News from the Minister

Headshot of the Honourable Darren Chester MP, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel

@DarrenChesterMP

The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel

3 July 2020

Adjusting during difficult times

Anzac Day at home

Darren Chester, holding a candle and standing on his driveway, during Anzac Day at home on 25 April 2020.

Anzac Day is one of the most important days in our national calendar, and while we traditionally gather in large numbers, at its heart, Anzac Day is always a moment of personal reflection where we demonstrate our solemn respect for those who have served, and those who continue to serve in our nation’s uniform. We could not physically gather to commemorate this year, but Australians came up with many creative ways to still say ‘Thank you for your service’ and show our respect. Whether it was a solitary driveway tribute, baking Anzac biscuits, a small household ceremony, sharing a message for our service personnel, or watching the service televised from the Australian War Memorial on the morning of 25 April, Australians made Anzac Day 2020 one to remember.

Support for veterans during COVID-19

In my last column I outlined the support being provided to all Australians, including veterans and their families, throughout the pandemic to look after their health and wellbeing. Australians have done a great job flattening the coronavirus curve by working together. However, we must remain vigilant. One of the most important ways to protect your health at this time is to continue accessing the health services that you need, including the services and support available through DVA.

  • If you need to access health care, you should first phone your GP to make an appointment.
  • The Government has extended telehealth measures to provide access to health services, including to specialists and allied health professionals, at home via video link or telephone.
  • If your GP recommends that you need to visit for a face-to-face appointment, then transport bookings can still be made to help you access treatment.
  • Speak to your local pharmacist about Government measures in place for vulnerable veterans that allow your Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescriptions to be filled remotely and medication home-delivered.
  • Veterans receiving aids and appliances through DVA can have them delivered directly to their door.
  • Older and at-risk veterans can access a range of domestic assistance, including with their shopping, through the Veterans’ Home Care program.

The second Australian Government stimulus payment of $750 to around five million social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders will be paid automatically next month to Australian resident recipients of certain DVA benefits, except for those who also receive the Coronavirus Supplement. There is no need to lodge a claim, but you should check DVA has your correct bank details and address. To make sure your details are up to date, log into MyService or call DVA on 1800 555 254. Please remember, if you need assistance or someone to talk to, Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for veterans and their families by calling 1800 011 046.

Veterans take home their assistance dogs

We have taken an important step forward in supporting veterans and their families with the first two dogs, Zuma and Leon, provided to veterans under the Federal Government’s Psychiatric Assistance Dogs program.

This program will change lives and it will save lives, and I have no doubt Zuma and Leon will make a difference to their new owners and help them to manage their mental health and wellbeing.

The dogs will now begin their next phase of training together with their owner and within their own environment, and importantly, as part of the veteran’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) management plan.

Since the program was announced in September 2019, there have been more than 130 requests from veterans interested in adding an assistance dog to their treatment plan and I look forward to seeing many more dogs placed with their new homes.

If you are currently accessing treatment for PTSD, I encourage you to speak to your mental health professional. For more information about the program, visit Psychiatric Assistance Dogs.