The Australian Government’s Productivity Commission has released its inquiry report – A Better Way to Support Veterans

This report sets out the Commission’s findings and recommendations on a better way to support veterans. The key message of this report is that despite recent improvements to the system, the current veterans’ compensation and rehabilitation system requires fundamental reform.

The following are among the key points:

  • Despite some recent improvements to the veterans’ compensation and rehabilitation system, it is not fit for purpose – it requires fundamental reform. It is out-of-date and is not working in the best interest of veterans and their families, or the Australian community.
  • In 2017-18, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) spent $13.2 billion supporting about 166 000 veterans and 117 000 dependants (about $47 000 per client). And while the veteran support system is more generous overall than other workers’ compensation schemes, this does not mean it is an effective system.
  • The system fails to focus on the lifetime wellbeing of veterans. It is overly complex (legislatively and administratively), difficult to navigate, inequitable, and it is poorly administered (which places unwarranted stress on claimants).
  • The institutional and policy split between Defence and DVA also embeds perverse incentives, inefficient administration and poor accountability, and results in policy and implementation gaps.
  • A future veteran support system needs to have a focus on the lifetime wellbeing of veterans.
  • New governance, funding and cross agency arrangements are required to address the problems with the current system.
    • A single Minister responsible for Defence Personnel and Veterans is needed to ensure policy making for serving and ex-serving personnel is integrated.
    • An advisory council to the Minister should be established to provide advice on the lifetime wellbeing of veterans.
    • A new independent statutory agency – the Veteran Services Commission (VSC) – should be created to administer and oversee the performance of the veteran support system.
    • An annual premium to fund the expected costs of future claims should be levied on Defence.
    • A ‘whole-of-life’ veteran policy under the direction of the Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans needs to be developed by DVA, Defence and the VSC. This should include more rigorous cross-agency planning processes (including external expertise).
    • Responsibility for preparing serving veterans for, and assisting them with, their transition to civilian life should be centralised in a new Joint Transition Authority within Defence.
  • DVA’s Veteran Centric Reform program has some good objectives and is showing some signs of success.
  • The current system should be simplified by: continuing to make it easier for clients to access; rationalising benefits; harmonising across the Acts (including a single pathway for reviews of decisions, a single test for liability and common assessment processes); and moving to two compensation and rehabilitation schemes by July 2025.
  • Scheme 1 should largely cover an older cohort of veterans with operational service, based on a modified Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986. Scheme 2 should cover all other veterans, based on a modified Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004, and over time will become the dominant scheme.
  • Veterans’ organisations play an important role in the system. DVA could better leverage this support network by commissioning services from them, including for veterans’ hubs.
  • The Gold Card runs counter to a number of the key principles that should underlie a future scheme – it is not wellness-focused or needs based. An independent review of DVA’s fee-setting arrangements for health services is also required.
  • The way treatments and supports are commissioned and provided to veterans and their families also needs to change. The VSC would more proactively engage with veterans and their families (taking a person-centred approach, tailoring treatments and supports) and have greater oversight of providers than under current arrangements.
  • Expanding non-liability coverage to mental health care was a positive step. However, a new Veteran Mental Health Strategy that takes a lifetime approach is urgently needed. Suicide prevention should be a focus of the Strategy, informed by ongoing research and evaluation.
  • Families of veterans have access to a number of support services provided by DVA, including access to Open Arms counselling services, respite care, and the Family Support Package. Eligibility for the Family Support Package should be extended.

For further information and to download the report and overview visit the Productivity Commission website.

For a range of other reports and reviews visit the resources stream within or news section on our website.