Supporting Veterans’ Families This Legacy Week

SUPPORTING VETERANS’ FAMILIES THIS LEGACY WEEK

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TOMORROW marks the start of Legacy Week, the annual national appeal to support the families of veterans who have given their life or health for this country.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester will join Legacy Australia in officially launching this year’s Legacy Week at the Australian War Memorial and lay a wreath to acknowledge all families and reflect on the important role they play.

 “Tomorrow I have the privilege of representing the Australian   Government at the Australian War Memorial to help launch this very   important fundraising week for Legacy Australia,” Mr Chester said.
 “Families play a crucial part in supporting veterans, especially in challenging times, and they face their own unique challenges as a result of this,” Mr Chester said.
“It is important we all do our bit to help organisations like Legacy which is committed to looking after these families.
“Every year since 1942, Legacy volunteers across Australia fundraise for the families of veterans who have sacrificed so much during their service.
“The money raised will go towards helping the families of service personnel whose strength and resilience play a key part in offering support for veterans.
“I encourage everyone to support Legacy Week and buy a badge, and to think about how we can come together in our own community and support veterans and their families.”
Legacy Week will help around 60,000 beneficiaries through funding essential services and help provide educational resources to children. Legacy Week 2019 runs from Sunday, 1 September to Saturday, 7 September, with Badge Day on Friday, 6 September.
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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

Need for Constructive Dialogue and Not ill-considered and inaccurate criticism of DVA

The RARA supports DFWA’s concern at the recent ill-considered and often inaccurate criticism of DVA by some in the media and on social media platforms.

Commentary borders at times on crass enthusiasm for a story and less about the care of veterans. DVA and its staff in recent years has performed remarkably well in coming to grips with the many and varied challenges they are facing.

Whether it is veteran suicide, which is surely a national problem, veteran homelessness, the transition of individuals from the ADF to civilian life, the availability of psychological support, veteran employment or the myriad of other services it provides the leadership and staff of DVA are responding positively.

READ DFWA’s Media Statement here

Medical Evidence – Statement, TPs and Background

Statement from Liz Cosson AM CSC Secretary Department of Veterans’ Affairs 

Liz Cossons

“In response to today’s media reporting claiming DVA is outsourcing its compensation claim process, I offer the following statement, attached talking points and background to why we have placed a forward notice on the AusTender site. This is a public site.

Contrary to media reports, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is not and will not be outsourcing the decision-making process for veterans’ claims.

The proposed tender, details of which are available on the AusTender website, addresses a number of recommendations including the need to assist veterans who submit claims by securing medical evidence in a way that assists in getting faster decisions.

These recommendations have come from:

• Senate Inquiry – The Constant Battle: Suicide by Veteran

• 2017-18 Australian National Audit Office – Efficiency of Veterans Service Delivery

  • The 2019 Productivity Commission report.

Through the proposed tender, DVA is seeking to identify a more efficient and effective way to gather this medical evidence, in order to facilitate the timely determination of compensation and rehabilitation claims. In some circumstances, DVA may need to approach a medico-legal provider for an assessment and report. This may occur if:
• the veteran does not have a treating doctor, or where there is insufficient or conflicting information
• the treating doctor cannot or will not provide the required evidence or cannot provide it in a timely manner
• a subsequent report still does not meet the diagnostic criteria
• a report is deficient in some aspect and a report from a further medical professional is required for the purpose specified in the referral.

This department is committed to putting veterans and their families first, including by changing the processes within DVA to drive more effective and timely claims processing, greater support through the claims process, and more positive outcomes for our veterans and their families.

The forward notice of the proposed tender, published on 29 July 2019, requests interested parties complete a survey and provide a range of information including, but not limited to, information about their organisation, their approach to the tender, and what information they would need from DVA to complete the tender.”

NATION PAUSES TO REMEMBER THE KOREAN WAR ARMISTICE

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TOMORROW (27th July) marks 66 years since the Korean War Armistice was signed, ending three years of war in Korea.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester is encouraging all Australians to pause and remember those who served in the Korean War and the post-armistice period.

“Of the 18,000 Australian personnel who served, Australia suffered some 1,500 casualties, including more than 350 who lost their lives and 30 who were taken prisoner,” Mr Chester said.

“Of the more than 150 nurses who served in Japan nursing Korean War casualties, more than 50 also served in Korea.

“The signing of the armistice was held in 1953, however Australia maintained a presence in Korea as part of the multi-national peacekeeping force until 1957.

“Our soldiers, sailors and airmen fought long and hard for South Korea’s freedom. The conditions were hazardous and the effort of moving over mountains and valleys was exhausting.”

Within the first few days of the war, then Prime Minister Robert Menzies committed ships of the Royal Australian Navy to the Korean War. These were soon joined by units of the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Army.

“Despite the fact that Australia was still recovering from the Second World War, our military personnel joined the United Nations effort in Korea in a unified show of support,” Mr Chester said.

“These men and women fought to defend the Korean peninsula – many of whom never returned home. (43 Australian servicemen remain missing in action)

“Today, Australia says thank you for your service.”

