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Statement: [veteran's mental health care]



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Thursday 6 June 2013

VA052

STATEMENT

An ABC 730 story, aired on Thursday 6 June 2013, contained a number of serious factual inaccuracies, most seriously the claim that a person does not have access to treatment while they are awaiting the resolution of a claim.

This is incorrect and irresponsible reporting. The journalist refused to interview a DVA mental health expert on a number of occasions before the piece was aired. Dr Hodson also conducted a separate interview with ABC Television Hobart earlier today (Thursday 6 June).

Contrary to claims in the 730 piece, there are immediate and direct ways for veterans to access care, without the need to lodge a compensation claim.

DVA will pay for treatment for diagnosed PTSD, other anxiety disorders and depression for eligible veterans, with no requirement for these conditions to be related to service.

Help is also available through the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS). VVCS provides counselling and group programs to veterans, peacekeepers and eligible family members. It is a specialised, free and confidential Australia-wide service and may be contacted 24 hours a day on 1800 011 046.

Applying for compensation is a very separate process to getting treatment for a condition. This is why DVA ensures veterans with diagnosed PTSD or anxiety disorders have immediate and direct ways to access care, without the need to lodge a compensation claim.

DVA spends in excess of $166 million dollars a year on mental health support and care, which is in addition to compensation, or other payments to veterans.

Compensation and health care have been deliberately conflated by the journalist and his sources to convey a very different situation than is actually the case.

The journalist has also neglected to mention the significant new Veteran Mental Health Strategy released on 27 May 2013 which is supported by an investment of $26.4 million in the 2013-14 budget, providing additional mental health care and support, instead opting to rely on outdated comments from a former DVA staff member.

The full response provided to 730 follows -

Good morning Michael Thank you for your inquiry.

As offered yesterday, Departmental Officer, Dr Stephanie Hodson, Mental Health Adviser, remains available for interview today. Please contact the Public Affairs team at DVA on 02 6289 6203 should you wish to interview Dr Hodson.

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046

Subscribe to media releases at minister.dva.gov.au/subscribe.htm

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Please see below a written response to your inquiry. If you would like to quote us, please quote a Departmental spokesperson.

With the draw down from Afghanistan, the mental health of veterans, including those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), continues to be a key focus for the Department.

It is important for people who have concerns about mental health to seek help early. There are immediate and direct ways for eligible veterans to access care, without the need to lodge a compensation claim. DVA administers a non-liability health care scheme which covers the cost of treatment for diagnosed PTSD, other anxiety disorders and depression suffered by eligible veterans. The Government has announced that, from 1 July 2014, this scheme will be expanded to include treatment for alcohol and other substance misuse disorders, and extended to those with eligible peacetime defence service since 1994. There is no requirement for these conditions to be related to service in order to access treatment.

Help is also available through the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS). VVCS provides counselling and group programs to veterans, peacekeepers and eligible family members. It is a specialised, free and confidential Australia-wide service and may be contacted 24 hours a day on 1800 011 046.

Applying for compensation is a very separate process to simply getting treatment for a condition. A compensation claim is usually more complex, because a much wider variety of information such as military service history and specific medical and other evidence is required to establish a link between the condition and ADF service. Also, depending on the information supplied with the initial claim, additional research and medical opinions is often necessary. These requirement can extend the time taken to finalise a claim.

The 2013-14 Budget contains funding of $1.7m over four years to improve processing for compensation claims, with a particular focus on the timeliness of claims for mental health conditions.

This additional funding to improve processing times will mitigate the risk of the claims process exacerbating a client's mental health condition. It will also help to provide access to financial support as soon as possible.

DVA is addressing the times taken to process claims through a range of measures, including:  applying streamlining processes;  further training and guidance for staff;  the redistribution of claims across locations;  the prioritisation of cases;  the redevelopment of Information, Communication and Technology tools; and  improved access to information from the Department of Defence.

DVA is looking to the future and positioning itself to meet the needs of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, including a potential increase in demand for mental heath services over the coming years.

A new Veteran Mental Health Strategy was released on 27 May 2013. Its development included a public consultation period from November 2012 until February 2013, with thirty submissions received by the end of consultation. This provides a ten year framework for the provision of mental health care to support veterans and their families. The Strategy’s purpose is to set the context for the provision of mental health care; identify strategic objectives and priority actions to guide mental health policy and programs; and ensure the best possible outcomes for individual health and wellbeing.

Mental health information and resources for veterans and their families are available at DVA’s At-Ease website www.at-ease.dva.gov.au.

Media inquiries: Minister Snowdon: Lidija Ivanovski 02 6277 7820 Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203 D e