26 September 2023

DVA called to speed claim backlogs

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The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has made 13 urgent recommendations in its interim report, with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (DVA) backlogs of claims amongst the most pressing.

Chair of the Commission, Nick Kaldas said suicide in the veteran community was a national tragedy that required immediate action.

“We acknowledge every serving and ex-serving member who has died by suicide – each life lived and each life left behind,” Commissioner Kaldas said.

“We also recognise those serving or former ADF members who have experienced suicidality.”

He said there was an “unacceptable” backlog of DVA claims, almost 42,000 at the end of May this year, that were still awaiting processing.

“We know that the long wait to receive entitlements can have a terrible effect on veterans’ mental health and in some cases leads to suicide and suicidality,” the Commissioner said.

“Behind each claim is a veteran who needs support, and it is gravely important that this assistance is provided as quickly as possible – lives and livelihoods depend on it.”

Commissioner Kaldas said the Government had formally responded to fewer than half of the 57 previous inquiries or reports submitted to it that related to Defence and veteran suicide.

He said the Commission was considering what should follow this Royal Commission, including the need for a permanent body to report on the progress and quality of the implementation of recommendations from this Royal Commission and previous inquiries.

Commissioner Kaldas said that key among the Commission’s 13 recommendations, were the need to simplify complex and confusing veteran compensation and rehabilitation laws; increase legal protections for serving and ex-serving ADF members to engage with the Royal Commission; the exemption of the Commission from parliamentary privilege; and for Defence and DVA to improve access for serving and ex-serving members (and their families) to their service information, including medical records.

The Royal Commission’s 345-page interim report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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