Many struggling veterans are waiting years for their compensation claims to be processed by a chronically under-staffed DVA, and there is a huge backlog of more than 60,000 claims. The Secretary of DVA has admitted that long wait times and DVA’s excessive reliance on poorly trained labour hire workers may have contributed to veteran suicides.
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has called the backlog of claims a “national disgrace” and even threatened to resign over the issue before the Prime Minister even took any notice.
Day after day, the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide is hearing the devastating impact this failure is having on veterans and their families.
Many veterans want to access services close to home, while ex-service organisations want to deliver co-ordinated support and services to fellow veterans and their loved ones locally. Veteran hubs provide a space for a number of veterans’ services and advocacy organisations to co-exist and provide holistic wrap-around support to current and ex-serving personnel and their families.
Housing entitlements are a key recruitment and retention tool, however housing affordability is one of the biggest issues facing Australia, and it is harder to buy a house today than ever before.
Before the 2019 election, Scott Morrison raised expectations he would increase the TPI Payment by committing to a review of the pension and telling the TPI Federation they had a “compelling case.” However after the election the TPI review failed to recommend an increase, which left many TPI veterans disgusted.
In response, Labor initiated a Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee inquiry into the TPI Payment last year, which unanimously recommended a “modest increase” in the payment. However, the Government ignored the recommendation.
Many veterans struggle to find work when they transition to civilian life, which can lead to other problems, such as mental illness, homelessness, incarceration and suicide. Anecdotally, veterans say employers often have misconceptions about employing ex-service personnel and they can experience discrimination in the job market.
Families play a pivotal role in supporting our current serving ADF personnel and veterans. We know the nature of military life is unique and families can also be deeply affected by military service, yet they do not always have a voice and a seat at the table when it comes to the support they need. The September 2021 Interim National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention’s report on past defence and veteran suicides also recommended more support for defence families.
One in 10 people sleeping rough in NSW is a veteran. Around 5,800 ex-servicemen and women have been homeless in a 12-month period, far more than previously estimated. RSL Queensland has seen a 26 per cent increase in demand for their veteran homelessness program year on year and RSL NSW has also reported a 25 per cent increase in the number of veterans seeking housing support. Carry On Victoria, which provides crisis accommodation for veterans sleeping rough, estimates 7,500 veterans are homeless in Victoria.
An Albanese Labor Government will cut waiting times and the backlog of compensation claims by rebuilding DVA, investing in 500 staff at a cost of $226.3 million to speed up claims processing times in the department. Labor will also abolish the arbitrary public service staffing cap, which will allow DVA to hire more well-trained permanent workers to process claims faster.
Labor will invest $42.9 million to develop 10 veteran hubs across Australia in South West Perth, Northern Adelaide, the North Brisbane-Moreton Bay region, Ipswich, Queanbeyan, the Hawkesbury region, the Hunter, the Tweed and North Coast region, Surf Coast and Geelong region, and Tasmania. Delivery of these hubs would commence as soon as possible after the election for completion by 2024-25.
The hubs will be delivered in consultation with local veteran communities and in partnership with State Governments and community and ex-service organisations to provide veterans with access to local services and support for veterans’ transition to civilian life.
The Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme provides eligible defence personnel and veterans with a monthly subsidy on mortgage interest payments and is an important housing benefit provided to assist current and former ADF members purchase their own home.
Labor will commit $60.1 million to relax the eligibility criteria for DHOAS by reducing or removing minimum service requirements for each subsidy tier from 1 January 2023.
ADF personnel and veterans buying a house in a regional centre like Townsville or Darwin will also be able to take advantage of Labor’s Regional First Home Buyer Support Scheme, which will save buyers up to $32,000 in mortgage insurance and allow them to secure a home with a deposit as low as 5 per cent.
An Albanese Labor Government will introduce a $1,000 permanent increase in the annual rate of the TPI Payment for Australia’s 27,000 TPI veterans from 1 January 2023. A one-off increase of $1,000 in the annual rate is equivalent to an increase of $38.46 per fortnight, so the TPI Payment would increase from $39,488.80 per year to $40,488.80 per year, or from $1,518.80 to $1,557.26 per fortnight if introduced now (it will apply to the new payment rates following the next indexation adjustment in September). This will cost $97.8 million.
An Albanese Labor Government will commit $24 million over four years to ensure veterans’ skills and experience are valued and appreciated by the wider community. This will be achieved through initiatives to raise awareness of the benefits of employing veterans, helping businesses to train veterans, supporting veterans’ education and training, translating the experience of veterans, and promoting veteran businesses.
An Albanese Labor Government will develop a national family engagement and support strategy, which will provide a blueprint for engagement by Defence and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) with military families and identify improvements to family support. This policy will complement the comprehensive Family Support Package legislation that Labor supported but the Government failed to pass during this Parliamentary term. The cost of this policy would be absorbed by Defence and DVA.
Labor will invest $30 million over five years to build housing and fund specialist services for veterans who are experiencing homelessness or are at-risk of homelessness. This will be part of a $10 billion off-budget Housing Australia Future Fund an Albanese Labor Government will create to build social and affordable housing now and into the future.
Disaster Relief Australia (DRA) runs the National Veteran Volunteer Service – a veteran-led and delivered service responding to natural disasters in affected communities, easing pressure on deployments of the ADF, and providing a continuum of service, fellowship, and support for veterans. Labor will provide DRA with $38.1 million over three years. This will allow DRA to add another 5,200 volunteer veterans to its ranks (a total of 6,700 veteran volunteers able to provide over 13,600 volunteer days per annum).