel will make the change from military to civilian life. Although the Department of Defence has primary responsibility for members transitioning from the ADF, the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) supports Defence through a range of programs and is adopting a more proactive approach to meet the needs of current serving and transitioning members.

Cover of "The next stage—Making the change to civilian life"DVA provides support services for transitioning members as they leave the ADF. By engaging with ADF members early in their career, DVA can meet the needs of members and their families when the time finally arrives for them to transition to civilian life. Eligible members may also be able to access support from DVA even if they are still currently serving. DVA provides a broad range of services, tools and support (outlined on this page) that can assist members and their families post-service life.

1. Where to start — DVA support

DVA's On Base Advisory Service (OBAS)

Our easy-to-remember link:

Have you ever:

  • been medically downgraded?
  • been injured at work or while playing ADF sport?
  • been deployed?
  • had your allowances cease because you returned from an exercise or deployment early?

If so, you should talk to DVA at any time — particularly before you transition.

When you first start thinking about leaving the ADF, DVA's On Base Advisory Service (OBAS) should be your first stop.

OBAS provides a DVA presence on more than 40 ADF bases nationally and offers members information and advice about the support and entitlements that they might be able to receive through DVA.

These advisors present at pre- and post-deployment briefs, at unit and commander briefs, and at Defence's national Transition Seminars throughout the year.

To find out which bases are routinely visited by DVA, see the OBAS visiting schedule.

See our service offer chart:

Stepping Out

Making the transition from the military to civilian life can be a big change for you and your family. Stepping Out is a free, two-day, program for all ADF members, and their partners, who are discharging from the ADF or have discharged in the last 12 months.

The program focuses on skills that will assist you in the transition including: planning; motivation and adaption techniques; expectation and attitude management; maintaining relationships and knowing where to go to seek professional support.

To find out more visit Open Arms or call 1800 011 046.

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2. Rehabilitation and compensation

Making a claim

If you have any health conditions you believe may have been caused by your service — from minor to more serious injuries or illnesses — you should lodge a claim as soon as possible.

Even if you do not need help now, finding out if your conditions are covered will make it faster and easier for you to access help in the future.


My account logo/button/graphic with banner (pixelated rectangle with two people—a veteran and a serving member)

You can check your eligibility for compensation using the Entitlement Self Assessment wizard, and submit a claim through a DVA office or by registering online through the DVA website.

It is a good idea to get copies of your medical records before you discharge to speed up your claim.

Rehabilitation support and services

An accepted claim with DVA entitles you to a tailored rehabilitation plan to get you back on your feet. Your plan may include support in:

  • securing civilian employment
  • managing your treatment and health conditions more effectively
  • overcoming any barriers to building a new life outside the ADF.

To find out more see Rehabilitation.

Invalidity benefit

If you are medically discharged from the ADF, you may also be able to access an invalidity benefit under military superannuation arrangements from the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation.

Qualifying Service

Certain operational service is also considered Qualifying Service, giving eligibility for a DVA Gold Card to cover all your health care services from age 70. Qualifying Service also gives you access to the Service Pension, and means that you may be eligible for Defence and DVA housing assistance schemes, to assist you in buying a house or getting insurance. Service Pension can be paid from age 60, whereas the eligibility age for age pension is gradually increasing from 65 to 67.  If you are permanently incapacitated, Invalidity Service Pension can be paid from any age. To find out more, talk to an OBAS advisor or see our information on eligibility for more details.

Help to buy a home

Leaving the ADF changes your Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme (DHOAS) entitlement and may mean moving out of your Defence rental property or giving up rental assistance. Depending on your qualifying period of service and when you discharged from the ADF, you may be eligible for subsidised housing loans, home support loans and associated insurances.

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3. Health services

Rehabilitation for medically discharging members

While you are still serving, you rehabilitation is provided by the ADF. Once you separate, your rehabilitation will continue to be provided by DVA so long as you have submitted a claim with DVA and it is accepted. DVA-provided rehabilitation may commence earlier than usual if you are beginning the transition process.

Even if you have been out of the ADF for some time, once your claim is accepted by DVA, you can ask for rehabilitation assistance at any time.

Find out more about DVA's rehabilitation process

Veteran Health Checks

Enjoying a longer, healthier and happier life means taking action to stay on top of your health.

After you have left the ADF, you can gain access to a comprehensive one-off Veteran Health Check (Medicare-rebate available) from your GP to track how you are going. This health check has been designed specifically for you. It can help you and your GP identify ways to optimise your physical and mental health and wellbeing. Early intervention and appropriate referrals can help you enjoy better health outcomes and manage your health after you transition to civilian life.

