Efficiency of veterans service delivery by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs
In August 2017, the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade delivered its report following an inquiry into suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel; The Constant Battle: Suicide by Veterans. The report stated that: ‘The need to streamline the administrative practices of DVA was the overwhelming concern of the majority of submissions to the inquiry’. Report Recommendation 13 was that the Australian National Audit Office commence the proposed performance audit of the efficiency of veterans’ service delivery by DVA as soon as possible.
Additional factors supporting the conduct of the audit included:
- Commencing in 2017–18, the Government provided DVA with $166.6 million over four years to begin transforming and improving services to more effectively and efficiently meet the current and future needs of veterans and their dependents. The measure is titled ‘Veteran Centric Reform’. The audit examined some of the results of DVA’s early implementation of the reform.
- A Functional and Efficiency Review (May 2016) of DVA recommended that service delivery functions either be outsourced or transferred to other agencies. The review stated that the reform would lead to ‘administrative efficiencies’. This audit included analysis of the efficiency of DVA’s Rehabilitation and Compensation (R&C) processes.
The objective of the audit was to assess whether DVA was efficiently delivering services to veterans and their dependents. To form a conclusion against the audit objective, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) adopted the following high-level audit criteria:
- Do business systems and processes in DVA support the efficient delivery of services to veterans and their dependants?
- Have compensation, support and health services been delivered efficiently by DVA to veterans and their dependants?
The majority of DVA Rehabilitation & Compensation (R&C) services are being delivered to veterans and their dependents within DVA’s time based performance targets, however a minority of claims take an excessively long period to process due to inefficient handling. These delays can have significant impacts for these veterans.
The audit identified weaknesses in DVA’s business systems and processes, which do not adequately support the efficient delivery of services. In particular, DVA should improve the structure and consistency of workflow management for R&C claims, and review its highly segmented approach to processing claims under the various elements of applicable legislation. DVA’s focus on monitoring the median and the average time taken to process (TTTP) across the population of claims does not provide a sufficiently complete picture of performance, and does not address critical reputational and client welfare risks.
For claims with a high TTTP, the audit identified that this stemmed from excessive time associated with ‘inactivity’ (delays in the actioning of a claim despite the presence of required information) and medical reviews. DVA should improve its oversight of the progress of individual claims through the processing lifecycle, and its management of medical service provision. The monitoring and reporting of claims is not effective in alerting management to those which are at risk of taking excessive time to process.