Maintaining and enhancing the quality of life of veterans and their families by improving their financial wellbeing and self-sufficiency.
Achievements in 2018–19
Full incapacity payments to veteran students
It is important that veterans are able to focus on their studies and achieve effective rehabilitation outcomes without being concerned about a reduction in their incapacity payments while studying. Therefore, from 1 November 2018 the Government changed requirements for veterans who are undertaking approved full-time study as part of their rehabilitation plan so they can maintain their incapacity payment at 100 per cent of their normal earnings.
The change was introduced as part of the ‘Step-up to incapacity payments for veterans studying’ measure, announced in the 2018–19 Budget.
There has been a demonstrated interest in the measure, with over 237 veterans approved for this support by early June 2019. The measure continues to 30 June 2022.
This measure is available to veterans with conditions accepted under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related claims) Act 1988 (DRCA).
Increased access to mental health services
The mental health of veterans is an issue of vital importance to DVA. From 2018–19 the Government is providing an additional $2.2 million over four years to extend access to mental health services for current and former ADF members on a non-liability basis. This will include ADF reservists with part-time disaster relief and border protection service and those who have been involved in a serious training accident.
This measure commenced on 1 July 2018. It builds on the ‘Mental Health Treatment for Current and Former Members of the Australian Defence Force—expanded access’ measure announced in the 2017–18 Budget.
Expanded eligibility for Annual Veteran Health Checks
Veteran Health Checks are specifically designed for veterans and can help them and their general practitioners (GPs) to identify ways to optimise physical and mental health and wellbeing. Early intervention and appropriate referrals can help veterans to enjoy better health outcomes and manage their health during their transition to civilian life.
From 1 July 2019 all ADF members from both the permanent and reserve forces—those with minimum one day’s continuous full-time service—and who have transitioned from the ADF will gain access to a fully-funded, comprehensive Annual Veteran Health Check from their GP every year for the first five years following transition, using their DVA Veteran Card.
A combination of communications, social media, print media, videos and e-news articles shared with provider peak bodies, Defence Community Organisation and the Defence Joint Health Command was developed to promote the new measure.
From early 2020 a Behavioural Insights Trial will be conducted to determine the best strategies to encourage and increase uptake of Annual Veteran Health Checks. The trial will run for three years.
More services and support for transitioning ADF members
Some ADF members who are transitioning to civilian life have suffered significant mental and physical effects as a result of their service. For some of these veterans the task of seeking support and treatment through DVA can be complex and overwhelming.
As part of the response to the recommendations of the 2017 Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee inquiry into suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel, the Government allocated $4 million over two years for the Wellbeing and Support Program.
The Wellbeing and Support Program has been designed for transitioning or recently discharged ADF members who may require extra assistance to find the services or support they need. Between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2020 DVA will provide case management services for up to 200 veterans.
Each veteran is supported by a dedicated external case manager who acts as a single point of contact for coordinating the veteran’s clinical care and facilitating access to DVA and community support. The case manager coordinates the veteran’s treatment and promotes greater communication between treating practitioners and earlier identification and intervention; and provides enhanced oversight of the veteran’s wellbeing.
The program is being externally evaluated. Findings from the evaluation will inform future services for DVA clients who may require extra assistance to find the services or support they need.
Coordinated Client Support Program evaluation
The Coordinated Client Support Program is a specialised, time-limited program aimed at streamlining communication between veterans or members of veterans’ families and DVA. The program gives veterans and their families a single point of contact for the whole of DVA and offers levels of support that fit with their needs.
In 2018 DVA asked the University of New South Wales to evaluate the program. It found that the program meet many but not all of the criteria for successful client coordination in a complex environment. The evaluation highlighted the need to improve DVA business processes, thereby reducing the need for coordinated client supports for many veterans. It suggested that further resources and training are required for the program to be effective and more widely available. It also recommended that the program should be enhanced with access to clinical support for clients with very high needs.
DVA has responded to some elements of the evaluation by:
using mental health clinicians to support staff and clients
developing reflective practice guidelines to support staff
training staff in trauma-informed care
introducing categories of client segmentation data to better align client presentation with the skillset of staff
offering staff opportunities to transfer to other business areas to build capability and provide respite from long-term intensive client management.
A new framework for the Coordinated Client Support Program will continue to build on the recommendations of the evaluation.
Enhancements to the client feedback system
On 17 June 2019 Services Australia delivered a new Client Feedback Management System (CFMS) to DVA. It replaced multiple systems and channels that were being used across the department.
CFMS will improve our opportunities to capture, record and report on feedback. The new system will enable us to better understand the feedback we receive, and this will assist us to be more responsive to veterans and their families.
An enhanced range of categories, sources and delivery methods have been included to capture more precisely the reasons that people provide feedback, including complaints, compliments and suggestions.
A key feature of the new system is a greater range of management and operational reports. These will improve our ability to track and analyse feedback data. This will include theme and trend analysis of primary causes of feedback.
Veterans and their families can submit feedback online either through the unauthenticated DVA Website or via the authenticated channel MyService. Clients can also still use traditional contact channels, including phone, email and letter.
By collecting and analysing data more effectively, the new CFMS is improving support and services for veterans and their families and providing DVA staff with a holistic view of clients and the interactions they have had with DVA.
