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

Joint Media Release – Support for our Veterans and their Families

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 “The Coalition will boost support for veterans and their   families as part of a $63.2 million suite of initiatives to   create Veterans’ Wellbeing Centres across the country,   deliver job opportunities and secure health and housing   services for the future.
 We will invest $30 million in a network of six new   Veterans’ Wellbeing Centres that will bring together the   key services for our veterans and their families.
The new Centres will integrate government and non-government support for Australians who have served in our Defence Forces with local health services community organisations, advocacy and wellbeing support. They will partner with ex-service organisations and state and territory governments across Australia.

Our government has a strong track record delivering services and support to our veterans and their families. We understand the role that ex-service organisations play in supporting veterans after their service has concluded.
In order to support them to deliver those services, we want to help more organisations find more veterans meaningful civilian jobs. That’s why we will also invest $16.2 million to support organisations including Soldier On, Team Rubicon and State Branches of the RSL. Along with other ex-service organisations, these groups will also be able to use the new Veterans’ Wellbeing Centres to deliver their services.

We know how important exercise physiology and physiotherapy are for Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) veterans so we will deliver an extra $17 million to exempt them from the new ‘Treatment Cycle’ requirements that were due to commence on 1 July 2019, allowing TPI veterans to continue to access these important allied health services under existing arrangements.

A re-elected Morrison Government will also make it easier for veterans to access the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme. We will extend the time for eligible veterans to access the program from two to five years after they complete their ADF service. This will allow veterans and their families more time to settle their affairs and find a home once their service has been completed.
We will also extend eligibility to the Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme to allow any current or former ADF member who has at least one day of service to access home building insurance through the Scheme. That means veterans can access more competitively priced home building insurance, particularly in disaster prone areas, which will lower the cost of living for veterans and their families, particularly in northern Australia.

The Coalition has introduced legislation to create an Australian Veterans’ Covenant, which, in partnership with the ex-service community, will formally recognise the unique nature of military service and acknowledge and honour the service and sacrifice of our service personnel.

We also understand it is important our veterans are appropriately recognised by the community and businesses, even when they’re not wearing their medals and uniforms. That’s why we’ve launched the Australian Veterans’ Card and Lapel Pin, so veterans can be appropriately recognised, including by businesses who want to offer special discounts and offers to veterans.

The Coalition’s plan to put our veterans and their families first builds on an extensive record of support for veterans:
 – The record $11 billion we deliver to support 280,000 veterans and their families each year
 – Extending access to the DVA Gold Card for civilian medical teams in the Vietnam War
 – $500 million we’ve committed to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs to better meet the needs of veterans and their families
 – $100 million we invested in the Sir John Monash Centre in France
 – $498 million committed over the next nine years to redevelop the Australian War Memorial and allow the Memorial to display more of their collection and proudly tell the stories from recent years in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Solomon Islands and East Timor.
 – Delivering our $1.4 billion in fairer indexation for military superannuants.
 – Supporting Kookaburra Kids to help the children of veterans affected by mental illness.
 – Cutting waiting times for claims through the Department and streamlining the process through the new MyService system

Only the Coalition can be trusted to deliver for veterans and their families.”

Wednesday 24 April 2019

New funding provided for establishment of Veterans’ Wellbeing Centres

The Coalition government has promised to invest $30 million into the creation of Veterans’ Wellbeing Centres that it says will bring together the key services for veterans and their families.

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The establishment of the centres is part of a $63.2 million series of initiatives that will help deliver job opportunities for veterans across the country, as well as securing health and housing services.

The new centres will integrate government and non-government support for Australians who have serviced in the Defence Force, partnering with ex-service organisations and state and territory governments.

It comes alongside a host of other promises offered by the Coalition, including:

$16.2 million investment to support organisations including Soldier On, Team Rubicon and state branches of the RSL;

$17 million investment to exempt totally and permanently incapacitated (TPI) veterans from the new ‘treatment cycle’ requirements that were due to commence in July;

Extend the time offered for eligible veterans to access the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme from two to five years after completing ADF service; and

Extend eligibility to the Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme to allow current or former ADF members to access home building insurance

“Our government has a strong track record delivering services and support to our veterans and their families. We understand the role that ex-service organisations play in supporting veterans after their service has concluded,” a joint release from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said.

ADSO Media Release – ADSO Policy Objectives 2019-2022

The Alliance of Defence Service Organisation (ADSO) welcomes the opportunity to announce its core Policy Objectives as a timely reminder to those seeking election to the 46th Parliament of Australia.

