Claim processing times

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As part of the Australian Government’s response to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide Interim Report released on 11 August 2022, the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) has cleared the claims backlogs and continues to make it easier to claim. 

DVA has increased claims processing staff numbers and now focused even more effort on processing outstanding claims as quickly as possible, and reducing the amount of time it takes for a determination to be made on all claims. 

Related:

Making a claim for a service-related condition Find out what you need to do when you submit a claim.

What to expect after you submit a compensation claim Get to know the steps we take to process and determine your claim.

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Where things are at

The last of the unallocated claims backlogs (the permanent impairment backlog) was cleared at the end of February, ahead of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide’s 31 March 2024 deadline. 

Of the 41,799 backlog of claims, identified in the Royal Commission's interim report, as at 30 April 2024 over 94.3 per cent have now been completed. 

The Government’s commitment to an additional 500 ongoing staff (Average Staffing Level), has allowed DVA to clear the backlog and now operate in a new business-as-usual (BAU) environment.

DVA receives around 4,000 claims every two weeks, and in this BAU environment it aims to register, screen and allocate new claims to an officer for processing within two weeks of receipt.

DVA recognises that many veterans have been waiting too long for their claims to be processed. While clearing the backlog is an important first step, DVA is focussed on improving claims processing timeframes and outcomes for veterans and families.

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info graphic for processing times

As at 30 April 2024, DVA had 76,149 claims on hand, comprised of 2,569 unallocated claims and 73,580 claims being processed.

In the financial year to date (1 July 2023 to 30 April 2024):

  • DVA received 71,034 claims
  • DVA made 82,774 determinations
  • the average time taken to process MRCA Initial liability claims was 373 days, a decrease of 62 days (or 14.3%), compared to the previous FYTD.

Download data 

  • The number of claims DVA received over recent years
  • the number of conditions that are being claimed
  • the volume of compensation claims on hand
  • other related claims processing data.

Other relevant information can be found at: 

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Improving claim processing times

The Royal Commission’s interim report, delivered on 11 August 2022, recommended urgent action to eliminate the claims backlog and make improvements to the claims administration system as well as regular progress reports on implementing these improvements:

Now that the claims backlog has been cleared, DVA is focusing on determining claims on hand and reducing our time taken to process.

To improve processing times and veterans’ and families’ experiences we are:

  • Recruiting and training more staff
  • improving our forms and processes
  • making it easier to submit and track claims online using MyService
  • checking when we receive a claim for signs a veteran may be at risk so we can offer extra support or prioritise their claim
  • checking when we receive a claim for missing information prior to the claim being allocated to an officer
  • keeping veterans informed about how their claims are progressing and what they can expect
  • following up on any information that we still need
  • simplifying and harmonising three pieces of legislation into a single Act. The Government will make a final decision on the legislation taking into account feedback received during the consultation process. More information is available here.
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Why processing times vary?

DVA’s reporting on processing times is an average, is in calendar days, and includes the total time taken to process a claim from the date the claim is lodged. This includes time to gather additional information from medical providers or the Department of Defence – for example, it can take around 72 days, on average, for medical reports to be submitted.

Some claims need to be prioritised based on the circumstances of the veteran or client.

Some claims may take longer to process as they:

  • Have incomplete information, such as medical reports
  • include multiple conditions
  • relate to more than one Act
  • need significant investigation into the condition itself or what caused it.

Claims are also becoming more complex. The number of conditions in a claim has increased to an average of 4.3 in April 2024 from 2.6 in May 2022. Each condition requires a separate decision, therefore more time is spent assessing each claim.

These factors result in some claims being decided faster than the average, while some claims take longer.

Table 1: Claims processing times 

(FYTD 1 July 2023 to 31 March 2024)

DVA recognises that many veterans have been waiting too long for their claims to be processed.

DVA is focussed on improving claims processing timeframes and aims to allocate new claims within two weeks of receipt.

