DVA Information: Bushfire Crisis – Update

Dear ESORT members,

Given the ongoing nature of the bushfires and the impact on many regions, DVA is providing a further update for ESOs.

We recognise that the recent bushfires have had a devastating impact on local communities, but it is important that the ongoing support to veterans’ organisations and the community continues.

A new grant round of the Building Excellence in Support and Training (BEST) program has opened for applications today and closes at 11:00 pm (AEDT) on 17 February 2020.

If your organisation has been impacted by these bushfires, and you think it may affect you in lodging your application for a BEST grant, please contact the Community Grants Hub as soon as possible on 1800 020 283 or [email protected] for help with your application.

The priority for many authorities and communities is of course the ongoing fire-fighting, containment and recovery operations, and a reminder from my email last week that DVA will continue to provide services and assistance to members of the veteran and defence communities.

Health and Financial support

If you or members of your organisation need further support from DVA during this difficult time, please visit the DVA website (dva.gov.au) for information on the disaster assistance services offered. The Open Arms counselling service is also available 24/7 to veterans and their families (contact 1800 011 046).

DVA services and support

Veterans and their families can access DVA’s Veterans’ Access Network (VAN) for assistance on 1800 555 254 for a wide range of issues, including replacement of aids and appliances, ensuring availability of pharmaceuticals, and arranging transportation to medical appointments.

If any other services or support you receive from the Department are impacted by the fires, or if you need extra support in requesting these services, you can call 1800 555 254 for assistance.

Veterans’ Home Care

Veterans’ Home Care (VHC) program clients affected by fires should contact their service providers or assessment agency to re-establish disrupted services.  Eligible, affected veterans who need new services or services in a new location should contact their assessment agency.  VHC Assessment Agencies may be contacted on 1300 550 450.

Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme (DSHI)

With ongoing bushfires across the country DSHI is committed to assisting our policyholders. In an emergency dial 000. Always follow the advice and direction of emergency services. If you need to make a claim due to bushfire damage, please contact us as soon as you’re safe and able to do so. Our team will be able to help you manage your claim. Your safety is of the utmost importance to us, if you are impacted please contact us on 1300 552 662.

National Bushfire Recovery Agency

The Prime Minister has announced the establishment a new agency with an initial $2 billion for a national bushfire recovery fund to coordinate a national response to rebuild communities and livelihoods after the devastating fire-front has passed. More information can be found at: www.pm.gov.au/media/national-bushfire-recovery-agency

Mark Cormack

Acting Secretary

7 January 2020

Disaster Assistance- Bushfire Crisis

The impact of the bushfires is being felt across the nation, including by members of the veteran and defence communities. Health and safety is the priority during this time, and we encourage you to listen to the experts on how to be prepared.

The ABC, as the national broadcaster, provides up-to-date information on all alerts and warnings

Further information is also available on each of the state government websites.

Members of the veteran and defence communities can also access:

  • The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment – one-off financial assistance to eligible Australians adversely affected by the bushfires. For more information on eligibility, and how to claim, visit the Department of Human Services website or call 180 22 66.
  • Defence Service Homes Insurance – providing a range of home, contents, and other insurance. To lodge a claim or for assistance please contact 1300 552 662 or visit the Defence Service Homes Insurance website.
  • Open Arms counselling support (24/7) – veterans and their families requiring emergency counselling support can call 1800 011 046.
  • Crisis payments – a one-off payment to financially assist eligible people following a range of defined circumstances. For information about the crisis payments and eligibility please read Factsheet IS121 – Crisis Payments
  • Other assistance – DVA’s Veterans’ Access Network (VAN) can be contacted on 1800 555 254 to assist with a wide range of issues, including replacement of aids and appliances, ensuring availability of pharmaceuticals, and arranging transportation to medical appointments. 

If any other services or support you receive from the Department are being impacted by the fires, or if you need extra support in requesting these services, you can call 1800 555 254 for assistance.

Group programs for the veteran community

Open Arms group treatment programs focus on addressing mental health problems commonly experienced within the veteran community. These programs include:

  • Doing Anger Differently
  • Recovery from Trauma
  • Understanding Anxiety
  • Managing Pain
  • Sleeping Better
  • Beating the Blues.

Our educational workshops focus on suicide prevention or on skill-building to promote resilience. The suicide prevention workshops are for people wanting to learn how to recognise that someone is struggling and how to help them to get support. These workshops include

  • Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)
  • Suicide Alertness for Everybody (safeTALK)
  • Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)
  • ASIST Tune-Up.

The resilience and skill-building workshops are particularly useful for veterans and families during transition periods in their lives and include ‘Stepping Out’, parenting, stress management and mindfulness workshops, as well as half-day information sessions on chronic pain, anger, managing anxiety and recovering from trauma.

The Open Arms group program and workshop calendar is planned six months in advance and the most recent version can be found at www.openarms.gov.au/get-support. If there is enough interest in a specific area additional workshops can be organised.

If you want to talk to a counsellor, or find out more about our services, Open Arms’s free and confidential telephone line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 011 046.