Improved rehabilitation and transition employment services
New operating model for rehabilitation services
In 2018–19 DVA underwent major internal reform to ensure a single, strengthened operating model was created for rehabilitation services.
Before 2018–19 rehabilitation services were delivered using different mechanisms depending on which state or territory the service was delivered in. This year, a single operating model for the delivery of rehabilitation services was developed, resulting in nationally consistent service delivery.
DVA has created internal standard operating procedures that have been rolled out nationally to all rehabilitation delegates. To ensure the new operating procedures are being followed correctly and consistently in all locations, we have created a new quality management framework that provides a nationally consistent training and accreditation process for all delegates and a national quality assurance program. The new framework will allow continual improvement activities to take place in the delivery of rehabilitation services and provide consistent outcomes for clients and providers who access these services.
Veterans’ Employment Program
The Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program (VEP) continues to raise awareness among employers of the value and experience that ex-service personnel have to offer. In support of this, in 2018–19 the program:
launched the Veterans Employment Commitment in November 2018, establishing a framework to assist business to publicly commit to support the employment of veterans and spouses
delivered the second Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Annual Awards on 5 March 2019
undertook engagement activities, including showcasing the VEP at Defence Transition Seminars
Work continued on the development and implementation of a new program, Support for Employment, which was announced in the 2018–19 Budget. The program will provide additional support to veterans who are finding the transition to the civilian workforce challenging. This program will give veterans practical support, including assistance with skills translation, resume preparation and coaching. It will commence on 1 July 2020.
A new measure was also announced in the 2019–20 Budget to provide grants to not-for-profit organisations (such as ex-service organisations) to deliver innovative programs to assist veterans to find meaningful employment.
Increased efficiency through combined benefits processing
In 2018–19 DVA introduced combined benefits processing—a new way of processing certain claims. Under the new arrangements, for the same client and same claimed conditions, a single claims manager takes responsibility for investigating and determining liability claims; completing the needs assessment; and determining any resulting permanent impairment claims for compensation. Under our earlier operating model, those three tasks may have been processed by three different claims managers.
Combined benefits processing has many advantages—for example, it improves client service and satisfaction levels, eliminates duplication in the evidence-gathering process and reduces claims processing times. The new arrangements are currently being used for claims under the MRCA in all four of our major compensation claims processing locations.
In our Brisbane location we are now also using combined benefits processing for claims under the DRCA. We will apply the new arrangements for DRCA claims in our Perth and Melbourne locations from September 2019 before proceeding to national implementation.
Extension of straight-through claims processing
DVA has commenced work to extend its straight-through processing to a broader range of health conditions.
Straight-through processing uses a veteran’s profile and details of service as evidence that a relevant Statement of Principles factor for a diagnosed condition is met, enabling the claim to be accepted without the need for further investigation.
Under these arrangements, straight-through processing will apply for PTSD, adjustment disorder and anxiety disorder for both warlike operations under the VEA and MRCA and Qualifying Service on declared operations under Schedule 2 of the VEA (where relevant onset time frames under the Statements of Principles are met).
We continue to explore options for further systematic analysis of conditions and their links with service to simplify claims processing.
Using research to improve claims processing
In October 2017 DVA commissioned Bond University to conduct an applied research project on osteoarthritis of the lower limb. The project is now nearing completion. The final report will help us to develop streamlined processing arrangements for this condition for cohorts across all three defence services. It will also provide an evidence base on injury rates during training and initial employment.
In 2018–19 DVA instituted a policy and procedures to help us to identify and establish certain asbestos exposures on Royal Australian Navy vessels between 1940 and 2003 without needing to seek additional confirmation of exposure from Defence. The policy and procedures help to simplify and reduce time taken to process claims relating to asbestos exposure.
Enhancements to claims processing platform
In 2018–19 DVA implemented additional enhancements to its new claims processing platform. The enhancements will improve processes for client registration and education payments for veterans’ children. In addition, the platform can now incorporate enhanced operational and management reporting, including real-time reporting.
There has been extensive business engagement in the co-design effort to design and deliver new capabilities for DVA client contact and management areas and for income support transformation.
Partnerships with health providers, peak bodies and associations
Health service providers
Health service providers are a key gateway through which veterans and their families access DVA-funded health care and treatment services.
DVA’s transformation focus to date, appropriately, has been on the veteran experience. Attention is now turning to better understanding the provider experience. We want to ensure that providers understand the unique nature of military service and what this means to the design and delivery of health services to DVA clients and their families.
We will continue to work with the Health Providers Partnership Forum to engage on policy development and implementation of health-based projects. Work is underway to develop streamlined avenues for health-sector education and training about DVA client needs.
Health peak bodies and associations
We are continuing to explore opportunities to partner with other organisations, with a focus on strengthening relationships with health peak bodies and associations.
At the sector level, DVA’s National Aged and Community Care Forum and the Health Providers Partnership Forum continue to support discussion of veteran health matters with stakeholders.
It is vital that DVA continues to be able to access clinical advice so that we can design and deliver effective, evidence-based care. We also need to ensure that working with DVA is simple and easy for providers. Work is continuing to ensure that medical and allied health providers are supported with:
accurate, relevant and easy-to-access information and resources when treating DVA patients
education and training to meet their obligations as DVA providers
ongoing communications that keep providers up to date about DVA’s health arrangements.