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A significant portion of the veterans’ community, speaking largely with a single voice, continues to seek redress of a series of key issues, many of which have been outstanding for too long.
Some issues have been the subject of unfulfilled promises, not the least of which includes providing Australia’s most disabled Veterans and their families with an adequate standard of living.

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In commenting on the Objectives and encouraging all sides of politics to find legislative ways to redress each issue in turn, ADSO’s National Spokesman, Kel Ryan, wished to acknowledge that the Government, with the Labor Opposition’s support, had taken action on a long-held key Objective, namely to legislate an Australian Military (Veterans) Covenant that gives formal recognition to the Unique Nature of Military Service. The Covenant will be an early item of business for Senators in the next parliament to debate and give effect to it in law.

ADSO also wished to acknowledge the recent veterans’ policy announcements made by both the Government and the Opposition. The bi-partisan approach to an independent inquiry into the administration of the DFRDB commutation arrangements is particularly welcomed. As the Commonwealth Ombudsman will chair the inquiry, we recommend that as many of the issues as possible plaguing the DFRDB scheme from its outset be addressed by the Ombudsman, irrespective of the restrictive Terms of Reference. Those affected by the scheme have long-held the view that, while fair indexation was an abiding issue that must be fixed, there were equally other aspects of the scheme that should be remedied. The illogical and inappropriate use of out-of-date 1962-vintage life tables is but one.

Glaringly omitted from the policy statements by both the Government and the Opposition is recognition of the immensity of the advocacy and welfare work, and the vital role the wider ex-service community plays in support of veterans and their families. That includes the 18-member strong ADSO entity that speaks with one voice, Without exception, they are all not only volunteer-based but lack completely any financial help beyond the meagre amounts available to each Association separately under the DVA Grant-in Aid scheme. And yet ADSO with its vast veterans membership base, missed completely any mention in policy announcements that it too would be supported along with other service providers.
ADSO calls on both sides of politics to acknowledge the contribution of ADSO by funding it for the work it performs on behalf of Government and DVA, and the broad Australian veterans community.

29th April 2019

Media Statement – ADSO Policy Objectives 2019-2022

The Alliance of Defence Service Organisation (ADSO) welcomes the opportunity to announce its core Policy Objectives as a timely reminder to those seeking election to the 46th Parliament of Australia that the veterans’ community, speaking largely with a single voice, continues to seek redress of a series of key grievances, many of which have been outstanding for far too long.

Some issues have been the subjects of unfulfilled promises, not the least of which includes the inability to provide Australia’s most disabled Veterans and their families with an adequate standard of living.

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In commenting on the Objectives and encouraging all sides of politics to find legislative ways to redress each issue in turn, ADSO’s National Spokesman, Kel Ryan, wished to acknowledge that the Government, with the Opposition’s support, had taken action on a long-held key Objective, namely to legislate an Australian Military (Veterans) Covenant that gives formal recognition to the Unique Nature of Military Service. The Covenant has passed in the House of Representatives. Senators in the next parliament will have the honour of debating the important Bill and giving effect to it in law.

ADSO also wishes to support the outstanding initiatives that established ‘The Oasis Townsville’, a long-held aspiration of the Townsville ESO Community to have a single hub to which all veterans and their families could go, to be then referred out to the services available from the other ESOs in the area. The ‘Oasis’ is a model concept that could in whole, or in part, be replicated in other parts of Australia. ADSO wishes to congratulate all involved.
The Oasis is reflective of the collaboration that is possible between Ex-Service Organisations to help each other to achieve outcomes for a common cause; to have a shared focus on supporting serving and ex-serving members of the Australian Defence Force; to make the lives of these men, women and their families better, healthier, happier and more rewarding.
16th April 2019

ADSO comprises:
The Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA), Naval Association of Australia (NAA), RAAF Association (RAAFA), Royal Australian Regiment Corporation (RARC), Australian Special Air Service Association (ASASA), the Australian Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex-Service Men and Women (TPI Fed), the Fleet Air Arm Association of Australia (FAAAA), Partners of Veterans Association of Australia (PVA), Royal Australian Armoured Corps Corporation (RAACC), the National Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association Australia (NMBVAA), Defence Reserves Association (DRA), Australian Gulf War Veterans Association, Australian Commando Association (ACA), the War Widows Guild of Australia (WWG), Military Police Association Australia (MPAA), the Australian Army Apprentices Association (AAAA), the Women Veterans Network Australia (WVNA) and the Combat Support Association (CSA).