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 programmes and is adopting a more proactive approach to meet the needs of current serving and transitioning members.
DVA provides support services for transitioning members as they leave the Defence Force. By engaging with ADF members early in their career, the Department 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. The Department provides a broad range of services, tools and support (outlined on this page) that can assist members and their families post-service life.
- The Next Stage – Making the change to civilian life (PDF 3.35 MB)
The Next Stage – Making the change to civilian life (HTML version)
On this page:
DVA's On Base Advisory Service (OBAS)
Our easy-to-remember link: www.dva.gov.au/obas.htm
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:
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 VVCS or call 1800 011 046.
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.
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.
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.
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 early access to the aged 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. 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.
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.
General Practitioner health checks
After you have discharged from the ADF (either from the permanent or reserve forces) you can access a one-off health check from your general practitioner (GP). The health check has been specifically designed to help identify any physical or mental health concerns you may have, and to treat or refer you to other services. A Medicare rebate is available.
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.
If you have difficulty locating a GP in your location who will accept you as a patient then contact DVA for assistance.
Treatment for certain conditions, whatever the cause
DVA can pay for the treatment of certain conditions for eligible members whatever the cause – whether or not the condition is related to service. Conditions covered include:
- alcohol- or substance-use disorder
- cancer or pulmonary tuberculosis.
To find out more see Treatment of your health conditions – Non-Liability Health Care
Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service
The Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) is a free and confidential service that offers individual, couple and family counselling, after-hours crisis telephone support and group programs. VVCS 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 VVCS or call 1800 011 046.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- passes away during service
- is seriously wounded/injured in service
- discharges on medical grounds
- discharges on administrative grounds (where drugs or alcohol have been a deciding factor)
- commences the transition process (has an initial transition interview with the Defence Community Organisation's Transition Support Services)
- 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.
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 – rather than waiting until transition is imminent.
Veteran Employment Assistance Initiative
DVA is currently trialling a Veterans' Employment Assistance Initiative (VEAI). The VEAI enhances DVA's vocational rehabilitation arrangements to help former members get job-ready and find civilian work by:
- improving engagement with and the information and support provided to former members and their families, employers and rehabilitation providers
- helping former members understand how their military skills and behaviours translate into the civilian workplace
- better promotion to employers of the benefits that former members bring to the civilian workplace
- looking at ways to work together with State Governments, ex-service and other organisations running employment/vocational initiatives for former members to improve employment opportunities for former members.
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.
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: