Mental health support for veterans and their families, and medical coverage for veterans of nuclear testing

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Hon Dan Tehan MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC

The Government will expand the range of mental health conditions current and former Australian Defence Force (ADF) members can seek treatment for on a non-liability basis as part of the 2017–18 Budget.

The Government will also provide a Gold Card to cover the health care costs of the surviving participants of the British Nuclear Test program in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s and veterans who served as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF). The Government has allocated $133.1 million for this initiative to cover eligible veterans.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan said this year’s Budget represented a significant increase in funding of $350 million in support of veterans and demonstrated the Government’s commitment to the men and women who defend our nation.

“The Government is focused on responding to the mental health needs of our former ADF personnel and providing support that will help them to achieve a fulfilling post service life,” Mr Tehan said.

“In last year’s Budget, we made treatment for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and drug and alcohol misuse free for anyone who had served a day in the full-time ADF.

“The $33.5 million expansion of the non-liability health care program to cover all mental health conditions announced in tonight’s Budget recognises that the earlier a veteran gets treatment, the better the health and other outcomes. This includes access to the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS).

“Importantly, a veteran does not have to prove their mental health condition is related to their service. The funding for mental health treatment is demand-driven and not capped – if an eligible person requires treatment, it will be paid for.”

Mr Tehan said the Government understands that partners, families and former partners of veterans are affected by military service. In recognition of this, the Budget will provide $8.5 million to expand eligibility for VVCS.

“The partners and children of our contemporary veterans, who have had one day of full-time service, will have access to the services and support provided by VVCS, including counselling and group programs,” Mr Tehan said.

“Former partners of ADF personnel will also be able to access VVCS up to five years after a couple separates or while co-parenting a child under the age of 18.

“VVCS is the frontline mental health service for those in the veteran community and is a vital service that saves lives. It is available 24/7 on 1800 011 046.”

Mr Tehan said that as an initial step in the Government’s response to the National Mental Health Commission’s report into suicide prevention services, and our broader commitment to addressing mental health issues, it was providing $9.8 million to pilot new approaches to suicide prevention and improve care and support available to veterans.

“The Mental Health Clinical Management Pilot will assess the benefits of providing intensive clinical management to help meet a veteran’s complex mental health and social needs on discharge from a mental health hospital,” Mr Tehan said.

“We will also pilot an expansion of the successful Coordinated Veterans’ Care (CVC) program to improve support for veterans with both chronic physical and mental health conditions as a result of their service.”

Mr Tehan said the Government would provide $2.7 million for the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program, launched in November last year.

“The money will be used to support the recently established Industry Advisory Committee, create an Ex-Service Organisation Industry partnership register and develop and manage the annual Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards.

“The Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program is about helping business appreciate the unique skills former ADF members can bring to a job. Helping our former Defence personnel find meaningful post-service careers is one of the best ways we can honour their service and sacrifice.”

Mr Tehan said funding of $166.6 million would be provided in this year’s Budget to implement the first stage of Veteran Centric Reform to modernise the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) antiquated ICT systems to provide easier access to DVA services.

“This is a significant investment to improve how the Department meets the needs of its clients and is a critical part of bringing DVA’s ICT into the 21st century,” Mr Tehan said.

“As part of this, DVA will implement a suite of initiatives to support members to successfully transition out of the ADF, such as conducting a two-year trial that will allow veterans to access medical treatment while their Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 or Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 claims are processed.

“Veterans and their families have told us there were problems with the way DVA processed claims. We have listened and we have responded with money to deliver better support and services for veterans, underpinned by digital access, streamlined processes and modern technology.”

The Government has committed an additional $19.6 million over two years to support domestic and international commemorative activities for the Anzac Centenary and Century of Service, and the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of the First World War on Remembrance Day, 11 November 2018.

Additional Budget measures for veterans include:

  • $18.0 million as part of the Government’s Energy for the Future Package so more than 235,000 DVA clients will receive a one-off payment for energy bills
  • $9.1 million for accelerated access to rehabilitation services, streamlined access to Incapacity Payments, and improved access to the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated disability pension for veterans working past the age of 65
  • $1.2 million to continue the income support bonus for DVA clients receiving an Education Allowance under either the Veterans’ Children Education Scheme (VCES), or the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act Education and Training Scheme (MRCAETS)
  • $5.0 million to develop a first pass business case for the Australian War Memorial to examine ways to provide additional exhibition space.

Media enquiries:

Minister Tehan’s Office: Byron Vale 0428 262 894
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.