The period of transition to civilian life was identified as a critical
time for the provision of support to veterans. Key issues related to this topic
will be discussed in this chapter. The 2017-18 Budget estimated there were 59,194
permanent ADF personnel.
Of these serving members approximately, 5,500 discharge and return to civilian
life each year. While most of these members are transitioning voluntarily, some
are separating for medical reasons (900-1,000 each year) or are recruits who do
not complete initial training (around 600-700 each year). Others separate for a
range of other reasons which can include redundancy, reaching compulsory age
retirement, for disciplinary reasons and administratively.
In 2009, a review by Professor Dunt into ADF mental health and support
through transition recommended that 'the ADF and DVA should have joint
responsibility for a comprehensive transition service that works closely with
the ADF Transition Centres and extends to at least 12 months post-discharge'.
This recommendation was accepted by the Australian Government. It noted that 'Defence
and DVA are working collaboratively to deliver a seamless transition service
that ensures all reasonable assistance and support is available and utilised by
members and their families preparing to transition to civilian life'.
In June 2016, Defence and DVA reviewed and renewed the Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU), first signed in 2013, which defines the respective roles of the two
departments in the provision of care and support at all stages of an ADF member's
career. Under the MOU:
Defence has the lead in caring for, and supporting, permanent
members and members on [continuous full time (CTF)] service as well as members
of the Reserve Forces where they are injured or fall ill as a result of
rendering Defence service;
Defence is responsible for assisting members to transition from
permanent or CFT service;
DVA has the lead in caring for, and supporting, widows/widowers
and dependants and wounded, injured or ill former serving members;
DVA is responsible for providing compensation and other support
to eligible current and former members; and
DVA is responsible for ensuring current and former members, and
where relevant their families, are kept informed of the support and services
available from DVA and the processes by which such support and services may be
As part of its responsibilities, Defence outlined the 'comprehensive
transition support service for all separating ADF members and their families'. Defence
offers the ADF Transition Program which is intended to operate 'through a
continuity of care framework to ensure members and their families can
transition from military to civilian life in a professional, dignified and
Staff at ADF Transition Centres undertake one-on-one
interviews with all members separating from the ADF...During these interviews
members and their families are provided with practical information on the
transition process; administrative requirements; referrals to other government
support agencies and service providers on matters such as access to
educational, financial, rehabilitation, compensation and other government
services; and support for training and civilian employment. All separating
members must attend an ADF Transition Centre to finalise their administrative
requirements and to be provided with transition information, prior to their
date of separation.
Defence highlighted the importance of ADF Transition Seminars in
providing a wide range of information and advice to departing members:
ADF Transition Centres conduct 23 ADF Transition Seminars
each year. These seminars are held nationally throughout the year to inform
members and their families of a range of Defence, government and other support
organisation resources and information they can access to successfully plan for
their transition to civilian life. ADF members and their families regardless of
their length of service are encouraged to attend a seminar every few years to
improve their knowledge, awareness and training for future separation.
The Joint Health Command's LifeSMART presentation which aims
to increase members' individual psychological resilience and develop awareness
of better ways of coping with the challenges of transition to civilian life is
included as part of the ADF Transition Seminar. The seminar also contains a
specialised briefing to medically separating members from the [CSC], and
presentations by DVA's [VVCS] on the Stepping Out Program and other support
services available, DVA on a range of support available, the range and nature
of ex-Service organisation support available, financial guidance and advice and
guidance on activities to undertake to commence a new career.
Defence indicated that it was reforming its ADF Transition Support
The Transition Support Service reform will see the Transition
Officers move to a model of coaching and mentoring with a focus on developing
an individual post separation plan (particularly around employment). This new
model is aimed at all ADF members who are transitioning and will be implemented
nationally by August 2017. Transition Officers will be able to discuss with the
transitioning member their family needs in order to assist the transition to be
more holistically smooth, as well as focussing on the member’s overall
This new model will also see the Transition Officers
contacting each member one month after separation to check on the success of
the post separation plan and whether any new issues have arisen.
Defence also noted that there was assistance available through the
Career Transition Assistance Scheme which 'provides eligible members with
assistance that will facilitate their transition to civilian employment'.
Key recent reforms
A supplementary submission from Defence and DVA highlighted their
awareness of transition as a critical issue. Defence and DVA indicated that the
recent efforts were partly based on a shift in perspective:
Transition from a Defence perspective is largely a process by
which people leave the ADF with support to assist their future lives. From a
DVA perspective it is often the point at which responsibility starts for care
and support of those who need it.
A more holistic view would see transition in terms of
outcomes for the veteran, rather than successful completion of the transition
process. We would increasingly target our efforts towards those most in need
based on criteria such as continuity of healthcare, finding employment and
social connectedness. Those criteria, while valid for all, are more critical
for a smaller percentage of members, including those whose transition is
significantly complicated by health considerations, including mental health
difficulties and those who separate involuntarily. Also, successful transition should
be considered to include success for the former member's family in the areas of
spouse employment, children's education, housing and financial security.
The first recommendation of the NMHC report was that the Minister should
'should further examine how ADF and DVA can best develop a unified system that
breaks down the siloed approach experienced by current and former serving
members and their families'. It stated:
The goal should be to deliver instead a service offering that
meets the needs of individuals in a seamless and person-centred way. Included
in the work of this expert panel should be models for commissioning health
services across ADF and DVA so that continuity of care for individuals moving
from ADF to DVA funded services is maximised; agreeing a process that provides
for automatic notification to DVA when a current ADF member suffers a
work-related injury (to remove any later requirement to substantiate a
work-related injury claim); and implementing processes that ensure contact is
made periodically with former members of the ADF and their families to inform
them of relevant services and other related information. Any administrative
and/or legislative barriers to a unified service offering should be addressed
as a priority.
The Government response to the NMHC report stated that 'Defence and DVA
are currently working closely together on a number of initiatives to create
continuity and seamless transition where possible'. In particular, it noted
that a cross-agency Transition Taskforce (comprised of DVA, Defence and
Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation representatives) was reviewing the
transition process with the aim of a significant reform that meets the needs of
transitioning members and families.
The Transition Taskforce was intended to 'identify barriers to effective
transition and suggests actions to address those barriers'. The Government
A variety of activities are being undertaken including workshops
and interviews with current and former serving ADF members, and representatives
of other organisations external to government that provide services or support
during transition. The Transition Taskforce is also being informed by the work
of AIHW and their analysis of suicide among the serving and ex-serving ADF
personnel, which provides a strong evidence base from which we can target our
efforts to those most at risk.
Defence also indicated that the Discharge (Separation) with
Documentation policy was being implemented through 'mandating Individual
Transition Plans and Separation Checklists for all separating members'. This
was intended to ensure members transitioning had all needed documentation to
commence their civilian lives.
