The Government recognises that there is a need for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (DVA) services, infrastructure and business processes to be modernised so it continues to meet the needs of veterans and their families. This is why we have commissioned the Productivity Commission to review the veterans’ support system and investing nearly $500 million to transform every aspect of the department. This reform is ensuring claims can be processed faster, processes are simpler and less bureaucratic, and staff are better trained and focussed on the needs of veterans and equipped to support those with more complex needs. Most importantly, the funding for core health, support services and claims is uncapped.
DVA’s ongoing Transformation Program is in part informed by reports and recommendations such as those provided by the Productivity Commission, Commonwealth Ombudsman, parliamentary committees and the Australian National Audit Office. It is also informed by feedback, complaints and suggestions from clients, their families and ex-service organisations (ESOs).
The Department has put in place new technology supporting clients lodging their claims online through the new portal called MyService which, in some circumstances, sees almost immediate decisions. DVA is also improving phone access arrangements and will soon have a single 1800 VETERAN number for all service requests.
DVA and Defence are also working more closely to ensure transition support is more seamless, including issuing cards for free, lifelong mental health treatment on discharge and ensuring continuity of care and support for those more complex cases.
The Australian Government is also bringing forward legislation from the last term of Parliament which will enshrine in law the expectation that Veterans’ Affairs portfolio legislation be interpreted with a beneficial manner.
In terms of access to health services, where a DVA client is unable to identify a provider that accepts DVA rates, there are a number of options. DVA will work with a client to identify a provider who does accept DVA arrangements and fund transport to that provider if necessary. DVA can also put in place extra support arrangements where there is a clinical need, for example, where continuity of care or clinical complexity is a factor.
We are aware that in some parts of Australia there are shortages of certain health professionals, and this is not a problem confined only to DVA clients. This includes from time to time difficulty accessing psychiatry treatment. In these cases, we encourage people to contact DVA and we will try to assist, including by identifying any nearby providers who have provided services to DVA clients recently, or if necessary by funding travel for treatment to the nearest practical provider. The majority of DVA clients are able to access necessary treatment, with the number of psychiatrists providing services to DVA clients increasing from 1,050 in 2012–13, to 1,400 psychiatrists in 2017–18.
Paperwork should not be an issue as treatment for DVA clients is fully funded by their Gold or White Card. DVA does not require any additional paperwork.
DVA also offers 24 /7 access to highly skilled mental health services through Open Arms – a free, confidential mental health service for veterans and their families.
Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au