DVA services during the holiday season

DVA will continue providing support to veterans and their families during the holiday season. However, please be aware that some services will be impacted from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day inclusive.
The News and Updates page on the DVA website provides details about services available during the holidays, including information on counselling, mental health, transport bookings for medical treatment, Defence Service Homes Insurance, hospital admissions, pharmaceutical approvals, and pension and incapacity payments. VAN offices, General Enquiries and Open Arms centres.


Open Arms community and peer program expands nationally

SUPPORT for veterans and their families who may be struggling with mental health conditions or at risk of suicide, will be enhanced through the Community and Peer Program which is currently being rolled out across Australia.

VA121 open arms peer advisor group

The program, run by Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling (Open Arms), connects veterans and family members who may be struggling with their mental health, with peers who bring a lived experience of mental health issues and, importantly, of recovery.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester joined existing and newly recruited members of the Open Arms Community and Peer Program in Canberra as part of their week-long induction training.

“The pilot program held in Townsville, had positive results with Open Arms peers breaking down barriers to care, improving relationships with key community groups, and reducing the stigma for veterans around mental health and seeking help,” Mr Chester said.

“Since the First World War, veterans and their families have understood the importance and value of mateship that is instilled during service, placing them in a unique position to support one another. This program harnesses that mateship and ensures veterans can talk to other veterans, and families to other military families, to assist each other with the support of mental health clinicians.

“This is another important part of the support system—improving the holistic mental health and wellbeing outcomes for veterans and their families. The national roll-out is a significant step forward in improving the lives of veterans and their families.”

Twenty-nine peers, in addition to the six peers from the Townsville pilot, are being trained as Mental Health Peer Workers and will be employed at 14 Open Arms locations nationally. Also in attendance for the induction training were representatives from key veteran-run organisations with a passion for supporting veterans’ mental health, including Swiss8, Red Six and Survive to Thrive Nation.

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“You train them to go to war, we train them to come home” – Founder/CEO Dane Christison

Adrian Sutter from Swiss8 said, “The biggest take-out for me from the workshop is they get it. Open Arms seem to understand the current veteran space. They get what is needed to break the barriers with veterans at the moment, and get people coming forward firstly and then getting them the help that they need, if they need it, or just provide someone to talk to. That they understand the space is the biggest thing I’m taking away.”

The Community and Peer Program will provide Open Arms with a skilled workforce of veterans from across all three Australian Defence Force services and family representatives, to augment clinical capability across Australia by mid-2020.

Open Arms (formerly VVCS) is Australia’s leading provider of high quality mental health, counselling and support services for Australian veterans and their families, as well as some reservists and peacekeepers. To find out more about the services offered, call 1800 011 046 or visit Open Arms.

1 December 2019

Open Arms — Veterans and Families Counselling provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au

Open Tender for Psychiatric Assistance Dogs for Veterans

Chester

MORE veterans seeking to manage their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will benefit with the expansion of the Government’s psychiatric assistance dog program.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said following the successful launch of the program in September there had been increased interest from the ex-service community and organisations passionate about supporting veterans’ mental health.
“Veterans have told me about the benefits of an assistance dog in managing their mental health in a positive way — this is real action that responds to the needs of veterans,” Mr Chester said.
These dogs are matched with veterans and are trained to notice signs of distress and perform specific actions to ease the symptoms of PTSD. For example, waking their handler experiencing a night terror or nuzzling their handler to distract them.
“By expanding the panel of providers, more veterans will be able to access a psychiatric assistance dog to assist them in managing their PTSD, reduce isolation and give the veteran a chance to improve their mental health and wellbeing.
“I encourage those organisations who train assistance dogs and who are passionate about supporting veterans’ mental health to review the open tender and submit an application.”

Founder and Director of Training of Smart Pups Patricia McAlister said she has been working with and training dogs since she was 10 years old and after seeing the difference an assistance dog makes, she has made it her mission to train more of them.
“Since being announced as one of the first two providers of psychiatric assistance dogs I have interviewed a number of veterans who are delighted and excited about Smart Pups working with them to provide a dog that will suit their unique needs,” Ms McAlister said.

“Veterans and their families give so much for our country and I am proud that Smart Pups is able to support them, and their families, by providing them with a dog that will have a profound effect on their everyday lives.”

Interested providers should have access to qualified and registered mental health professionals with experience in working with individuals with PTSD and who can advise on all aspects of partnering veterans with psychiatric assistance dogs. For more information on the requirements and guidelines of the open tender or to apply, providers are encouraged to visit the AusTender website.

Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling, provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or
visit www.OpenArms.gov.au

Veterans currently seeking treatment for PTSD are encouraged to speak to their mental health professional in regards to gaining access to a psychiatric assistance dog, or for more information visit the DVA website.

DVA Media Release Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant

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The Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant serves to recognise and acknowledge the unique nature of military service and the contribution of veterans and their families. The Covenant is supported by the Veteran Card, Lapel Pin and Oath. These provide the opportunity for Australians to identify veterans when they are not in uniform or wearing their medals, and offer respect to them and their family.