DVA stated that a key enabler of its Veteran Centric Reform program was
an Early Engagement Model. Under this initiative, Defence will provide DVA with
basic details, including contact information, for all new members of the ADF
from 1 January 2016:
The information will allow DVA to establish a record for new
personnel from the day they join the ADF, allowing DVA to provide information
on services and support, and encourage early lodgement of claims for service related
In addition, from 27 July 2016, Defence will also be able to
provide DVA with details of all members separating from the ADF. Over time,
this will mean that DVA will have most current and former members of the ADF
recorded as clients. This is in contrast to the past when DVA only knew about
current and former members when they made a claim (about 20% from recent
conflicts) or, more recently, when Defence started passing transition information
to DVA, in some cases allowing the member to opt out.
The Government response to the NMHC noted that Defence will support the
Early Engagement Model by notifying DVA at agreed events during a member's
career including events such as enlistment, involvement in a serious incident,
medical separation, or retirement. This information would allow DVA 'to
expedite the claims process whenever a current or former member applies to DVA
Mr Lewis, the Secretary of DVA, outlined DVA intentions to 'reshape
their systems and processes to bring ADF members on as DVA clients, in some
cases with a compensation payment in the event of permanent impairment, while
they are still serving'. He noted that these were not matters that 'need to
wait until someone leaves the ADF and is trying to enter the DVA system months
or years later on'.
Identification and tracking of veterans after transition is another area
of recent reform. In 2013, the Joint Committee report on Report into the
Care of ADF Personnel Wounded and Injured on Operations recommended that
Defence and DVA 'expedite the development of a unique service/veteran health
identification number'. This proposal was supported in principle in the
Government response to the report. It stated:
The departments of Defence and Veterans' Affairs recognise
that the use of a common identification number has the potential to improve the
transition of Australian Defence Force personnel by reducing complexity, aiding
proof of identification processes, and expediting data exchange. The Department
of Veterans' Affairs, in consultation with Defence, is undertaking a scoping
exercise to identify possible solutions and to inform a cost/ benefit analysis.
DVA noted that during the 2016 election 'the Government committed to
require Commonwealth agencies to identify whether their clients are veterans
and to make that information available to ex-service and other organisations
that provide support for homeless veterans'. It outlined:
The Minister for Veterans' Affairs has written to relevant
Commonwealth Ministers (Health, Aged Care and Sport; Social Services; Human
Services; Small Business; Education and Training; and Employment) to nominate
officers to work with the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) on the
feasibility of developing a standardised military service history indicator to
use in Commonwealth agency data collections. This work will commence shortly.
DVA added that the addition of a visual indicator on Medicare cards to indicate
a 'veteran' would be considered as part of this process. However, it noted that
'[t]he implementation of such an initiative would involve the Department of
Health and the Department of Human Services as the policy and operational
owners of Medicare, and the Department of Defence for the purpose of
identifying current and former serving members in accordance with privacy
The NMHC report highlighted the need for a 'strategy for further data
development and information priorities within the ADF/veterans context...to
improve tracking and visibility of the need for, uptake and effectiveness of
services for current and former serving ADF members and their families, as well
as the experience and outcomes of these services'. It advised the Australian
Government to consider 'a health data identifier for use in health data sets to
identify when an individual is a current or former member of the ADF'.
The Government response noted:
The Commonwealth Veteran Indicator Interdepartmental
Committee (IDC) has been established to identify what data is collected by
Commonwealth agencies, what additional data could be collected, how the data
can be used to inform veteran-related policy and program development more
generally across government, and understand the constraints of introducing a
veteran identifier in identified data collections.
In relation to e-health records, the Government response noted that a
self-identifying 'Veteran and Australian Defence Force Status' indicator has
been available in the My Health Record system since 30 November 2014 should
veterans choose to participate. It also indicated that the Department of Health
would scope opportunities to include a self-identifying 'Veteran and ADF Status'
indicator in the Primary Mental Health Care Minimum Data Set (PMHC MDS). The
PMHC MDS is used to 'provide the basis for [Primary Health Networks] and the
Department of Health to monitor and report on the quantity and quality of
service delivery, and to inform future improvements in the planning and funding
of primary mental health care services funded by the Australian Government'.
A range of transition issues were raised by veterans and others. These
gaps in support in the transition process;
continuity of care issues, including non-liability health care;
supporting social connectedness;
employment and rehabilitation issues; and
family and community support.
The NMHC report highlighted a wide range of reasons that the experience
of transition from the ADF could negatively impact veterans. These factors were
also reflected in the submissions received by the inquiry. These included:
the psychological transition for ADF members from being a 'warrior'
to becoming a civilian;
involuntary discharge (for medical reasons, for instance) can
have adverse implications for the wellbeing of service members;
skills and training acquired during service are not relevant or
valued in the civilian workforce; and
a loss of social connections with friends and colleagues still
serving in the ADF can reinforce the sense of isolation and loss associated
Gaps in support
Some veterans suggested that structural policies against
'double-dipping' Defence-funded and DVA-funded support could result in some
veterans being left without support while their entitlements were processed.
One veteran stated:
When the last ADF pay slip is satisfied, veterans must rely
upon the '28 day – 120 day' timeframe to process Needs Assessments, Permanent
Impairment, Incapacity Payments and Other rehabilitation services. With
mortgage/rent payments to be made, school excursions to be paid for, and
medical bills from rejected DVA claims (because Dr 'X' stated "sore ankle"
rather than "insert relevant SOP wording here ") it is little wonder
that the financial pressures on transitioning members exacerbate the spiral of depression
towards suicide. The inability to progressively transition cases of accepted
liability is further evidence of this 'gap': Serving members are not entitled
to medical treatment, rehabilitation or civilian incapacity payments.
The RSL (Tasmania) submission referred to 'an ongoing perception within
the ADF, particularly within the chain of command, that ComSuper and DVA will "pick
things up" immediately upon a member's discharge'. It observed that, in
reality, 'it can take many weeks or even months before income starts flowing
from either source, leaving the member with no income for what can be an
extended period if their discharge is not managed appropriately':
The delays involved in accessing entitlements due to the
length of time involved in the claims process, which can be in excess of 12
months in some cases, contributes to the financial uncertainty and stress, and
significantly detracts from the veteran's wellbeing and sense of self-worth.
There have been several reports to advocates of veterans who, frustrated by
their financial and health situation and by the delays and difficulties of the
claims process, have expressed the feeling that their families "would be
better off without them". This is extremely concerning, and demonstrates
the significant impact that is being felt by veterans of the current state of
the claims process. Many feel the process is complicated, confusing,
unnecessarily bureaucratic, frustrating and uncaring. These feelings
understandably feed the negative cycle of thoughts and feelings which are
usually only resolved when a claim is finally determined favourably and money
begins flowing again and their financial and support concerns are relieved.
