The Ex-Service Organisation (ESO) Round Table met for the 24th time in Canberra on 14 November 2013. Mr Simon Lewis, Chair, welcomed the members and representatives.
Address by the Minister
The Minister, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, addressed the meeting, and spoke about the challenges ahead, in particular in regards to mental health, the changing expectations of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) clients, and the need to embrace technology to respond adequately.
The following member submissions were discussed:
Service Dog Program
Mr John Jarrett, President and Welfare Officer, the Young Diggers Association (YDA) provided members with a comprehensive presentation on the Service Dog Program. Current and former ADF members that access this scheme receive dogs trained as either fully accredited companions or assistance dogs.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Members were advised that mental health will continue to be a priority for DVA. The Department currently funds a broad range of treatment and research programs for veterans with mental health conditions. Members were advised of the need for early intervention and evidence-based treatment. It was recognised by members that current serving members are often reluctant to come forward given the stigma associated with mental health conditions. The latest resources and further information can be found at DVA’s At Ease website here http://at-ease.dva.gov.au/.
Implementation of the White Card for SRCA Clients
A concern was raised that some health care providers are not accepting DVA’s new card arrangements. Members were advised that DVA has processes in place and is committed to working with health care providers and peak bodies to minimise any impact on DVA clients. The implementation of White Cards for SRCA clients is on track and those most impacted by the transition have been contacted where contact details are available.
The following presentations were made to members
ADF Assistance Trust
Ms Allison Stephens, Executive Officer, Australian Defence Force (ADF) Assistance Trust (the Trust) provided members with an overview of the Trust. The Trust provides financial support, medical assistance and educational opportunities for members of the ADF and their families whose lives have been adversely affected by military service.
ADF Theatre Project
Brigadier Alison Creagh CSC, ADF Theatre Project provided an overview of Project company. The company is commencing a tour shortly to perform a play written from the experiences of a number of injured ADF members. In addition to the play being based on ADF members’ stories, the cast also includes a significant number of ADF personnel as part of their rehabilitation. Previous British experience in this type of undertaking has demonstrated significant benefits to participants.
Departmental Updates included:
Refining the Appeal Process to a Single Pathway; the Future of Veterans’ Advocacy and TIP Accreditation and BEST Round 16
Members discussed the future of advocacy and the best way to ensure that younger advocates are recruited to replace the current cohort. Members considered the need for advocacy training to move to an accreditation model, and the possibility of leveraging the expertise of established educational facilities to deliver the training and to develop centres of excellence.
There would be further discussion at the February meeting on the way forward for future BEST funding.
Statutory Timeframes for Claims Processing
Members were advised that DVA is conducting research into the implications of statutory timeframes. Feedback from the ESO community has been requested. DVA has implemented administrative enhancements to the processing of MRCA initial liability claims. In parallel with this, a broader analysis is being undertaken of the claims process, which is aimed at reducing times taken to process initial liability claims.
Analysis of the Compensation Appeals Pathway
Members were provided an update on the review currently underway into primary determinations that have been set-aside or varied across the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA), Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988(SRCA) and Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA).
Update on the Interdepartmental Committee for Streamlining the Administration of Transitioning and Former ADF Members (IDC-SATFAM)
Members were provided an update on IDC-SATFAM, which oversees the work of the related Interdepartmental Working Group (IWG-SATFAM). DVA is working closely with Defence on related activities through other channels including the Defence Links Steering Committee and Defence and DVA Executive Committee.
Consultation Framework Review Update
Members were provided an update on the outcomes of the Review. The revised framework aims to reflect the contemporary needs of the veteran community. Mental health issues will be covered across the spectrum under the new arrangements.
National Consultation Forum updates
Emerging themes discussed at the Deputy Commissioners’ Consultation Forums included; indigenous champions, SRCA White Card, mild traumatic brain injury and homelessness.
Wreath Laying Protocol
A member presented a submission requesting recognition be given to the status of War Widows as chief mourners by all organisations and associations at wreath laying ceremonies. Members were advised that as DVA does not set national commemorative service protocols it is not in a position to prescribe what happens at events that are under the management of other organisations. Where DVA manages an event War Widows are afforded due consideration.
Following a member request for clarification on E-Health registration this item will be placed on the agenda for discussion at the next meeting.