Employers, businesses, local community groups and the broader Australian public are able to commit their support for the Covenant. The Covenant provides the framework that enables veterans and their families to better connect with their community.

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Veteran Card
Use your Veteran Card to gain access to treatment for service-related conditions or injuries that DVA has approved, and access to DVA-funded mental health treatment, if required.

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Lapel Pin
The Lapel Pin allows the wider community to acknowledge your service regardless of whether you served in the Navy, Army or Air Force.

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Oath
The Oath is a declaration on behalf of the Australian people recognising the valuable contribution that current and former members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and their families make and have made for our country.

How veterans can apply
Veterans and Reservists can apply for the Covenant, including the Veteran Card, Lapel Pin and Oath, online using MyService. Depending on your type of service, you may be eligible for all, or some, of the Covenant items.

How to support veterans
Employers, businesses, local community groups and the broader Australian public are able to commit their support for the Covenant to recognise and acknowledge the contribution of veterans and their families. 

The Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program was initiated in 2016 to raise awareness of the value and unique experience of veterans. Find out more about how the program assists veterans and employers on the Veterans’ Employment web site

Community Groups
Find out more about community groups and Ex-Service Organisations and their work to support veterans and their families.

READ MORE

Covenant and lapel-pin legislation passed by parliament

Legislation to enact the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant was passed by parliament on 22 October 2019 and has been forwarded through appropriate channels for Royal Assent.

Australian Veterans’ Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Bill 2019 will establish the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant, which provides a formal way for all Australians to show their appreciation to our current and former Australian Defence Force personnel, and to the families who have supported them.

Upon Royal Assent in coming weeks, the Bill will become a separate Act to provide symbolic recognition for all veterans.

It does not change current entitlements.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said the covenant, veteran card and veteran lapel pin would allow the community — including employers, businesses, community groups, veteran or sporting organisations and the general public — the opportunity to recognise the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served our nation.

“The legislation also includes a statement requiring the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to adopt a beneficial approach when interpreting legislation and apply a fair, just and consistent approach to veterans’ claims,” Mr Chester said.

“Arrangements are also being finalised for businesses across Australia to recognise the unique nature of military service by providing benefits through the veteran card, and I encourage any business that would like to learn more about how it can participate to contact the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

“We are committed to putting veterans and their families first and this legislation is part of our ongoing efforts to transform the culture of DVA.”

The Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant is part of a wider recognition package, and enables the oath and lapel pin to be provided to veterans and eligible reservists.

The package also includes the veteran card — a redesign of the existing DVA health cards, which is open to new applicants and will be provided to existing card holders over the coming months.

Mr Chester said those who had already applied for the lapel pin and oath would begin receiving their covenant packs soon and he urged those who have not applied for the covenant to do so online using MyService.

More information on the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant, including how individuals can apply and how businesses and community organisations can register their support, can be found on the DVA website.

Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant – Now Legislated

Advice from Liz Cosson.

“Good Afternoon,

I would like to thank you for your ongoing commitment and support to ensuring veterans and their families receive the recognition and respect they deserve for their service and sacrifice to our country.

I am pleased to let you know that the Government’s Australian Veterans’ Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Bill 2019 has passed Federal Parliament today.

This legislation formally establishes the Australian Defence Veterans’ Covenant which includes an oath, lapel pin and Veteran Card which are available for veterans and eligible reservists.

With the passing of this legislation we will now start to send out the lapel pins and oath to those who have already registered via mail in the coming weeks.

The new Veteran Card, which is a redesign of the existing DVA health cards, continues to provide access to treatments and benefits and will soon provide access to thousands of offers from businesses across Australia as a part of a new benefits program.

We are expecting to launch the benefits program very soon and will be sending information packs in the mail to Ex-Service Organisations and RSL Sub-branches which includes promotional material and a set of frequently asked questions to help you support veterans to ensure they get the most out of the program.

Veterans and reservists can continue to register for the Covenant online through MyService, by calling DVA on 1800 555 254, or by visiting your local Veterans Access Network office.

For more information about the Covenant, please visit here
Regards Liz,”

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Liz Cosson AM CSC
Secretary
Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Appointment to Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission

Current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Comcare, Sue Weston PSM, has today been appointed as a part-time member of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC) for a five-year term.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said Ms Weston had an impressive record of public sector experience and strong leadership.

“I congratulate Ms Weston on her appointment. I am confident she will make a significant contribution to the work of the Commission,” Mr Chester said.

“Ms Weston was appointed as the CEO of Comcare in April this year. The roles and responsibilities of the CEO of Comcare complement those of the Commission, which administers benefits under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) and Part XI of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA).”

Ms Weston’s previous roles include Deputy Secretary and Head of Industry and Small Business Policy at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and Head of the Office of Small Business at the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources. She also holds professional qualifications in Science, Accounting, and Arbitration and Mediation.

Mr Chester said Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, nominated Ms Weston for the Commission.

“I look forward to working with Ms Weston and the other members of the Commission to provide rehabilitation, compensation and other benefits to current and former members of the Australian Defence Force and their dependants.”

More information about the MRCC and its functions can be found online.