The key message of this draft report is that the current veterans’ compensation and rehabilitation system is not ‘fit-for-purpose’ – it requires fundamental reform.
The system is out-of-date and is not working in the interest of veterans and their families or the Australian community. The system needs to focus on the wellbeing of veterans over their lifetime. This means more attention to prevention, rehabilitation and transition support.
The veterans’ compensation and rehabilitation system is not fit-for-purpose — it requires fundamental reform. It is out-of-date and is not working in the interests of veterans and their families or the Australian community.
The system fails to focus on the lifetime wellbeing of veterans. It is complex (legislatively and administratively), difficult to navigate, inequitable, and it is poorly administered (and has been for decades), which places unwarranted stress on claimants. Some supports are not wellness focused, some are not well targeted and others are archaic, dating back to the 1920s.
In 2017-18, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) spent $13.2 billion supporting about 166 000 veterans and 117 000 dependants (about $47 000 per client). And while the veteran support system is more generous overall than workers’ compensation schemes for civilians, money alone does not mean it is an effective scheme.
The system needs to focus on the wellbeing of veterans over their lifetime. This means more attention to prevention, rehabilitation and transition support, which in turn will produce better outcomes for veterans, their families and the Australian community.
To achieve this focus, the system needs to be redesigned based on the best practice features of workers’ compensation and contemporary social insurance schemes.
Responsibility for preparing serving veterans for, and assisting them with, their transition to civilian life should be centralised in a new Joint Transition Command within Defence.
DVA’s recent Veteran Centric Reform transformation program is showing early signs of success. It should continue to be rolled out to mid 2021 as planned, but adjusted where necessary to accommodate the proposed reforms.
The current system should be simplified by: continuing to make the system easier for clients to access (a complex system does not need to be complex for users), rationalising benefits, harmonising across the Acts (including a single pathway for reviews of decisions, a single test for liability and common assessment processes), and moving to two compensation and rehabilitation schemes by July 2025.
The way treatments and supports are commissioned and provided to veterans and their families also needs to change. There needs to be more proactive engagement with clients and providers and better oversight of outcomes.
The recent decision to expand non-liability coverage to mental health care was a positive one, however, the Veteran Mental Health Strategy needs to be updated urgently with specific attention to suicide prevention and access to supports for veterans.