The 2018–19 Budget includes a number of measures to build on
the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (DVA) ongoing Veteran Centric Reform
Program—a program aimed at updating DVA’s information technology (IT) systems
and improving the services it provides to veterans and their families. The
Budget also includes funding to extend access to mental health treatment for
some Australian Defence Force (ADF) reservists, to pilot a rehabilitation
program for former ADF members completing studies, and to continue a number of
initiatives aimed at improving veterans’ employment opportunities.
Overall funding for assistance to veterans and their
dependants is expected to decline by 12.3 per cent in real terms (adjusting for
inflation) from 2018–19 to 2021–22, primarily due to an expected decline in the
number of people receiving assistance.
The only significant new savings measure for the portfolio
is a package of changes to dental and allied health services which is expected
to deliver $40.7 million in savings over four years from 2018–19.
The package includes changes to fee schedules to align with industry standards,
changing the ‘treatment cycle’ for general practitioner (GP) referrals to
allied health services so that they are valid for 12 sessions rather than 12
months, and trialling new funding models. DVA intends to further
review allied health fee schedules from 2021.
Veteran Centric Reform Program
The 2018–19 Budget includes an additional $111.9 million
over four years from 2018–19 for the Veteran Centric Reform program. The
2016–17 Budget allocated $24.8 million for the development of a business case
for the program and the 2017–18 Budget included $166.6 million for the first
stage of the program: a pilot of new payment processing and service delivery
systems using DVA’s two student payments as a test case.
The new budget allocation will provide for the second stage
of the program: updating the 13 IT systems supporting the delivery of income
support payments (such as the Service Pension) and other systems supporting the
delivery of compensation (such as incapacity and permanent impairment
payments). The additional funding
will also be used to implement:
a single phone number, 1800VETERAN, for access to DVA services
outreach programs to veterans and their families who are not in
contact with DVA
measures to use ‘the power of data’ to anticipate the needs of
veterans and their families and then offer them relevant services and support
increased choice of aids and appliances.
A 2016 Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee
inquiry into the mental health of serving ADF members and veterans set out a
range of problems with DVA’s processes and service delivery.
The Committee’s main recommendation to address these issues was adequate
funding to update DVA’s IT systems. The Australian Public
Service Commission also raised serious concerns with DVA’s service delivery
models and claims processing in a 2013 capability review.
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) is currently
undertaking an audit on the efficiency of DVA service delivery (due to be
tabled in June 2018) and the Productivity Commission is holding an inquiry into
the veterans compensation and rehabilitation system, including whether the
system is likely to effectively and efficiently support veterans in the future
(due to be completed in June 2019). Both the ANAO and the
Productivity Commission reviews were recommendations of a 2017 Senate committee
inquiry into suicide by veterans.
Mental health treatment for
The 2017–18 Budget included a measure to provide access to
DVA-funded mental health treatments to all current and former ADF members for
any recognised mental health condition—without the need to demonstrate that the
condition is linked to their service. This followed a 2016–17
budget measure which provided access to treatment for specific mental health
conditions for all current and former ADF members. The 2018–19 Budget will
build on these measures to provide similar access to mental health treatments
for ADF reservists with service in part-time disaster relief and border
protection operations, or for those who have been in a serious training
The previous measures limited access to those who were or
had been a member of the ADF rendering continuous full-time service. This
excluded those with part-time service, such as some reservists.
The new measure will cost $2.2 million over the forward
estimates and will provide eligible reservists with access to GPs,
psychiatrists, psychologists, medication, hospital treatment and counselling
services at DVA’s expense. It will commence on 1
July 2018 and will not require legislation.
Increased payments for veterans
In an effort to improve rehabilitation and employment
outcomes for former ADF members in receipt of incapacity compensation payments,
the Budget includes a pilot measure to maintain these payments at 100 per cent
of the former member’s normal earnings while they are engaged in full-time
study. Currently, these members see their incapacity payments reduced by up to
25 per cent after 45 weeks (the reduction is based on the number of hours the
person is working, with higher rates for those working).
DVA has raised concerns that this reduction in payments may result in
recipients making short-term decisions about employment ‘at the expense of
effective rehabilitation outcomes’.
To be eligible, former ADF members will need to be on a DVA
rehabilitation plan, undertaking approved full-time study and be fully
supported by the incapacity payment system while undertaking their studies. The
measure will cost $10.8 million over four years. It is unclear if an evaluation
of the pilot will be undertaken. The measure will require legislation.
Continuing employment programs
The Budget includes $8.3 million for veterans’ employment
programs, including support for the Industry Advisory Committee on Veterans’
Employment, the annual awards program for businesses employing veterans under
the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program and support for a ‘framework
for employers to make a public commitment to veterans’ employment’. The
Industry Advisory Committee has met three times since being established and the
proposed ‘framework’ is one of its initiatives.
In terms of support directly for veterans, $4.3 million of
the allocation will fund additional services such as resume and interview
preparation, mentoring and translating defence-skills into civilian
competencies. These services are provided through the Department of Defence’s
Career Transition Assistance Scheme for up to 12 months after separation from
Australian Government, Budget
strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1: 2018–19, p. 6-24.
The budget figures in this brief have been taken from the following
document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2018–19, pp. 190–193.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), Improved
dental and allied health, factsheet, DVA, Canberra, 2018, pp. 1–3.
Ibid., p. 2.
Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, Answers to
Questions on Notice, Veterans’ Affairs Portfolio, Additional Budget Estimates
Australia’s digital future—Veteran Centric Reform—continuation,
factsheet, DVA, Canberra, 2018, p. 1.
Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, Mental health
of Australian Defence Force members and veterans, The Senate, Canberra,
March 2016, pp. 102–14.
Ibid., p. 116.
Australian Public Service Commission (APSC), Capability
review: Department of Veterans’ Affairs, APSC, Canberra,
5 December 2014.
Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), ‘Efficiency
of veterans service delivery by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’, ANAO
website; Productivity Commission (PC), ‘Compensation and
rehabilitation for veterans’, PC website.
Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, The constant
battle: suicide by veterans, The Senate, Canberra, August 2017, pp. 69,
M Klapdor, ‘Veterans’
Affairs’, Budget review 2017–18, Research paper series, 2016–17,
Parliamentary Library, Canberra, May 2017.
health treatment for Australian Defence Force reservists with disaster relief
and certain other service, factsheet, DVA, May 2018.
Person has been incapacitated for a cumulative period exceeding 45 weeks’, Military
Compensation MRCA Manuals and Resources Library, DVA website, last amended
10 August 2017.
for veterans through improved compensation arrangements—removing the stepdown
for incapacity payments—increased payments for veterans studying’,
factsheet, DVA, May 2018.
for veterans’ employment opportunities—continuation’, factsheet, DVA, May
2018; Australian Government, ‘Industry
Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment’, Prime Minister’s Veterans’
Employment Program website, n.d.
DVA, ‘Support for veterans’ employment opportunities—continuation’, op.
All online articles accessed May 2018.
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