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Thursday, 4 April 2019
Page: 14927

Health Care

Dear Mrs Wicks

Thank you for your letter of 15 October 2018 regarding a petition (EN0712) requesting all ex-members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) who have served in a war zone, have served 20 years plus, or have been medically discharged, be issued with a Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) Health Card - All Conditions (Gold Card) on discharge.

The Government is committed to supporting veterans and their families and invests more than $11 Billion each year to ensure they receive the critical services and support they deserve.

By way of background, the Gold Card provides health services for any medical condition, regardless of the whether that condition is related to service. At present, there are a number of ways in which an ex-member can be eligible for the Gold Card, such as:

being in receipt of 100 per cent or more of the general rate of disability pension;

being a former prisoner of war;

having rendered qualifying service and reaching the age of 70; and

being a British Nuclear Test participant.

Otherwise, where a medical condition has been accepted as being related to a person's service, treatment for that condition is available through the provision of a DVA Health Card — For Specific Conditions (White Card). Compensation for the accepted condition may also be available, depending on the circumstances.

White there are no plans to further expand eligibility for the Gold Card at this time, the Government has made many important changes to support better access to treatment and streamline administrative processes associated with claiming service related health conditions. In particular, the Government has made several important investments in recent years to ensure better access to mental health care and support for veterans and their families.

For example, Non-Liability Health Care (NLHC) provides free treatment for any mental health condition for anyone with a single day of full-time service in the ADF. Reservists who have rendered disaster relief service, border protection service or were involved in a serious service-related training accident may also be eligible. Those discharging from the ADF are now automatically issued with a White Card for mental health treatment upon their discharge and can access a range of supporting, including services from general practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists and counselling through Open Arms — Veterans and Families Counselling Service.

The Government has also introduced the Veteran Payment in May 2018. This payment provides interim financial support for veterans who lodge a claim for any mental health condition under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) or Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA) while their claim for compensation is being processed.

The Government is also trailing Provisional Access to Medical Treatment. This provides eligible veterans with access to medical treatment while their claim for liability for one of 20 specified service injuries or diseases is being processed under the MRCA or DRCA. Provisional access to medical treatment is intended to contribute to improved physical and mental health of eligible veterans, as well as reduce deterioration of medical conditions.

OVA is also undertaking work to improve and streamline the claims process for clients as part of the significant program of transformation currently underway. Where certain eligibility criteria are met, decision makers can simplify the investigation and decision making process for claims lodged under the MRCA and the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA). There are approximately 40 'decision-ready' conditions under the MRCA, and 11 under the VEA.

Once again, please be assured that the Government is absolutely committed to supporting the health and wellbeing needs of Australia's veteran community and ensuring they can access the services and support they need quickly and easily.

I trust this information is of assistance.

Yours sincerely

from the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Mr Chester(Petition No. EN0712)