Mr Lee Withers described it as 'common practice' for the ADF to
medically discharge people who had not had their DVA claims finalised. She
noted that this could lead to 'newly discharged vulnerable members and their
partners and children being forced into poverty, sometimes losing their house,
car, the partner may have to give up work to care for the member therefore more
loss of income, all the while dealing with the DVA/Comsuper red tape ring
The potential for these scenarios led many to recommend that veteran
claims and entitlements should be resolved prior to discharge.
For example, Colonel Rob Manton (rtd) from Veterans SA commented:
[E]very effort must be made to ensure that anyone and
everyone transitioning from Defence at the completion of their service,
regardless of their service history, should have their claims finalised by the
Department of Veterans' Affairs prior to their discharge—that is, as far as
possible, they remain an employee of the Department of Defence until the
outcome of any of their claims is finalised. To speak plainly, they were broken
while in the department. That department has a duty of care to ensure that they
repair, or are well on the path to recovery, to the best standard possible.
Similarly, the Northern Suburbs Veterans Support Centre urged that no
member of the ADF be transitioned out 'until all claims for injuries have been
dealt with and all avenues of appeals are exhausted'.
The Australian Suicide Prevention Foundation also pointed out that a 'prolonged
transitional stage between active service and civilian life may assist with the
alienation that many personnel will feel on leaving their colleagues'.
Others considered there was still work to be done in ensuring veterans
and their families have the right information and advice during the transition
process. For example the Victorian Veterans Council Sector Study in 2015
provided by the Victorian Government highlighted commentary from ESOs and both
older and younger veterans attending the consultations which 'contended that
the current transition process is ineffective and leads to veterans who are not
aware of what support is available to them and how to access it'. It made the
point that if not appropriately transitioned, veterans are likely to experience
difficulties from the beginning in becoming aware of and accessing services
throughout the remainder of their lives.
Similarly, Ms Julia Langrehr from RSL SA commented:
ADF and veteran community are poor help seekers, and they may
sit in these transition seminars feeling that they do not need any help and
will be okay. Often there needs to be follow-up down the track, when people
realise that they are having a few problems but do not necessarily remember
what was told to them at that seminar...Ongoing support for families of veterans
separating would help as well, particularly educating spouses and greater
involvement in the transition so the spouses understand what support is
available for their veteran and who to call.
In the context of many service related physical and mental conditions
which have a delayed onset, the fact that many veterans do not maintain a
relationship with Defence and DVA after transition into civilian life was
highlighted as a gap in support to veterans. Mr Robert Dick from the RSL told
In a lot of cases we see veterans who have been out of the
military for some years and they are handling their issues, whether it is PTSD,
depression or anxiety, very well and sometimes can hide that from people when
they are going through their transition. That may be significant for a few
years and then something in their life, a trauma or something, triggers that
PTSD or anxiety and that is when it comes to the fore.
Similarly, the joint submission from Dr Catriona Bruce and others highlighted
estimates that only one in five former ADF members have client numbers with the
DVA. It noted that the typical presentation of mental ill-health can be as much
as 8-10 years, or longer, after discharge and that these 'lost veterans' are
not provided with adequate entitlements or support and would therefore be at a
higher risk of suicide. The joint submission proposed ADF-DVA transitioning
staff have 'personal responsibility for every individual transitioning out of
the ADF, regardless of circumstance, for a minimum follow-up period of 10 years'.
In relation to this loss of connection with support, DVA highlighted the
component of DVA's Coordinated Client Support program called the DVA Reconnects
Project. This program aimed to reconnect with clients through proactive contact
and the provision of a complex and multiple needs assessment.
[T]he national DVA Reconnects Project seeks to contact those
veterans aged 50 years and under who have rendered operational service in
either the Iraq or Afghanistan theatres of operation, or who have one or more
of the following accepted conditions:
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Major depression/Dysthymic disorder
Acquired and/or traumatic brain injury
Completed over a series of phases, the DVA Reconnects project
is producing positive results early with feedback received from clients
resoundingly positive of their contact experience. In some instances, DVA
Reconnects has facilitated the reconnection with clients who have not had
contact with the Department for 6-8 years. This allows DVA to provide appropriate,
up to date benefits and supports to these individuals.
Mr Craig Orme from DVA provided more further detail on this program:
As part of that program, we have identified a reconnect
program, which has been very successful, where we go into specified cohorts of
groups. Maybe they are people who have not been in contact with the department
for five or 10 years. They are between 30 and 40, and they have served in
Afghanistan or Iraq. We are reaching out to them to engage with them because we
know they have been clients, and we are trying to reconnect with them and say:
'How are you travelling? Are there any issues?' Some have not been appreciative
of that, but the vast majority have. In many cases we have reconnected and in
some cases recommenced treatment.
Continuity of care
The Government response to the NMHC report outlined that 'Defence has
the responsibility to provide health care up to the date of transition':
Post transition this responsibility shifts to civilian health
care services and if relevant, health services paid for by DVA....In the six
months prior to transition all ADF members attend a number of health
examinations that aim to help the member to identify any potential current or
future health care needs that can be communicated to civilian general
practitioners to improve early interventions and assist continuity of care post
transition. These examinations can help members being medically separated to
provide the appropriate medical evidence to the CSC to assist to determine the
member's level of capacity and corresponding benefits.
It acknowledged that '[f]or ADF members who are seeking rehabilitation,
compensation or health care through DVA at the time of transition there can be
some complexity involved in obtaining medical evidence to support the claim'.
To streamline this process Defence indicated that a complete copy of their
health record can be provided to the transitioning member or the Defence / DVA
Single Access Mechanism (SAM) 'act on behalf of the member and seek the
required service or health records to support the claim'.
The SAM was established in 2010 to provide a single point of access for
the transfer of records and information between Defence and DVA in order to
enable DVA to determine a member's compensation claims. Records and information
requested by DVA can include: service and medical records, personnel records, career
management information and incident and investigation reports. Defence noted improving
the performance of the SAM to reduce the time to process claims had been a
focus of DVA and Defence 'for some time'. Improvements have been limited by a
range of Defence records, particularly health records, being paper based.
Defence indicated it was 'with [DVA] to decrease the time taken to
assess claims, including a major initiative to digitise ADF member health
records and provide access to DVA access through the roll out of the Defence
eHealth System. Defence stated this would 'reduce reliance on paper based
records and reduce time in assessing claims'.
The DVA client satisfaction survey indicated a majority of
veterans who had transitioned in the last five years expected DVA to hold
information about them including their health information, information about
injuries and service history.
In this context, some suggested there should be automatic transfer of
responsibility from ADF to DVA for all veterans, including the transfer of
complete ADF medical records.
The NMHC report noted that transition from the ADF often means
relocation and this can impact continuity of care of those discharging for
The challenges of continuity of healthcare to veterans transitioning to
civilian life were highlighted by DVA to the committee. In particular, while Defence
has Garrison Health Services on their bases in a defined number of places
across the country, veterans live throughout Australia.
