DVA dubbed "adversarial"
The Minister for Veterans says the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) has been “too adversarial” with compensation claims.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester held a summit in Canberra about veterans' mental health this week.
Afterwards, he told reporters; “The DVA has been guilty of being too adversarial in terms of whether it's protecting the public purse or putting veterans through a lot of hoops”.
But, he said there are now signs that the DVA is making progress.
“The changing culture now is around taking a more beneficial approach to the veteran or their family in terms of providing those support measures. So I think there has been improvement, I think there's real progress here,” he said.
“The feedback I've received from the key ex-service organisations in about [the] 15 months I've been in the role is that they are seeing improvements, and they want to see us keep working with them to bed down even further improvements in the future.
“The DVA has to win back the trust of Australian veterans and their families and the service community more generally.”
The department has come under fire from veterans, their families and even the Productivity Commission, which recently criticised its compensation claim process as unfit for purpose.
A petition on Change.org has received over 220,000 signatures, calling for a royal commission into the rate of suicide among veterans and accusing the DVA of treating veterans poorly.
Mr Chester said he plans to contact MPs from all parties with military experience to form a group that will look at veterans' mental health issues.
When asked about a royal commission, Mr Chester said “all options are on the table”.
“But what I've been saying also quite clearly is, in about four or five days' time the Productivity Commission is going to give me a report, which it has been working on for the past year,” he said.
“I understand it's a 1,000-page report, looking at the Department of Veterans' Affairs and making sure it's fit for purpose for the next 100 years.
“That needs to be worked through as well.”
Brian Briggs, a military compensation lawyer with Slater and Gordon, says any money spent on a royal commission could be better spent fixing known problems.
“I think the money would be more wisely spent elsewhere in providing services to the veterans and to the veteran community, not on having numerous lawyers appearing before the royal commission and spending $80 to $100 million, which is only going to lead to further delays,” he said.
“We already know what the issues are, what they need to do is get things happening and happening fast and happening now.
“All this money that's being put in, what are the results? That's where we need to sit back and see what is producing results and what isn't working — and what isn't working should be shut down.”