Chapter 7 - Your health
This chapter is about the range of health support services available to you, including information about the Repatriation Health Cards, access to medical and health care providers, respite care, health care overseas, pharmaceutical services and mental health counselling.
Repatriation Health Cards
There are different levels of eligibility for treatment benefits. If you are eligible, a Gold or a White Repatriation Health Card entitles you to the services provided under the Repatriation Health Care system at DVA’s expense.
The Gold Card - ‘Repatriation Health Card for All Conditions’ gives you access to a wide range of public and private health care services, for the treatment, at DVA expense, of all your health care conditions whether war or service related or not.
The White Card - ‘Repatriation Health Card for Specific Conditions’ gives access to a wide range of public and private health care services for the treatment, at DVA expense, of your disabilities and conditions accepted as war or service related.
Veterans of the Australian Defence Forces may also receive treatment for the following conditions whether service related or not:
- cancer (malignant neoplasia);
- alcohol and substance abuse disorders;
- post traumatic stress disorder;
- anxiety and/or depression; and
- pulmonary tuberculosis.
Elsewhere in this guide, the above conditions are referred to as 'special conditions'.
Veterans, members of the defence forces, 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.
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 3-4 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 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.
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 safety net 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.
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. 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.
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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 local medical officer, general practitioner, medical specialist, treating doctor in hospital, discharge planner or equivalent allied health provider, you also have access to:
- physiotherapists, occupational therapists, osteopaths and chiropractors;
- clinical psychologists, clinical counsellors and social workers;
- 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.
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.
You must travel by the most economical and suitable means of transport available at the time. The scheme assists 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) service in certain circumstances.
Eligible veterans aged 80 years and over, or who are legally blind, or are suffering from dementia automatically qualify for the use of BCWD services for travel to all approved treatment locations.
Transport bookings can be made by contacting DVA on 1300 550 455 (metropolitan areas) or 1800 550 455 (rural areas) or using the MyAccount service available at myaccount.dva.gov.au.
You can also claim reimbursement of your travelling expenses through the MyAccount service or by lodging a D800 Claim for Travelling Expenses form.
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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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 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 available to eligible members of the veteran community include hearing assessments and rehabilitation, including the fitting of a free hearing aid/device to meet the individual’s clinical needs. If you require hearing services, your Local Medical Officer (LMO) will refer you directly to the Office of Hearing Services (OHS).
If you need more information on hearing services contact your nearest DVA office.
Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP)
This program provides eligible veterans, war widows and widowers with aids to daily living, surgical appliances and home modifications for which they have an assessed clinical need. Products and services provided range from consumable items such as continence pads to mobility appliances.
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 LMO.
If you need more information, contact your nearest DVA office.
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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. White Card holders can do so only in relation to their accepted disabilities or relevant determinations.
If you need to go to hospital
Under the Repatriation Private Patient Scheme (RPPS), Gold Card Holders or White Card Holders receiving treatment for an accepted disability or relevant determined condition may be admitted directly to a local public hospital, former Repatriation Hospital (RH) or a contracted Private Tier 1 Veteran Partnering (VP) hospital, as a private patient, in a shared ward, with the doctor of their choice.
For more information about the RPPS and hospitals you can be admitted to contact your nearest DVA office.
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. 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 can arrange ambulance transport if you meet State health and ambulance authority guidelines. 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.
Respite care may be provided in a residential aged care facility or at home. An Aged Care Assessment Team or health professional will assess whether you need respite care.
For information about how your pension is assessed whilst in respite care refer to What is Respite Care? in Chapter 4 - Living Arrangements.
Respite care in a residential aged care facility – provides short term care for people who are being cared for and whose carer is in need of a temporary break from the caring role. This care may be used on a planned or an emergency basis when a carer is unavailable for any reason. If residential aged care facilities are not available, hospital accommodation may be used.
Respite care in a residential aged care facility is available for up to 63 days in one financial year for the cost of a daily care fee. DVA will pay the daily care fee for up to 28 days of the 63 days for:
- all Gold Card holders;
- Australian veterans with a White Card;
- Commonwealth and allied veterans with a White Card where the need for care relates to an accepted disability.
After 28 days of respite care in any one financial year the person receiving the care is responsible for paying the daily care fee.
If you are an Australian ex-prisoner of war receiving respite care, DVA will pay your daily care fee for the length of your stay.
Respite care in your home allows carers to have a break while someone else comes into the home to look after the person needing the care. This type of care is provided through general community programs such as Home and Community Care (HACC).
DVA may pay for in-home respite care, if you are entitled, have been assessed as needing it and community in-home respite programs are unable to meet your needs. In-home respite care is also available if your carer has a DVA health care entitlement. You may use your 28 days (DVA paid) care as a combination of residential and/or in-home respite care. Seven hours is equal to one day for in-home respite care.
If you need care in an emergency
Sometimes assistance is needed because of a crisis – if your carer is suddenly or unexpectedly unable to continue looking after you and general community services are not available.
If the only alternatives are admission to hospital or you being left without adequate care, DVA may pay for you to be properly cared for at home until general community services can be arranged or until your usual carer is able to resume the caring role. Financial limits apply in these situations. Your doctor will make the arrangements directly with the care provider who will notify DVA.
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.
Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Card (Orange Card)
British, other Commonwealth or allied veterans with qualifying service from World War I or World War II, aged 70 years or over, and 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 medicines and wound dressings 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.
Gold Card and Orange Card holders have access to a wide range of medicines and wound dressings prescribed by their doctor for the treatment of their medical conditions. If you have a White Card, you can receive medicines and wound dressings for the treatment of your accepted disabilities and special conditions only.
You are required to pay a patient co-payment for each pharmaceutical item. There may be an extra charge for higher cost brands or therapeutic groups of some items.
Once you have made co-payments to the safety net threshold you will only have to pay any brand charges for your medicines and wound dressings for the rest of the calendar year. Your pharmacist can help you with recording your co-payments. (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:
- go to DVA’s online mental health information and resources (At Ease) http://at-ease.dva.gov.au/;
- talk to your GP, who may also refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker if needed; or
- talk to the VVCS - Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service.
DVA will pay for the treatment of diagnosed alcohol and substance use disorder, PTSD, anxiety or depression for veterans and many with peacetime service. You don’t need to make a compensation claim to access these arrangements – just contact DVA for more information.
The VVCS is a free and confidential, Australia-wide counselling service dedicated to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of the Australian veteran and ex-service community and their families. VVCS counsellors are professionally qualified psychologists and social workers, who maintain a knowledge and understanding of veteran and military culture that enables them to deliver specialised counselling and support. Services offered include:
- individual, couple, or family counselling;
- group programs for veterans, partners, sons and daughters;
- information and education.
For more information on who can access the VVCS services call 1800 011 046. This will connect you with the closest VVCS Centre or the Veterans Line after-hours counselling service.
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