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Support services

DVA provides services to clients, their nominated representatives, ex-service organisations and service providers via a number of channels, including face-to-face, telephone and online.

Access to DVA

In September 2017, DVA provided access to free calls nationally by extending the coverage of the advertised general enquiry contact number, 1800 555 254, which connects with the Veterans’ Access Network (VAN).

In addition to phone contact, DVA offers a range of access points to accommodate individual preferences when interacting with the Department. In the 2017–18 financial year, the VAN responded to over 500,000 calls, 34,000 emails, 30,000 counter visits and 7,000 call back requests received online.

DVA operates services out of 15 DVA offices and six co-located arrangements with the Department of Human Services. The most recent co-located arrangement is in Woden, Canberra.

In addition to the VAN, DVA handles more than a million calls for other services, such as transport bookings, provision of pharmaceutical advice and health provider enquiries.

DVA offers services to more than 40 ADF bases through the On Base Advisory Service (OBAS). Demand for the service continued during 2017–18. In total, On Base Advisers conducted over 10,170 interviews, delivered 226 presentations and liaised with more than 930 ADF personnel.

The service ensures that serving members can access information about DVA support, entitlements and services directly from DVA staff. As part of the service, On Base Advisers also assist ADF members to access DVA’s online services.

The OBAS provided a supporting service to the Veteran Suicide Prevention pilot program trialled at Holsworthy Barracks. In 2018–19, the OBAS aims to provide an enhanced service as a result of the trials.

DVA has a strong digital footprint and uses Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube. The importance of DVA’s digital services continues to grow: there were 6,190,747 hits on DVA’s website (dva.gov.au) during 2017–18.

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Coordinated Client Support

The Coordinated Client Support (CCS) program is a specialised, time-limited program aimed at streamlining communication between veterans and members of veterans’ families and DVA. The CCS program provides veterans and their families with a single point of contact for the whole of DVA, and offers three levels of support, according to their needs.

Level 1 encompasses two types of clients:

  • Level 1 with support—people who do not require ongoing support but are allocated an intake coordinator to provide short-term support to ensure that their needs are met
  • Level 1 business as usual—people who can navigate services within the primary business areas with minimal assistance.

Where required, comprehensive support is provided to the referring business area in its ongoing management of ‘Level 1 with support’ cases.

Level 2 support is provided to people who have been assessed as having complex and multiple needs but require a less intensive level of support than those assessed at Level 3. The individual has a primary point of contact within CCS. This level of support provides short-term intervention with a view to building capacity to transition to a business-as-usual environment.

Level 3 support is provided to people who have been assessed as having complex and multiple needs. These people often have mental health concerns or physical injuries resulting from service, and have been identified as requiring intensive support to access multiple services across the Department and from other agencies and organisations. The individual has a primary point of contact within CCS. This level of support provides intervention with a view to building capacity to transition to Level 2. However, it is recognised that some individuals may remain within the program for the long term.

Veterans and members of veterans’ families can be referred to the program by DVA staff, ex-service organisations, the ADF, or nominated representatives.

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Feedback

As part of the Department’s focus on being connected and responsive to veterans and their families, DVA uses feedback to guide improvements to the delivery of services by the Department and by contracted service providers.

DVA’s commitment to record and respond to feedback from people who use its services continued in 2017–18. The Department continues to liaise with the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office through regular meetings to discuss updates and exchanges of information on common complaint matters. DVA also consults with the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office to ensure that its complaint-handling processes remain relevant and compliant.

At the end of 2017–18, DVA liaised with Department of Human Services ICT staff to develop a new case management feedback system. The system was developed through Veteran Centric Reform funding, and will enable DVA to more accurately record, manage and analyse the range of feedback received from various sources. It is expected that the system will be integrated within DVA’s ICT platform and then deployed for use in 2018–19.

Table 10 shows the numbers of complaints and compliments received over the past five years.

Table 10: Complaints and compliments 2013–14 to 2017–18
  2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18
Complaints 2,021 3,013 2,288 2,845 2,441
Compliments 964 730 699 958 1,124

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In 2017–18, the three most common areas of complaints related to:

  • the service and performance of contractors or providers
  • the accessibility and responsiveness of DVA’s service
  • administrative matters, including issues around ‘red tape’.

