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ESO Round Table - summary of meeting 13 November 2014

The Ex-Service Organisation (ESO) Round Table met for the 28th time in Canberra on 13 November 2014.  The Chair welcomed members and representatives, and congratulated Mrs Meg Green on her appointment to the committee, as the new National President of the War Widows’ Guild of Australia.

The Chair also advised members of the retirement Dr Graeme Killer from DVA at the end of the year. On behalf of Members, the Chair thanked him for all his hard work and wished him the best of luck in retirement.

ACM Mark Binskin, Chief of Defence Force (CDF) Addressed the Meeting

The CDF thanked the members for inviting him to speak to the group and discussed a number of issues facing the Defence Forces today.  In particular, he spoke about concerns for the welfare of current serving members and their families, both while in-service and in the transition to the DVA space.  

Streamlined Proof of Identity (POI) Requirements for Current Serving Members and Reservists

Members were provided an update on the introduction of the streamlined POI policy for current serving members and reservists, introduced on 1 September 2014.  Early statistics show approximately 150 claims have been made in a fortnight using the new streamlined policy.  Members were urged to pass on the information regarding the new arrangements to their respective organisations.

Draft Social Health Strategy 2014 for Veteran and Ex-Service Community

A progress update was provided to members who were advised at the 12 August 2014 meeting that a public consultation period seeking comment on the Strategy was open from 30 June to 30 September 2014.  Feedback from the consultation indicates that overall the Strategy has been well received, with the majority of submissions providing positive feedback.  The Strategy is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2015.

BEST Round 17

Members noted that the Minister had endorsed introducing an Audit programme for BEST grants. It is anticipated that approximately 15 organisations will be approached to provide data regarding their Round 16 BEST applications.  The process will begin shortly.

Review of Veterans' Advocacy Training

Members noted that they will be provided a paper outlining the findings of the Review and seeking comments, prior to recommendations being finalised.  A range of questions from members were discussed regarding the timings and impacts of any implementation of recommendations.

Options for Extending Long Tan Bursary (LTB) Eligibility

Members discussed four options regarding extending LTB eligibility. Members noted their support for option 4, which would look at extending eligibility to children of veterans with operational (or equivalent) service from 1962 onwards.

Rehabilitation and Compensation (R&C) Operating Model

Members were updated on R&C Operating Model consultation phase that began on 22 July and concluded on 5 September 2014.  The preferred model will now be presented to the DVA Executive and the Minister.  Once a decision is made, the model will be announced to staff and other stakeholders.

Veterans Employment Assistance Initiative

Members were advised that the Minister launched the Veterans’ Employment Assistance Initiative in Brisbane on 12 September 2014. The launch involved a veteran who had undertaken a DVA vocational rehabilitation program, including a twelve week work trial, and is now employed full-time. The scheme has since been expanded to include over fifty veterans.  It was noted that an evaluation of the initiative will be undertaken in the first half of 2015.

Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) Education Campaign

Members were advised that a communication strategy has been developed by DVA, Defence and ComSuper representatives, implementing three recommendations from the Review of Military Compensation Arrangements concerning the education of current and former ADF members, their families and ESOs about the MRCA, the claims process and certain transitional issues. 

Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) Trial at the VRB

Members were provided an update on the implementation of recommendation 17.3 of the MRCA Review and noted that legislation was passed in June 2014 that enabled ADR. A 12 month trial will commence at the NSW VRB Registry from June 2015.

Review of Special Rate Disability Pension (SRDP)

Members were updated on the status of the Review of the Special Rate Disability Pension (SRDP). Members noted that they would have received a letter asking for nominations in forming an ESO consultation group concerning the Review. It is anticipated that a meeting will be held in early 2015, to discuss suggestions for what may be covered by the Review.

Health and Community Services Briefing – Release of the Vietnam Veterans Family Study, the Peacekeepers Health Study and the Rwanda Deployment Health Study

Members were advised that on 28 October 2014, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs launched three key health related studies: the Vietnam Veterans Family Study (VVFS); the Peacekeepers Health Study; and the Rwanda Deployment Health Study. Consultation with members of the ESORT will now be undertaken, with feedback to be provided to the March 2015 ESORT meeting.

ICT Update

Members received an overview and demonstration of the redeveloped DVA website. It is expected that the website will be launched in mid-December 2014.

Members were advised of a 6 month trial, to commence from 1 January 2015, to expand the use of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology for calls made to the VAN. With this technology DVA are hoping to improve wait times.  IVR would only be used during periods of high call traffic and in response to DVA initiated mail-outs

Assessment of Income for Self-Employed

Following a member submission, members were provided with information regarding clarification of current DVA policy and practice in assessing capacity for work and personal income of incapacitated self-employed veterans.

Access to VVCS services for children of Contemporary Veterans – Removal of Age Restrictions

In response to a member submission, there was a discussion of VVCS client eligibility, focusing on the children of more recent conflicts.

Veterans’ Affairs Consultation Framework – Forum Updates

Members received updates from the Younger Veterans’ Contemporary Needs Forum (YVF); Prime Ministerial Advisory Council on Veterans’ Mental Health (PMAC) and the State and Territory Forums.

Other Business

Members were advised of the new arrangements for the provision of in-person services in the Western Sydney region.

The Chair thanked members and DVA staff for their work during the day and for making the time to attend the meeting. He asked members to reflect on the performance of the ESORT.  Members were provided a copy of the Repatriation Commission, Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission and DVA Annual reports and a copy of the proposed 2015 meeting dates.

The next meeting will be held in March 2015.

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