What the Budget means for the veteran community

The Government has allocated $11.7 billion to DVA in the 2020–21 Budget to deliver a range of services and supports for our 220,000 veterans and 100,000 dependants.

The Budget focuses on supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our veterans and their families, and providing the best possible support for those transitioning to civilian life and into meaningful employment.

Budget measures where DVA is the lead agency, include:

  • $101.7 million to boost mental health support for veterans, including the expansion of Open Arms and expanded eligibility of the Coordinated Veterans’ Care Program to certain White Card holders
  • $64.1 million in supplementary funding to support DVA’s claims processing, accessing treatment and support services, as well as to improve data sharing and analytics between DVA and the Department of Defence.
  • $25.9 million for additional support for Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) veterans, particularly for those paying private rent
  • $6.0 million to broaden the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program
  • $1.1 million to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the End of the Second World War.

There are also a number of measures managed by other Australian Government departments that benefit veterans and their families. They include establishing the Joint Transition Authority within the Department of Defence, which will run in partnership with DVA and the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation, and a range of health-related measures to promote better wellbeing outcomes for our veterans and their families.

Mental health support

Of the $101.7 million provided to further increase mental health support services, $5 million will be used to expand Open Arms — Veterans and Families Counselling service.

Founded by Vietnam veterans, Open Arms is Australia’s leading provider of high quality mental health assessment and clinical counselling services for Australian veterans and their families. This new investment will fund the expansion of the Open Arms Community and Peer Program to Maryborough, Queensland, and Nowra, New South Wales, increasing access to clinical mental health and suicide prevention services.

This new funding builds on the recent expansion of Open Arms’ geographical footprint, with the expansion of the Melbourne office and brand new offices opening in Ipswich, Queensland and Mt Pleasant, Western Australia over the past few months.

$2.4 million has been allocated to the Coordinated Veterans’ Care program to expand eligibility for the program to Veteran White Card holders with a chronic mental health condition accepted as being related to their military service.

This funding means that more veterans with chronic mental health concerns will be supported, providing them with greater access to co-ordinated care and treatment of their mental health conditions.

Veterans will have improved access to health professional services through an investment of $94.3 million to provide a one-off DVA fee increase to mental health, social work, and community nursing providers to maintain competitive rates for the provision of services. This will improve mental health outcomes and ensure high quality care for our older veterans and their families, and to better support transition to civilian life.

This investment supports the Government’s commitment to provide veterans with timely access to quality health care services to achieve better mental health and wellbeing outcomes.

Middle-aged man poses inside a house next to elderly woman holding a medallion, and her son.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester gives a Second World War Commemorative Medallion to East Gippsland veteran Rose Jackson, who is with her Navy veteran son Ross Jackson

Veterans’ employment

The Budget includes $6 million for the successful Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program. The program will be broadened to support those considering self-employment through small business development and entrepreneurship as an employment pathway and includes funding to build an evidence base to inform future veteran employment initiatives.

The package includes support provided through the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) and grant funding for entrepreneurship training and programs to the not-for-profit organisation Prince’s Trust Australia.

This includes expanded access to New Business Assistance with New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS), giving veterans transitioning out of the ADF, and their families, the ability to participate in an Exploring Being My Own Boss Workshop and undertake NEIS training.

The measure will also establish an evidence base to inform how support for veteran employment may beshaped into the future. This includes:

  • the establishment of a veteran indicator in the DESE’s New Employment Service Model to understand, through de-identified data, the mainstream employment pathways and outcomes of veterans
  • increased data analysis to map benchmarks and establish sustainable reporting to measure and inform current and future initiatives under the Program.

Productivity Commission interim report

cover of publication entitled ‘A Better way to support veterans’

On 8 October, the Government delivered an interim response to the Productivity Commission report, A Better Way to Support Veterans, as part of the 2020–21 Budget process. It addresses 25 of the report’s 69 recommendations and delivering a program of initiatives focused on mental health, wellbeing, employment support and transition to boost support for Australia’s veterans.

Other measures of note include (as mentioned above):

  • $94.3 million to increase fees paid to mental health, social work and community nursing providers (Recommendation 16.3)
  • $5.0 million to expand Open Arms, and to develop an Outcomes Monitoring Framework to ensure services provided are effective and of a high quality. (Recommendation 17.2)
  • $2.4 million to expand eligibility for the Coordinated Veterans’ Care program (Recommendation 16.1)
  • $25.9 million over four years to implement recommendations from the Independent Review of the TPI Payment and provide additional support to disabled veterans (Recommendation 15.1)
  • The establishment of a Joint Transition Authority (Recommendation 7.1) — see below.

The Government will not proceed with the recommendation to levy a premium on Defence but has agreed to fund the first stage of developing a Defence/DVA data-sharing and analytics solution. The solution will be underpinned by ADF member and veteran wellbeing frameworks to help with ADF injury prevention and management and understanding of the long-term costs of military injuries.

‘The Government believes that major reform of the veteran support system, particularly legislative framework and entitlements of veterans and their families, should be carefully considered and implemented incrementally to limit disruption and ensure legislation best meets the future needs of our veterans and their families,’ Mr Chester said.

The interim response is supported by the funding package announced in the Budget, enabling six recommendations to be implemented. Seventeen of the 25 recommendations addressed in the interim response have already been implemented or are underway, or will be delivered by DVA or Defence using existing resources.

The two recommendations relating to Veteran Gold Card eligibility will not be implemented.

The Productivity Commission’s report is wide ranging and complex. The Government will continue to consult with the veteran community to consider and address the remaining recommendations as part of its final response in the 2021–22 Budget. At the same time, the Government will also respond to the recommendations from the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Inquiry into transition from the Australian Defence Force and the Veterans’ Advocacy and Support Services Scoping Study.

‘The Government’s response to the Productivity Commission’s recommendations will have a substantial and enduring impact on the health and wellbeing of our veteran community into the future,’ Mr Chester said.

‘The Government will continue to take the time it needs to ensure its full response is considered and delivers the best possible outcomes for our veterans and their families into the future.’

Joint Transition Authority

In response to a recommendation in the Productivity Commission report, the Government is establishing the Joint Transition Authority (JTA) to better support ADF members and their families as they transition from military to civilian life.

The JTA will view transition from the perspective of the member and their family, preparing and supporting them for transition to civilian life. It will provide a needs-based approach and will work to ensure all transition services and support mechanisms are working together for the benefit of ADF members and their families.

The JTA will sit within the Department of Defence, partnering with DVA and the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC). The authority will work closely with organisations, including ex-service organisations, which deliver transition support services.

‘While most ADF personnel experience a smooth transition and go on to contribute to the community in their civilian lives, we know that this period can be quite challenging for some and the JTA will give all transitioning ADF members the best opportunity for success,’ said Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester.

Cross-portfolio measures

In addition, the Budget includes initiatives to be implemented by the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Department of Health that will have affect DVA clients.

These include further economic support payments will be made as part of the COVID-19 Response Package (run by DSS) and Strengthening Primary Care, Improving Access to Medicines, and aged care initiatives (run by Health).

For more information, visit the departments’ websites — dss.gov.au and health.gov.au.

More information

For more information on the Budget and what it means for you, see the Budget page and Latest News for veterans.

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