The 2016 ANAO report into the MRCA found that 'Defence and [DVA] cannot
yet demonstrate through comprehensive and reliable performance information
whether the support provided is effective and efficient in assisting transition
to civilian life or which services provide the best results for injured and ill
ADF personnel discharged for medical reasons'.
In response to the ANAO report findings and recommendations, DVA indicated that
it will 'work jointly with Defence to improve the effectiveness and efficiency
of transition services for separating members of the [ADF]'.
However, continuity of care for veterans was identified as an area where
improvements could be achieved. For example, Phoenix Australia recommended
reducing the 'fragmentation between the ADF and DVA service systems and enhance
continuity of care':
There is a lack of continuity in clinical care – members
often have to terminate with one mental health provider and commence with
another at the point .of discharge. This not only disrupts treatment but, more
importantly, creates a high risk of the person falling through the cracks and
out of the care system. It is important to develop strategies to develop and
maintain clinical continuity.
We recommend DVA and Defence develop one integrated service
system, or if this is not possible, at least extend the period that Defence
health services are available post-discharge from 1 to 2 years.
A joint submission from Dr Catriona Bruce and others recommended:
Provide interim full-cover health insurance and income
support measures, effective immediately from ADF discharge until the DVA has
completed the decision making process, to ensure that all transitioning medically-discharged
veterans, or those awaiting DVA assessment outcomes, are not disadvantaged during
this period. If the DVA administrative process is efficient and timely, the
burden of cost for these transitional payments will not be onerous. This
funding should be in the form of income support payment and must cover all
medical care in line with the gold card benefits, to enable veterans to treat
injury and prevent further physical and mental health deterioration during this
The RSL also questioned whether the award of monetary compensation was
the best outcome for veterans rather than 'something else...such as comprehensive
lifetime health care (i.e. the issue of a gold card). It commented:
A focus on rehabilitation rather than compensation also
raises the expectation that individuals may, or should, be fully rehabilitated
and integrated within civilian life and employment within a reasonable period.
This opens the possibility to the issue of 'time-limited gold cards'. Under
such an approach, it might be feasible for individuals transitioning out of the
ADF to be issued a, say, ten-year gold card in the understanding that any
outstanding health conditions could be treated and remedied over that period.
Compensation and pensions would only be available for conditions that have no
prospect of remediation, either at the time of transitioning out of the ADF, or
at the expiry of the gold card.
Further extending non-liability
health care and automatic entitlements
There was almost universal praise from stakeholders regarding the
extension of non-liability health care for all mental health conditions. One
submitter recommended that all 'departing members of the ADF be issued a Non
Liability Health Card for Mental Health prior to discharge'.
A number of submitters and witnesses supported increased automatic healthcare
entitlements on discharge. For example, Dr Jonathan Lane proposed that non-liability
health care be extended to all service veterans, for all health conditions:
This may have an initial higher cost, but as seen with the
limited access to specific mental health conditions now, it would improve
access to treatment, and therefore reduce the overall level of treatment
required, as well as the duration of that treatment. This should reduce the administrative
cost and workflow burden to DVA in terms of the liability determinations which are
the majority of the basis for complaints, as well as the ongoing administrative
and treatment costs by ensuring that veterans get adequate and early treatment
Mr Max Ball urged the committee to consider proposals to 'that all
veterans who have given operational service be issued, at the time of their
retirement or discharge, with a DVA Gold card for treatment only of all future
conditions, and that a member of the ADF, without operational service be issued
with a Gold Card for the continued treatment of illnesses or injuries for which
they have been treated during their service in the ADF'.
Professor Philip Morris considered that '[g]iving all ex-ADF personnel a
Gold Card treatment entitlement equivalent' facilitate post-discharge support
and allow more detailed monitoring of health status and service usage.
Mr Arthur Ventham believed that 'the Non-Liability Health Care (NLHC)
range of health conditions should be expanded to include all those conditions
that are included in the list of "Top 20 accepted conditions"'. He
considered this would 'go a long way' to alleviating the stress associated with
the DVA claim process. Further, he recommended granting an automatic Gold Card
for every veteran with operational service or who is medically discharged from
the military should be investigated:
The real cost of the scheme is between $3000 and $4000 per
veteran per year...Costs do not consider the savings which would occur because
of veterans' early access to ongoing medical treatment, the ability of veterans
to stay in the workforce because of this early access and the reduced legal
costs to the DVA.
When ADF members transition they go from a regulated and highly
structured culture with many colleagues to a civilian life which may be very
different. Ensuring that veterans continued to be socially connected as often
perceived as vital to their well-being. For example, Dr Jonathan Lane noted
that 'the process of discharge and separation from Defence means that people
lose these social connections (and therefore support) simply because they have
A key part of the diagnostic criteria for depression, for
example, is social withdrawal and social isolation. A key part of the
diagnostic criteria for PTSD is social withdrawal and social isolation. When
people withdraw socially and isolate themselves, it exacerbates the depression
and it exacerbates the physical problems and their mental problems...One way of
changing that is by having more support for the veterans organisations and the
veterans groups and looking at treatment methods that are outside the
mainstream providers of treatment such as the psychiatrists or psychologists.
Dr Lane observed that groups like 'Groups like Mates4Mates and Soldier
On have demonstrated their capacity for increasing social connection, providing
access to alternative forms of therapy, social and functional support'. He
recommended that these ESOs 'should be funded to develop and implement simple,
low level, generalised mental health programs conducted by people similar to
themselves (i.e. peers,) which should improve social connection, emotional
regulation, communication, and resilience, and hence improve general
Similarly, Soldier On reported it had 'heard from many participants that
the greatest stress they experience in their military career is the process of
In the ADF, members are constantly surrounded by like-minded
individuals, rules and systems they understand and a purpose greater than themselves.
When they transition from the ADF to the civilian life, they often lose their
friends, their job and their understanding of how life operates. Their sense of
identity, tribal connection and purpose disappears in that one moment. This can
easily lead to alienation and isolation from family and civilian society which
can predispose the veteran to more acutely experience trauma than if surrounded
by strong social networks.
The important role that ESOs can play in promoting social connectedness
and providing peer support for veterans was frequently highlighted. The NMHC
considered a 'greater role for peer workers and ESOs to support transition
would be desirable'.
The William Kibby VC Veterans' Shed also emphasised the potential of small
volunteer ESOs to undertaken flexible rehabilitation and social support
activities for veterans:
Phoenix Australia also proposed a more assertive outreach role by ADF
units and ESOs to improve 'ongoing formal and informal surveillance of health
status and facilitation of connectedness' for veterans. It stated:
For many members...their closest association is with their
unit. We recommend funding an increased role for the member’s unit in
maintaining contact after discharge. This may take the form of stronger 'alumni'
networks, as well as continuing initiatives such as Operation Life and KYMS
(Keep Your Mates Safe) during the period of adjustment to civilian life...