For more information on the history of the Korean War, visit the Anzac Portal www.anzacportal.dva.gov.au/history/conflicts/korean-war.

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 82414546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au 

Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit Statement – Darren Chester

“Thank you for your attendance here today (26th June 2019).
You’re here because you have expert knowledge in mental health, suicide prevention and the potential impacts of military service on individuals and their families.

Today’s an opportunity to take stock of where we are regarding mental wellbeing of veterans and serving ADF personnel… and where we want to be in the future.

This is your chance to help set the veterans’ mental health agenda for this term of the Morrison Government.

It’s an opportunity for a full and frank discussion about what is working, what isn’t working, our knowledge or research gaps… and what else we can be doing together to improve mental wellbeing.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that mental health will be a core focus of this government and he has already announced several initiatives aimed at suicide prevention and mental wellbeing in the wider community.
Every suicide is a tragedy, especially for families and loved ones left behind.
It is a sad and complex issue which costs Australia more than 3000 people each year and of particular concern to us, here today, is the estimated 30 veterans who take their own life each year.


When it comes to veteran suicide, the only acceptable number for me is zero – the only acceptable number for the Australian people is zero.
As a government we are determined to put veterans and their families first.
I’m working with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Australian Defence Force leaders, ex-service organisations, medical professionals and the community to improve mental health outcomes for veterans and their families.


We are spending more than $230 million per year to improve veteran mental health and we are working with Defence to improve resilience among serving members.
There have been a number of significant inquiries, research and reports which have led to significant changes and the key question today is, what else can we do that will make a practical difference?

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

VETERANS’ MENTAL HEALTH SUMMIT TO INFORM GOVERNMENT’S STRATEGY

Tomorrow’s Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit will bring together key stakeholders at Parliament House to improve services and support to those who have served in the Australian Defence Force.

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The Summit, to be chaired by Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel, Darren Chester, will focus on extra steps that can be taken to improve veterans’ mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention.

“As a Federal Government, we are determined to put veterans and their families first, which is why I’m convening the Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit this Wednesday,” Mr Chester said.

“It’s an opportunity to take stock of current programs and assess what else can be done to improve mental wellbeing of veterans.

“While we have already expanded access to free counselling, and introduced new payments to ensure veterans submitting mental health claims have financial support while their claims are being considered, it’s important to constantly assess the Government’s strategy.”

Experts will be brought together to consider the current range of services, programs and pilots offered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), and to give advice about the strengths of current settings, where gaps could be addressed, and to inform the Government’s forward plan and strategy.

The Summit will be the first stage of a structured engagement with ex-service organisations, veterans, families and service providers, over the coming months and will be a great opportunity for stakeholders to continue working with the Federal Government on veteran matters of great importance.

“I will also be working through the Government’s approach to veteran’s mental health and well-being with my Federal Ministerial colleagues,” Mr Chester said.

“State and Territory Governments also have a vital role to play and mental health will be a focus at the Veterans Ministers Council meeting in August.

“The Prime Minister has made it clear that mental health will be a core focus of this government and he has already announced several initiatives aimed at suicide prevention and mental wellbeing in the wider community.

“It is a sad and complex issue which costs Australia more than 3000 people each year and when it comes to veteran suicide, the only acceptable number for me is zero – the only acceptable number for the Australian people is zero.

“We need to keep working together to improve mental wellbeing and prevent suicide throughout Australia.”

Free and confidential help is available through Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Help is available 24/7 by calling 1800 011 046.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

DFWA Media Statement – Faceless Bureaucrats Change the Law to Beat Wounded Veterans in Court

Veterans medically discharged, including all those with mental health wounds and at risk of self-harm, can receive an Invalidity Benefit from their superannuation scheme.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) taxes these variable payments as ordinary income rather than at the lower rates that can be applied to superannuation fund disability benefits.

Since 2015, Veterans have been trying to get the ATO to justify their position and advise what law they are using to treat their invalidity payments this way. The ATO has used every dodgy practice in the book to avoid answering the question.

In 2018, Veterans had the Administrative Appeals Tribunal consider this matter. On 1 June, the ATO’s case developed a “fatal flaw” so they requested an adjournment to “consult” with their bureaucratic masters. Although Justice Logan agreed to the adjournment, he expressed concern that the ATO might try to change the law to fix their case before the Hearing resumed.

On 7 December, two days before the Hearing resumed, changes to the law, backdated to 2007, were made to fix the shoddy ATO argument. In other words, the rules and the goalposts were changed at half-time by the faceless bureaucrats. But this is not a game! The men and women of the ADF are trained to obey the rules, even if it means they might die.

Politicians should not let faceless bureaucrats change the law to beat wounded veterans in court and no Australian should be at risk of having the law changed and backdated in the middle of their court case.

This should not happen to any citizen. Veterans have fought for democracy and the rule of law and call on all Australians to join the fight against this blatant injustice! There will be limited time after the election for the Senate or the House of Representatives to pass a Disallowance Motion negating the retrospective changes affecting the case being heard.