Type of claim MRCA Initial Liability DRCA Initial Liability VEA Disability Compensation Payment MRCA Permanent Impairment DRCA Permanent Impairment MRCA and DRCA Incapacity Payments War widow(er)’s pension

 Average number of calendar days
Type of claimfrom lodgement to allocate to an officer for processing between allocation to an officer for processing and the decision being madebetween lodgement and the claim being decided
MRCA Initial Liability231151373
DRCA Initial Liability266229477
VEA Disability Compensation Payment280255514
MRCA Permanent Impairment114126227
DRCA Permanent Impairment197128305
MRCA and DRCA Incapacity Payments315974
War widow(er)’s pensionNot availableNot available132
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How to be claim ready?

The single most effective step to speed things up is to provide all the information we might need when a claim is lodged or as soon as possible afterwards.

This includes making sure the veteran and their doctor complete all relevant sections of any claim submitted.

If we don’t have everything we need when we are processing the claim, there will be a delay. We might have to ask the veteran, their medical provider or Defence for the information that’s missing. This takes time.

 Contact us or an advocate if you’re not sure what documents you need to support your claim.

To assist veterans and their medical practitioners, DVA is working to reduce the complexity of 203 medical forms. To date we have consolidated 73 medical forms into 29, and reduced 156 pages to 69. Where possible, having these medical reports available at time of application can help to speed up an assessment.

Find out more about:

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Why acceptance rates can vary?

DVA recognises that putting in a claim can be complex.

Acceptance rates can vary based on the type of claim (IL, PI and Incapacity), complexity and the program under which an application is made.

In some cases claimants may claim for the same condition under multiple Acts. By law compensation cannot be granted twice for the same condition. If a claim is accepted under MRCA in general it may be rejected under DRCA or VEA. This is a key factor in the lower acceptance rates for DRCA IL and VEA, with a large number of claims that have been rejected under DRCA or VEA being accepted under MRCA.

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Why the number of claims has increased

We are completing more claims each year, but the number of claims we are receiving continues to rise. Some of the reasons for this are that we have:

  • Made it easier to claim online using MyService
  • connected with veterans who were previously unaware of our services, such as through the Veterans’ Recognition Program, mobile service centres and social media
  • expanded some services to include veterans and serving members with at least one day of continuous full-time service.
  • serving members who are more aware that it’s important to claim for injuries when they happen and to claim all conditions before they transition out of Defence.
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DVA Outreach

DVA is seeing a steady increase in the number of claims submitted, as we continue to:

  • Connect with veterans who were previously unaware of our services, through channels such as the Veterans’ Recognition Program, mobile service centres and social media
  • expand some services to include veterans and serving members with at least one day of continuous full-time service
  • connect with serving members to raise awareness of the importance of claiming for injuries when they happen and to claim all conditions before they transition out of Defence.
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Key terms explained

Here are some definitions to help you understand the claims data in the tables.

Acceptance Rate

Acceptance rates for MRCA and DRCA Initial Liability and VEA Compensation Payment (and combined) are provided at the condition level as each claim may contain both accepted and rejected conditions. 

Acceptance rates for all other claim types are provided at the claim level.

Allocated claim

Claims allocated to an officer for investigation and determination.

Average

Also called the mean, average refers to the sum of processing days for all claims decided, divided by the total number of claims decided. It is provided for a specific period, such as a month or the financial year to date.

Backlog

The backlog has been previously defined as the number of claims lodged that are not currently being processed, i.e. have not been allocated to a DVA officer.

Business as usual (BAU) levels of unallocated claims

BAU levels of unallocated claims for each major claim type (Initial Liability, Permanent Impairment, and Incapacity) is calculated on claims received in the previous two-week period.  In a BAU environment, DVA aims to allocate claims to an officer for processing within 2 weeks of receipt

Claim

A claim is a veteran’s request that we accept liability or pay compensation for an injury or disease that was caused or made worse by their service. A claim can include multiple conditions. Veterans can lodge any number or type of claim.

Condition

A condition is any injury or disease that a veteran has claimed was caused or made worse by their service. This claim could be under any of the 3 Acts.

FYTD

Financial Year To Date – period of time from 1 July in the current year to the reporting date.