The three most common areas of compliments related to:

  • the attitude of staff, including their empathy, knowledge and behaviour
  • the accessibility and responsiveness of DVA’s service
  • commemorative events or services.

DVA recorded 332 suggestions for improvement in 2017–18, a slight increase compared to 321 in 2016–17. The majority of suggestions related to MyAccount, DVA’s online portal.

In 2017–18, the average time taken to resolve a complaint was 14 days, which is well within the expected time frame of 28 days as stated in the DVA Service Charter. In 2016–17, the average time taken to resolve a complaint was 11 days.

Levels of satisfaction with the feedback process and its outcomes are shown in Table 11.

Table 11: Proportion of people satisfied with the Department’s response to their feedback in 2017–18 (%)
  Satisfied Neutral Dissatisfied
Conduct of the feedback process 50 48 2
Outcome of the feedback process 47 50 3

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Indigenous Veterans’ Strategy

In 2017–18, DVA continued to provide services and programs under the Indigenous Veterans’ Strategy, to improve its service delivery to the Indigenous veteran community and to improve the cultural knowledge of DVA staff.

Forum and network

The Department hosted the inaugural Indigenous Veterans Forum in March 2017. The meeting provided Indigenous serving and former ADF members with an opportunity to meet with DVA staff and share their stories and experiences, and provided the Department with a platform for co-designing solutions to improve services and ensure that services for the Indigenous veteran community are being delivered in a culturally appropriate, sensitive and safe manner. The Department plans to host a second forum in 2018–19.

As a result of the roundtable, the Indigenous veterans network was established in 2017–18. The network currently has 31 members, including 15 who attended the inaugural roundtable. It utilises the combined professional and personal networks of the individual members to promote DVA benefits and entitlements among Indigenous veterans and local communities.

The network is part of the Department’s contribution to the Australian Government’s commitment to Closing the Gap, and an avenue for promoting government initiatives that may benefit Indigenous veterans, such as the 2017–18 Budget measure providing Gold Cards to people who were affected by British nuclear tests conducted in Australia during the 1950s and 1960s.

During 2017–18, the network:

  • explored opportunities to connect with Indigenous veterans living in the Torres Strait islands
  • highlighted issues around utilising an Indigenous interpreter service
  • started discussions about suicide in the Indigenous veteran community
  • promoted Indigenous commemorative events hosted by RSL branches around Australia
  • explained to local communities the role of the Office of Australian War Graves in relation to the upkeep of war graves in remote locations.

The network also congratulated Dianne Ryder, a proud Noongar woman with 21 years service in the Australian Army, who won the 2017 NAIDOC Week Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to the Indigenous veteran community in Western Australia.

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Research project

In 2017–18, the Australian National University (ANU) completed the research project Serving our country: a history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the defence of Australia. DVA was a major partner in funding the project, contributing $400,000 in financial support as well as up to $100,000 worth of in-kind support.

In April 2018, the ANU published a book on the project’s findings, titled Serving our country: Indigenous Australians, war, defence and citizenship. The book contains a rich collection of photographs and over 200 interviews and stories from Indigenous veterans and their relatives.

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Events

The Department is committed to supporting and promoting Australia’s reconciliation journey by building the cultural awareness of all staff and by enhancing relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations.

During 2017–18, DVA staff attended a number of commemorations and community events held during Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week. The events included local Indigenous community meetings, Indigenous community network meetings, cultural festivals and community days. Participating in such events gives DVA an opportunity to connect with Indigenous veterans and engage with their communities, while sharing information about DVA entitlements available to Indigenous veterans and their families. It also provides opportunities for DVA staff to share information and develop partnerships with representatives of other government entities and non-government agencies.

In line with Reconciliation Australia’s national theme, ‘Don’t keep history a mystery’, DVA hosted a Reconciliation Week event focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service in the ADF in Canberra on 29 May 2018. Other events supported by DVA included:

  • a gathering of community elders
  • a ceremony for Indigenous veterans held by the RSL Queensland
  • a Torres Strait Islander event held on Mabo Day.

The Department also continued to support Australian and international ceremonies to honour the service and sacrifice of all veterans, including the contributions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service personnel in wars, conflicts and peacetime operations.

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