Read more on this matter, including what you can do, on the DFWA website here  or contact the DFWA spokesperson John on 02 5104 3106 or [email protected] .

7th May 2019

DFWA Media Statement – Recognition that ADF Members Deserve Support during and after their Service

The Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA) welcomes the Labor Opposition’s commitment announced today in a joint Media Alert of wide-ranging support to both the nation’s current serving ADF members and to those who once served, importantly, including their families.

DFWA welcomes the Opposition’s commitments on several fronts.

The first being the retention of a specific Department of Veterans Affairs. This alone gives credibility to the notion of a ‘veteran centric’ department focused on the issues of veteran and their families.

Second is the commitment to adequately resource the Association to enhance its ability to properly represent serving ADF members in a professional manner particularly at Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal hearings. Such recognition of its role in representing serving personnel has been long sought from successive governments without success.

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Finally in commenting on Labor’s ‘Employment Package’ and its ‘National Families Engagement and Support Strategy’, the National President of DFWA, Kel Ryan, stated that he was particularly pleased that ‘Oasis Townsville’, a long-held aspiration of the Townsville veterans community to have a single hub to which all veterans and their families could go, would be appropriately funded.

The ‘Oasis’ is a model concept that could in whole, or in part, be readily replicated in other parts of Australia. The concept is reflective of the collaboration that is possible between Ex-Service Organisations to not only help each other to achieve outcomes for a common cause but to have a shared focus on supporting serving and ex-serving members of the ADF by making the lives of these men, women and their families better, healthier, happier and more rewarding.

9th May 2019

Contacts
Executive Director:
Alf Jaugietis (0438) 282 284 www.dfwa.org.au
National President:
Kel Ryan (0418) 759 120

DFWA – Voice of the Defence Community

Media Release – Labor’s Plan for our ADF Personnel and Veterans

Labor has launched its comprehensive plan for ADF Personnel  and Veterans today, which solidifies our commitment to our current and ex-service personnel and their families.

 In the past three years, Labor has announced a number of policies which will overwhelmingly support both current serving personnel, as well as veterans and their families.

Today, we launch Labor’s Plan for our ADF Personnel and Veterans which includes 22 policies that will directly support current and ex-serving members and their families.

It also acknowledges our military legacy and once again expresses our gratitude for all current service and ex-service personnel for the sacrifices they make.

Labor has long said if there is more we can be doing to support our veterans, we should be doing it.

Labor will support our veterans through our comprehensive $121 million Veterans’ Employment Package – assisting those from military to civilian life.

We will also support our ADF personnel and their families through our National Family Engagement and Support Strategy and we are committed to ensuring DVA remains as a standalone department.

As the largest garrison town in Australia, Labor is announcing this plan in Townsville, acknowledging the pride of place this town has with the ADF and our veteran personnel.

There are nearly 6,000 DVA clients in Townsville who access support and services. That is why Labor has announced $5 million of funding towards Townsville Oasis – a veterans hub dedicated to providing the best care possible.

There is no doubt that our ADF is a unlike other workplaces, with ADF members not able to directly negotiate their wages and conditions with their employer.

Labor will ensure that ADF members’ views are represented at both the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal and to the government by providing the Defence Force Welfare Association with $100,000 per annum to ensure our ADF members have an advocate.

Labor is committed to giving our veterans the best possible support with policies which provide tangible outcomes.

One of the most important and urgent ways we can give weight and meaning to Lest We Forget is to ensure our veterans and their families receive the support and respect they deserve.

Labor is proud to deliver this significant investment to better support our current serving members, veterans and their families.

A list of Labor’s veterans policies can be found here.

9 May 2019

DVA 2019 Client Satisfaction Survey

“The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is currently preparing for 2019 Client Satisfaction Survey, which will be held in June/July this year.

The survey seeks to understand how clients feel about their interactions with DVA, and how we can improve the way we provide services and support to veterans and their families. Understanding the experiences of our clients and capturing feedback is critical during this period of change, which is why DVA has committed to conducting the Client Satisfaction Survey on an annual basis.

ORIMA Research, an independent market research company, will conduct the survey on DVA’s behalf, and will ensure the collection of statistically robust and objective data.

Clients selected as part of the sample group, will receive a letter in the first instance, explaining the survey process and how to opt out of the survey if they do not wish to participate. As per 2018, approximately 3,000 clients will be contacted by ORIMA Research to respond to the telephone survey. The survey calls generally take approximately 20 minutes to complete.

All information will be collected and stored in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles and the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). Answers given by participants are completely confidential and any personal details which may identify participants in any way, will not be passed to DVA. Answers will not in any way affect benefits or services which participants are entitled to from DVA.

Information about the survey can be found on DVA’s website. If you have any questions please email us at [email protected], or call the general enquires line on 1800 555 254.

I encourage you and your members to participate in this survey as DVA values your views and feedback as we work to transform to put veterans and their families at the centre of our business.

Yours sincerely,”

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Liz Cosson AM CSC

Secretary
Department of Veterans’ Affairs