The three Acts

Veterans’ service is covered by three Acts, known as the MRCA, VEA and DRCA. Which Act you are covered by will depend on the service that relates to your injury or disease. As a general rule, if your condition relates to service:

  • after 1 July 2004, then the MRCA will apply
  • before 1 July 2004, then either the VEA, the DRCA or both will apply
  • that spans 1 July 2004, then one or more of the VEA, DRCA and MRCA will apply.

For information on the three different Acts, go to the:

Time taken to process

This is the length of time taken, in calendar days, for a decision to be made on a claim from the time we receive it.

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Types of claim

Find out about the different types of claim.

Initial liability / liability

Under the MRCA and the DRCA, an initial liability claim can be made for a service-related injury, disease or death. One claim can include multiple conditions. Once we receive a complete claim, we will consider the evidence provided. We will use that evidence to decide whether or not to accept that the condition is service related.

Permanent impairment and incapacity

Once we have accepted that a condition is service related, we work out compensation payments based on the effects of that condition. Types of compensation that might be payable include incapacity compensationpermanent impairment under MRCA and permanent impairment under DRCA.

Permanent impairment compensation is a payment for functional loss caused by a service-related condition.

Incapacity compensation is a payment for reduced capacity for service or work caused by a service-related condition.

Disability Compensation Payment

This compensation can be claimed under the VEA. It is a fortnightly payment for the effects of injuries and diseases related to service. The Disability Compensation Payment was formerly called the disability pension.

War widow(er)’s pension

This is a fortnightly payment. It is made to the partner of a veteran where the veteran’s death was related to service or other eligibility criteria were met before the veteran died.

Unallocated Claims

Claims received but not yet allocated to an officer for investigation.

Unallocated claims were previously defined as 'backlog', meaning a claim joined the backlog from the day it was lodged.

It is acknowledged that there will never be zero unallocated claims, and DVA estimates 'business as usual' (BAU) levels of unallocated claims based on historical volumes of claims received over a two-week period.  In a BAU environment, DVA aims to allocate greater than or equal to 95 per cent of claims to an officer for processing within two weeks of receipt.

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Workforce (FTE)

In the October 2022-23 Budget, DVA secured ongoing funding for 500 additional staff to support claims processing. These staff have been recruited and are now supporting claims processing.

In July 2023, DVA updated the reporting method for full time equivalent (FTE) staff working directly on claims processing. This updated method provides a more complete representation of the claims processing staffing profile through the inclusion of team leader and support officer roles.

The previous method used in FY2022-23 reported claims processing FTE staff based on claims processing delegate roles and other limited criteria. This excluded claims processing team leader roles and a small number of support officers that were involved in reviewing claims. At the time of reporting, support officers were undertaking a range of functions which did not directly involve reviewing or instigating claims. 

As the DVA's claims processing model adjusted, claims support officers (CSOs) have become a key feature, taking on a claims ‘investigation preparedness’ function, with the number of CSOs increasing.

The July 2023 method update amends the profile of staff working directly on claims processing as at 30 June 2022 from 390 FTE staff to 544.3 FTE staff, and as at 30 June 2023 from 754.6 FTE staff to 943.1 FTE staff respectively.

Under both methods, claims processing FTE staff increased by more than 500 between June 2022 and October 2023.

Comparison of changes in claims processing staffing   
FTE by employment type methods

Table 1: Claims processing workforce FTE based on delegate role group method (February 2023)

MonthJun-22Jul-22Aug-22Sep-22Oct-22Nov-22Dec-22Jan-23Jun-23Oct-23
Total FTE390428.8446.8447.3559.5622.7620.1652.3754.6896.2
Net Increase (since June 2022)038.856.857.3169.5232.7230.1262.3364.5506.2

Table 2: Claims processing workforce FTE based on claims processing role group method (from July 2023)

MonthJun-22Jul-22Aug-22Sep-22Oct-22Nov-22Dec-22Jan-23Jun-23Oct-23
Total FTE544.3559.2587.4577.2672.2746.6801.2796.7943.11073.4
Net Increase (since June 2022)014.943.132.9127.9202.3256.9252.4398.8529.1
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