There is also the potential for the ex-service organisations
to play an important role in informal monitoring and outreach to veterans
across the community, and in facilitating connectedness for veterans at risk of
social alienation and suicidality.
One example of support for younger veterans was highlighted in the
Government response to the NMHC report:
The Supporting Younger Veterans (SYV) grants program supports
the needs of younger veterans as they leave the ADF and integrate back into
civilian life, with all the challenges that accompany that unique transition.
The SYV grants program provides $4.25 million over five years
to ESOs to encourage partnerships that will deliver innovative and sustainable
services for younger veterans and build community capacity to meet the needs of
younger veterans. These programs such as mentoring, team building or
self-improvement activities, will contribute to the Government's strategies to
support those veterans at a higher risk of suicide (18-29 year olds).
The committee's 2016 report into mental health recommended that Defence
'work with ex-service organisations to develop a transition mentoring program,
which [would] connect every veteran with a trained mentor from the ex-service
community to assist and guide them through the transition process'. In its
response the Australian Government noted that 'engaging with groups like
ex-service organisations can be important during the transitioning process' but
did not accept the recommendation.
Employment and rehabilitation
The capacity of veterans to gain fulfilling employment following their
service was seen as a critical factor in future success. AISRP noted that 'work
provides social contact, goals, purpose, meaning, financial security, exposure,
and positive interactions, all protective'.
However, Mates4Mates noted that for 'many ex-service members, one of the
biggest challenges associated with the transition process is accessing, and
adjusting to, the civilian workforce'. It stated:
Navigating the civilian training, education or job search
process can prove particularly overwhelming. Becoming familiar with civilian
workplace practices can be even more challenging, particularly when the ADF 'rules'
fail to apply in civilian workplaces – this can lead to immense confusion,
frustration and agitation for the ex-service member and can significantly
impede their ability to assimilate into a new work environment and exacerbate their
feelings of isolation and disconnection.
We know the research that points to employment being a
restorative psychological process. Positive and meaningful employment
experiences are linked to improved self-esteem, self-efficacy and high levels
of personal empowerment – all of which have a positive effect on mental health
and wellbeing. However, many veterans often report having negative civilian
workplace experiences, particularly soon after discharge. For many, this can
often be linked to not being provided with appropriate career coaching or
mentoring support early on following their transition from the military. There
is no substitute for what employment offers in the way of structure, support
and meaning. But it needs to be the right job, based on the veteran's skills,
experience and aspirations. In the same way that it's vital that clinicians who
treat veterans understand the 'rules' veterans are used to living by or the 'lenses'
through which they view the world, career transition providers working with
veterans also need to have the very same contextual understanding in order to
work successfully with veterans.
Dr Andrew Khoo also noted that '[l]eaving a job frequently involves a
loss of an individual sense of purpose/meaning, however for many exiting the
military also involves a loss of identity, culture and honourable purpose'. He
My anecdotal feeling
is that this particular risk factor contributes disproportionately in veteran
suicidal behaviour. Results of a piece of research carried out at Toowong
Private Hospital into military related suicide show that employment of any type
is protective verses suicide and that unemployment or TPI/long term pension
arrangements are predictive of suicidal behaviour.
While veterans gain many transferable skills during their service, they
also live within an institution which regulates their lives to a greater extent
than a civilian employer. Consequently some advocates and their families
considered veterans were sometimes deskilled in parts of civilian life. These
included skills such as applying for employment, negotiating salaries and
workplace conditions and interacting with public sector services. One veteran's
My husband did 23 years in the Australian Army. He left and
didn't know how to write a resume. He didn't know he needed health insurance.
He didn't know what a Medicare card was.
Others highlighted barriers and misconceptions which may deter employers
from hiring veterans. For example, Dr Nick Ford noted that '[e]mployers can
fret about hiring someone with a treated psychiatric condition and worry about
workers compensation issues and may be reluctant to hire'. He suggested
'[e]mployment opportunities could be enhanced and this could be addressed by,
for example, DVA underwriting compensation issues if they occur'.
Mr Adam Usher highlighted some of the problems for veterans in finding
employment when they have service-related injuries. He stated:
One of the biggest issues facing veterans under the VEA is
that you can be deemed unable to work because of service injuries, but DVA can
find that you 'could' work more than 8 hours a week. You can end up in a state
of limbo where you can't get workers comp insurance and are not allowed to
work, but DVA says you 'could' do more than 8 hours, so no money piss off. What
do you do then? Serious question...I've been stuck here for 2 years...what
do I do now? Gold card and $14K a year don't count for much. I'd much rather be
working. I used to make $100K/year. So how exactly do I do that when I can't
pass a pre employment medical and get insurance anymore due to service injuries.
Dr Kerr from AISRP noted that in her clinical experience she had not
found rehabilitation providers 'particularly effective' and that more could be
done in relation to the arrangements for transfer to civilian employment. She
noted that veterans were reporting to her that they felt they were 'not being
given meaningful work'.
...I have known clients who want to go out and receive jobs,
and there have been very significant places that have said, 'Yes, we will
employ you,' but they cannot do it because they are tied to Defence. I do not
understand why they cannot be doing work placement, paid work, and making that
transition really smoothly.
In May 2016, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) published the
report of its audit of the administration of rehabilitation services by DVA and
Defence under the MRCA. It noted that the MRCA was the most relevant rehabilitation
and compensation legislation for current serving Australian Defence Force (ADF)
members and cadets.
In managing rehabilitation programs, neither Defence nor
Veterans’ Affairs reliably measure, monitor or report on outcomes. Civilian
rehabilitation schemes, for example, use critical measures of performance;
namely the timeliness of rehabilitation following injury or illness, and the
durability of return to work outcomes. Accrued liabilities under the MRCA are significant
and growing. Robust performance information has not been sufficiently developed
or used by Defence and Veterans’ Affairs to manage the MRCA scheme overall,
from assessing the risks of injury and illness in Defence through to
considering the impact of rehabilitation on the overall performance and
financial sustainability of the scheme.
The return to work rate, a third key indicator of the
effectiveness of rehabilitation services, is significantly lower than the
national benchmark—54 per cent for Veterans’ Affairs and 55 per cent for the ADF,
compared with the Australian average of 77 percent in 2013–14. The rate of
medical separations from the ADF has increased from 12 to 19 per cent of people
leaving the ADF between 2010 and 2015. There has been a significant decline in
the rate of transition to civilian work for Veterans’ Affairs rehabilitation
clients from 66 per cent to 48 per cent over the same period.
The ANAO audit found that:
...the return to work
rate is significantly lower than the national benchmark—54 per cent for DVA and
55 per cent for the ADF, compared with the Australian average of 77 per cent in
2013–14. There has also been a significant decline in the rate of transition to
civilian work for Veterans' Affairs rehabilitation clients from 66 per cent to
48 per cent over the same period.