In addition, ADF members (permanent and reservists) who transition out of the ADF from 1 July 2019 can gain access to a fully-funded comprehensive Annual Veteran Health Check from their GP every year for the first five years after transition using their DVA Veteran Card.

Find out more Veteran Health Check

If you don’t have a regular GP, you can find national health services — such as general practices, pharmacists, hospitals and emergency departments — anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. The healthdirect app is Australia’s free health app that helps you make informed decisions about your health. For more information, visit healthdirect.

Treatment for mental health conditions, whatever the cause

DVA pays for the treatment of any mental health condition whatever the cause (related to service or not) and with no need for a compensation claim. This is known as Non-Liability Health Care (NLHC). Depending on your type of service, NLHC also covers treatment for cancer and pulmonary tuberculosis.

Anyone who has been a member of the permanent ADF or has a period of continuous full-time service (for either the permanent or reserve forces), even for as little as one day, is eligible for the treatment of any mental health condition. It doesn’t matter when you served, how long you served, or the nature of your service.

Reservists without continuous full-time service are eligible for mental health treatment under NLHC, provided they rendered Reserve Service Days with at least one of the following:

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

If you have received a DVA Health Card — Specific Conditions (White Card) after transitioning from the ADF, without claiming, you are eligible to receive NLHC mental health treatment immediately. There is no need to apply for NLHC mental health treatment if you have received a White Card for this reason. Contact DVA if you have any questions about your treatment eligibilities.

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4. Counselling support

Open Arms

Open Arms (formerly VVCS) is a free and confidential service that offers individual, couple and family counselling, after-hours crisis telephone support and group programs. Open Arms' counsellors have an understanding of military culture and can help address war and service-related mental health and wellbeing conditions. Support is also available for relationship and family matters that can arise due to the unique nature of military service.

To find out more visit Open Arms or call 1800 011 046.

The At Ease logo—recognise, act, maintain

At Ease

The At Ease portal provides a suite of websites, apps and YouTube videos videos that offer self-help tools and advice about mental health and wellbeing for ex-service members and their families. At Ease focuses on general mental health and wellbeing, PTSD, alcohol management and suicide prevention.

To find out more visit At Ease.

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5. Reservists, Cadets and Australian Federal Police

Reservists, cadets and members of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) with overseas service may also be eligible for a broad range of DVA services and support. Please contact DVA or visit an on-base advisor for more information.

You can quickly assess your potential entitlements to assistance using the online Entitlement Self Assessment tool.

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6. Work to date and initiatives

Defence and DVA continue to work together to improve members' transition from the ADF.

Find out more about DVA's relationship with Defence.

Memorandum of Understanding

In 2013, Defence and DVA signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Defence and the Department of Veterans' Affairs for the Cooperative Delivery of Care and Support to Eligible Persons. The MOU sets out the exact responsibilities of each department and how they will work together to support current and former serving members. Both departments are looking to broaden and enhance this agreement to better support all ADF personnel.

Information sharing

Since 2014, there has been a significant improvement in information sharing between the two departments, which has enabled DVA to better connect with transitioning members.

DVA is now notified by Defence when any of the following circumstances occur to a member:

  1. passes away during service
  2. is seriously wounded/injured in service
  3. discharges on medical grounds
  4. discharges on administrative grounds (where drugs or alcohol have been a deciding factor)
  5. commences the transition process (has an initial transition interview with the Defence Community Organisation's Transition Support Services)
  6. actually transitions from the ADF.

The seriousness of the notification will determine the action that DVA will take. For example, if a member were to be seriously wounded or injured, they will be proactively contacted by the department. Where the member has commenced the transition process, they would receive a letter from the Secretary of DVA to let them know what services and support are available, and may also receive an email from DVA regarding their transition.  Members are encouraged to make sure their contact details are up to date.

Early Engagement Model

An initiative called the Early Engagement Model (EEM) is being developed and will enable DVA to engage with members from the moment they join the ADF and then throughout their careers. It will also work towards as smooth a transition as early as possible.

There are a range of private-sector and ex-service organisations (ESO) that can also assist you and your family with the transition process. There are also not-for-profit organisations, like Soldier On and Mates4Mates. These organisations can provide support, information and advocacy services, including support to lodge DVA claims as well assistance in getting you job-ready and into civilian work. To find out more visit Ex-service Organisations

Please note: DVA does not endorse any products or services offered by these organisations.

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7. Contact information

If you would like to contact us, see our contact page for further information, including phone numbers and the email address.

You can keep up to date with the latest by following us on our social media channels:

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