Phoenix Australia considered there was 'still scope to place a higher
expectation on all those involved in the transition period to ensure that some
kind of occupational role is in place for all members following discharge'. It
recommended 'an expanded focus on proactive vocational engagement in
partnership with non-Defence organisations, ex-service organisations, and
industry to offer direction, structure, and facilitate the engagement of
discharging veterans with new vocational options'.
Soldier On highlighted some of the issues with previous transition
The current transition program offered through Defence in the
form of the Career Transition Assistance Scheme (CTAS), in its current state,
is limited in scope. Levels of support are currently dependent on time in
service, or how one leaves the ADF. Transition Seminars are not yet mandatory
and run for just two days. Support through CTAS is financial in nature and the
onus is on the serving member to find a service provider to assist them with
identify potential pathways post transition. All of this happens within a
relatively short period. Access to these services also ends once members have
separated from the ADF, particularly for those who do not enter the DVA system.
As a result, many vulnerable members are separately from the ADF without the
support they need to effectively transition to civilian life.
Col Rob Manton (rtd) from Veterans SA noted work that the South
Australian Government was undertaking to develop a veterans' employment
framework educating both transitioning personnel and potential employers. In
the case of the case of the veteran this would include how to apply for
positions, how to address selection criteria; and, in the case of employers,
having a clear understanding of the value-add an ex-serving member can bring.
[W]e must do whatever
we can to ensure transitioning Defence personnel have the opportunity to
meaningfully compete for employment in the civilian community. It may surprise
many employers to know that not every service person suffers from
post-traumatic stress or is unable to undertake meaningful employment because
of their operational experience. Most can and are eager to get on with the next
phase of their lives.
Partners of Veterans Association of Australia (PVAA) suggested the media
attention on former ADF members suffering with mental health could perversely inhibit
'the chances of transitioning members to gain employment'. It recommended a media
campaign 'to advertise the skills gained by the men and women whilst a member
of the ADF and how those skills would benefit companies employing them'.
DVA commented that '[r]ehabilitation is a key benefit provided in
addition to treatment and is specifically designed for each individual to aid
recovery and maximise their quality of life'. Three types of rehabilitation
support are available to DVA clients:
medical management rehabilitation services;
psychosocial rehabilitation services; and
vocational rehabilitation services.
DVA emphasised that the 'funding for rehabilitation benefits and
services is uncapped and demand driven, and provided independent of, but
complementary to, other DVA benefits and services'. Under the VEA rehabilitation
is voluntary, however rehabilitation is a key feature of the MRCA and the SRCA.
The MRCA and SRCA assume that rehabilitation can, over time,
result in positive changes in quality of life for all eligible veterans,
regardless of the severity of their current physical or mental health status.
As veterans are often unable to continue in or return to pre-injury employment,
DVA seeks to assist them to maximise their quality of life and when appropriate,
explore other work options through participation in a rehabilitation program.
DVA provides rehabilitation services via a mix of in-house
and outsourced arrangements. DVA has staff who are rehabilitation service
coordinators who approve funding and rehabilitation plans. Actual delivery of
rehabilitation services are outsourced via Comcare approved rehabilitation
providers who develop rehabilitation plans, liaise with clients and their
families, engage services, and monitor progress. These providers also meet
specific DVA requirements to work with veterans.
Issues were identified when serving members transition from ADF
rehabilitation program to DVA services. DVA noted that it was working
'cooperatively' with Defence to 'ensure the rehabilitation needs of serving
members and veterans, including the transition out of Defence, are met as
Defence noted a number of initiatives in relation to employment
including the improvements to the CTAS for more members to have 'a resume
developed and to be coached in job search techniques, application writing and
interview skills'. It also noted the 'Transition for Employment Program aims to
prepare medically separating ADF members, while they are still serving, to be
competitive in the civilian job market through a suite of preparatory services
and ongoing support, commensurate with their recognised medical condition'.
On 17 November 2016, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Veterans'
Affairs announced a number of initiatives in relation to employment by veterans
including the formation of an Industry Advisory Committee on Veterans'
Employment to consider how to mentor ADF personnel and translate ADF skills for
the private sector. Other aspects of the announcement included:
Businesses will be
encouraged to partner with a local Ex-Service Organisation, such as the RSL and
Soldier On, to develop strategies for driving veterans' employment through an
Ex-Service Organisation Industry Partnership Register.
The Government will
help our ADF personnel by improving the transition from the Defence force into
their post-service careers. All personnel will have appropriate documentation,
including health records, superannuation and training records, and participate
in the formal transition process before separating from the ADF. All separating
ADF personnel will also have access to employment coaching services to help
them seek and obtain employment.
The Australian Public
Service Commission (APSC) will participate in the transition process and
develop a toolkit for veterans seeking employment in the public service. The
APSC will also improve information for veterans seeking employment in the
public service and launch an online tool for aligning ADF rank to APS
classification. The new APSJobs website will include specific information for
veterans seeking employment in the APS when it launches in 2017.
In addition, Budget 2017-18 provided of $2.7 million over four years to
support the further implementation of the Prime Minister's Veterans' Employment
Budget papers indicated that:
Defence continues to work with [DVA], industry and ex-Service
organisations to support ADF members through the transition process and to find
a new career. Key priorities include the Australian Defence Force transition
transformation program, comprising job search preparation, a new transition
coaching model, separation with documentation and enhanced post separation
Family and carer support
DVA noted that at a recent Veterans' Families Forum '[a]ll participants...saw
a need for planning for transition to start as early as possible in a member's
career and to continue beyond separation from the ADF'. At the forum there was
'a consistent view that transition was a matter for the whole family, not just
Rear Admiral Wolski, Head People Capability at Defence emphasised the
role of the Defence Community Organisation (DCO) which offers a range of information,
programs and services to assist Defence families:
There are family support, community support mechanisms in
place around Australia at the major bases, and there is the family helpline,
which is available 24 hours a day to allow families to call in with any
questions regarding how better to cope with military life.
The DCO includes over 200 staff across Australia and includes social
workers, military support officers, regional education liaison officers and family
He also outlined how families were included in the transition process:
We recognise that the family is a part of the transition
process, the family can also come along to their further transition seminars to
hear all of the information that is being given to the ADF members in
transition. That is basically helping to prepare the family strategies for
being ready for being outside of the military and outside of all of those
protective measures that we have put in place while the member is in uniform.
There is a range of different points that are covered in our
transition seminars, including things around medical advice—including getting
Medicare, getting private health insurance—financial advice and all of those
steps that assist the family and the member.
Vice Admiral Griggs also noted that Defence Families of Australia was
another organisation that is completely focused on military families and family
This is a government supported advocacy body with the goal to ensure quality of
life for 'all Defence families by providing a recognised forum for their views
and by reporting, making recommendations and influencing policy that directly
This importance of support for the families during and after discharge
was also expressed in submissions to the inquiry, which outlined a range of
family support issues. For example, Soldier On noted that many military
families felt that there was lack of training and access to appropriate
services to assist them support veterans returning to civilian life.
Current services available to veterans do not extend to their
families. Transitioning from the ADF poses significant challenges for families
as they adjust to civilian life which may include relocating, buying a house
and forming a new routine. Families also require assistance to support veterans
as they find work and seek help for any underlying physical or psychological injuries.
In addition, Soldier On highlighted evidence concerning how the families
of veterans could be affected. It noted:
Research into the experience of Vietnam Veterans highlighted
how the family unit was affected by the veteran's service. Compared to the
general population, children of Vietnam Veterans are more likely to be
diagnosed with or treated for depression (21 percent vs 14 per cent), anxiety
(22 percent vs 13 percent) or PTSD (4 percent vs 1 percent). It was also identified
that children of Vietnam Veterans have a suicide rate three times higher than
the national average.
Empirical studies have demonstrated that partners of combat
veterans have a significantly higher risk of developing psychological problems
as a result of living and caring for their veterans than the general
The submissions from partners of veterans who, often at a young age, had
taken on the responsibility of being part-time or full-time carers also
illustrated the impacts on families after service. For example, Mrs Bonny Perry
I feel that one of the gaping holes in the system is lack of
support for the family. We are given these broken people, people we barely
recognise, and are not given any tools to help. We are the ones that have to
support these wounded 24/7. With that, it means that, without the right tools
the wheels are going to fall off.
Similarly, Dr Nick Ford commented:
Lack of sufficient transition support and relationship /
family support means that families are not of equipped to deal with symptoms of
PTS etc and the breakdown of these relationships for a fragile veteran can be
catastrophic and lead them to feeling and being alone with exacerbated feelings
of pain and helplessness. Family involvement, early, is good psychiatric
Mates4mates emphasised the importance of providing family members with
the education and tools to support veterans. It stated:
There is a lot of useful information and material online from
various agencies but providing opportunities for veteran's partners and family
members to access accredited training such as Mental Health First Aid training
and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training is important. Often family members
can feel helpless and inadequate when faced with a loved one experiencing
emotional or psychological pain. However, being provided with training in areas
such as recognizing the signs of mental health problems or suicidal ideation
and skills in how to respond in crisis situations can provide family members
with increased confidence. This type of training could be funded through DVA
but coordinated by ESO’s who have the flexibility and capacity to provide the
family members with additional wrap around support services.
Professor Philip Morris stated:
An important way of empowering ex-ADF personnel and their
families to deal with mental illness and suicide risk is to provide them with
training in mental health first aid. This will have the additional benefit of
further de-stigmatising mental illness. At the point of discharge from the ADF
the leaving member and his/her immediate adult family should be provided the 'Mental
Health First Aid Course' suitably modified to take into account common
conditions suffered by ex-ADF personnel as well as how to respond to potential
and real suicide risk situations. In a similar way an occupational health
intervention of mental health first aid training should be introduced for all
individuals in leadership positions in the ADF.
Several people with experience in working with veterans highlighted the
tension between respecting the privacy of the veteran and assisting them
through involving their family. For example, Mr Robert Dick from the RSL
As an ex-pensions and welfare officer, I have had situations
where a veteran has come to me with an issue and I have taken that on board and
helped him through the process. I have said, 'I'd like to be able to talk to
your wife on certain issues, totally in confidence,' and he has said, 'Oh, no,
she doesn't even know I'm here'.
The PVAA also highlighted the need for respite assistance. It noted that
'[w]hen life becomes too stressful on the family it is likely one of the
partners will opt to move out'. The PVAA drew attention to a 'scarely used'
VVCS Crisis Assistance Program which aims to provide short-term accommodation
for up to five days to Vietnam veterans.
It proposed this service could be widened to cover respite for any other
veteran and/or their partner and family.
Carers NSW stated that carers, including carers of veterans, were 'often
recognised for their role or included by health professionals'. It outlined Australian
and international evidence which suggested that 'carer inclusive veteran
support has positive outcomes for veterans and their carers, reducing rates of
depression and anxiety among carers and increasing the sustainability of their
It noted that the carers of veterans have reported their desire for
greater education about particular mental health conditions and improved
communication with mental health professionals. Carers NSW recommended that 'the
carers of veterans living with a mental health condition and at risk of suicide
be provided with a range of tailored support types, delivered both
individually, such as specialised counselling, and in group contexts, such as
training sessions and opportunities to mix with other carers in similar situations'.
The Australian Families of the Military Research Foundation identified a
lack of child care as a barrier to accessing mental health and other services:
[I]t is vital to encourage the partners of younger
servicemen/women as well as the servicemen/women themselves to seek help at [VVCS]
as soon as family dysfunction threatens. But for mums with young children,
finding child care for the period of the recommended face-to-face counselling
may be difficult...
[T]he VVCS is prevented by the Repatriation Commission from
arranging child care. It may not, for instance, bring in a casual child minder
or nanny for a day or half a day. Even if face-to-face counselling is
considered most clinically appropriate in a particular case, but lack of child
care prohibits it, only the second best and possibly unsatisfactory option of
telephone counselling will be offered. This is surely not good enough.
The 2013 Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade inquiry
into the Care of ADF Personnel Wounded and Injured on Operations recommended
that Defence and DVA undertake a study into psychological support of partners
and families of Australian Defence Force (ADF) members and ex-ADF members.
This was supported in principle in the Government response.
A family well-being study is a component of the Transition and Wellbeing
The NMHC report recommended:
The ADF and DVA should rethink the strategy and range of
initiatives to support families. A Family Engagement and Support Strategy
should be co-designed with families, and focus on known stress points for
families, including transition points. The strategy should also recognise and
cater for the diversity of family structures in the ADF and in ex-serving
The Government response to the NMHC report agreed that more support was
needed for the family of current and former ADF members. It acknowledged that
families 'make a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of ADF members
throughout their careers, through the transition process and when they become
civilians' and that the 'role of family can be particularly important in the
treatment and recovery of ill or injured individuals throughout their lifetime'.
A number of initiatives are currently being implemented in
support of families.
Defence has a family engagement model currently under
development that includes engagement with VVCS.
As part of its election commitments, the Government has
initiated the Female Veterans and Families Forum.
Support has also been provided for services for children of
veterans with mental health conditions through the Kookaburra Kids Foundation.
The NMHC also supported greater inclusion of families by the ADF:
The ADF should review its current approach to implementing
family sensitive practices, and implement any necessary changes in policy,
practice and training to ensure that services are truly inclusive and family
sensitive, particularly in relation to engaging with families when there is a
report or incident of self-harm or suicidal behaviour. Any approach that denies
involvement of families on superficial privacy and/or security grounds should
be vigorously challenged, with a robust process implemented to regularly assess
the experience of families in being engaged and participating in health
The Government response included:
Defence will continue to develop its family sensitive
approach. Defence, (through Joint Health Command and DCO) will implement a
family engagement model in the treatment of ill and injured ADF members
supported by improvement in family sensitive practice amongst Defence health
providers. To ensure a family-inclusive approach, co-design will be a priority
in the development of these new support programs and initiatives. Work is also
being undertaken to improve the support programs available to families to
increase awareness levels and to provide advice on how to access these
Appropriate transition support for veterans can be critical to success
in life after service. The committee supports the NMHC recommendation that
'transition should enable 'all departing personnel to leave with dignity, hope
and some certainty about their future, regardless of the circumstances of their
In this context, the committee welcomes the significant reform work which
Defence, DVA and CSC are undertaking to improve the transition process for
veterans through the Transition Taskforce.
In the view of the committee, the Transition Taskforce is an appropriate
avenue to address concerns regarding the experience of transition which were
raised by submitters to the inquiry. Worrying gaps in support were identified
in submissions for veterans after discharge. Some veterans highlighted
significant barriers to finding employment which were service related. These
included lack of recognition of skills and training gaining while in uniform
and a reluctance of employers and their insurers to employ veterans with
service related conditions.
The committee recommends that Transition Taskforce examine and address:
any gaps in medical services or income support for veterans in
transition or immediately following transition;
barriers to employment for veterans who are transitioning such as
workers' insurance issues and civilian recognition of qualifications, skills
and training; and
disincentives for veterans to undertake work or study resulting
from the legislative or policy frameworks of the Department of Veterans'
A two-track transition process
The period when ADF members transition to civilian life is even more
important for the delivery of support and assistance to vulnerable veterans. As
the research base grows in relation to the welfare of veterans (including risk
of suicide), this research should be utilised to construct targeted support
programs directed to the most 'at risk' groups as they transition from the ADF.
This two-track transition process is consistent with the Government
response to the NMHC report which indicated that 'Defence will increasingly
target its efforts towards those most in need based on criteria such as
continuity of healthcare, finding employment and social connectedness'. The
intensive transition support services delivered to these at risk groups should
be responsive to what veterans have identified as important needs. For example,
the 2016 DVA client satisfaction survey asked veterans who had transitioned from
the Defence Force in the last 5 years whether they had trouble accessing or
finding support or services to help them. 45 per cent indicated that the main
services for which they had trouble accessing or finding support were:
mental health; and
The committee continues to see merit in Defence working with ex-service
organisations to develop a transition mentoring program. This recommendation
from the committee's Mental Health of Australian Defence Force Members and
Veterans report should be reconsidered in the context of promoting and
maintaining social connectedness for ADF members who are transitioning.
The committee recommends that the Department of Veterans' Affairs
develop a two-track transition program for serving members leaving the ADF.
Those identified as being in 'at risk' groups or requiring additional
assistance due to their circumstances should be able to access intensive
transition services. These intensive transition services should include
claims case management;
healthcare, mental health and wellbeing support;
employment assistance programs;
social connectedness programs; and
health and wellbeing programs.
Provision of DVA White Cards
The committee considers that, in the context of the expansion of the
non-liability health care to all mental health conditions, every ADF members
leaving service should be provided with a DVA White Card (which facilitates use
of these services). While many veterans will never seek to use the
non-liability health care services available to them, their DVA White Card will
serve a purpose by highlighting a pathway to assistance for veterans.
Service-related mental health conditions may not present for veterans until
many years after their service has concluded. The DVA White Card will be a
physical indicator of the availability of support for each discharged ADF
member that they can carry with them into civilian life.
The committee anticipates that future reform will further extend
non-liability health care to veterans and the DVA White Card will be the key
way veterans can access these additional services. The provision of DVA White
Cards to all veterans would also serve as a veteran identification card which
can be linked to their identification numbers, service record and medical
records. This can be platform to facilitate data collection and tracking of
health services used by veterans. Any veterans who requests it should be able
to access a DVA White Card to use as a veteran identification card and to
access non-liability health care.
The committee recommends the Australian Government issue all ADF members
transitioning into civilian life with a DVA White Card.
While the ADF offers some opportunities for serving members in the
transition period to undertake short term outside employment and gain
on-the-job experience, the committee considers there could be further
flexibility for veterans in these arrangements. The committee considers that an
important addition to the existing Career Transition Assistance Scheme would be
support for a paid period of work experience with outside employers. This would
allow both the employer and the veteran to see if the prospective job
opportunity was a good fit.
The committee recommends that the Career Transition Assistance Scheme
include an option for veterans to undertake a period of work experience with an
The valued skills and experience of ADF members mean they are often well
suited to other public sector careers. Other nations actively support veterans,
and particularly veterans with disabilities, through preferences in public
sector employment. For example, in the United States, veterans make up a
substantial portion of federal government employees. To compliment the efforts
to increase veteran employment in the private sector, the committee considers
there should be an examination of other specific mechanisms to increase the
participation of veterans in public sector employment. The committee notes that
the APSC will include specific information for veterans seeking employment in
the APS and launch an online tool for aligning ADF ranks to APS classifications
in 2017. A further APSC review should focus on other active measures which
could be undertaken to support veteran employment in the APS and the public
sector more generally. This could include a formal preference for veterans
where applicants are equally ranked.
The committee recommends that the Australian Public Service Commission
conduct a review into mechanisms to further support veteran employment in the
Australian Public Service and the public sector.
Support for partners
Significant support for the families of veterans exists through the
services provided by the Defence Community Organisation and the VVCS. The
committee welcomes the recognition of the importance of families of veterans
expressed by Defence and DVA. A supportive and inclusive approach to the
families of veterans in the transition process is vital to ensuring the
long-term well-being of veterans.
However, a consistent theme from the evidence received was that there
was a lack of support for the partners those veterans who have mental health
conditions or have acquired severe disabilities arising from their service. The
partners of veterans often act as the keystone of support for veterans, some as
full-time or part-time carers. The situation of veterans often markedly
declines when these relationships fail. In the view of the committee, this is a
critical area for DVA to investigate and develop further measures of support.
The committee recommends that the Department of Veterans' Affairs review
the support for partners of veterans to identify further avenues for
assistance. This review should include services such as information and advice,
counselling, peer support and options for family respite care to support
partners of veterans.
The committee was also concerned to receive evidence regarding the
challenges which may face veterans moving from DVA support into aged care. It
was apparent that loss of access to services such as Veterans' Home Care and
the Rehabilitation Appliances Program could have serious implications for
elderly veterans transitioning to aged care. Although this was not a focus
during the inquiry, the committee notes the importance of this issue given the
large number of elderly veterans.
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