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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7219

Senator Mark Bishop asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, upon notice, on 22 October 2002:

(1) Can the Minister confirm that veterans and war widows requiring transport to medical appointments are now required to order their own taxis, pay for them, and then seek reimbursement from the department; if so: (a) when was this new policy announced; (b) does it operate in all states; (c) is it part of the tender exercise conducted for new transport providers; (d) what savings are estimated from the new procedure; (e) for each state, what is the current average reimbursement time for such claims; (f) what evidence that the travel was legitimate is required prior to reimbursement; (g) what administrative costs have been incurred by the department; (h) for each state, how many complaints from veterans and widows have been received since the introduction of the new scheme; and (i) does the policy apply to hospital visits.

(2) Did the Minister issue a media release advising veterans of the matter; if not, why not.

(3) Did the Minister write to all veterans advising them of the new arrangements; if not, why not

(4) (a) For each state, in how many cases have veterans or war widows required transport to travel further to a new treating doctor where their original doctor no longer accepts the Gold Card; and (b) at what cost.

(5) (a) On how many occasions in the past 6 months have veterans been required to visit a different treating specialist than usual; (b) what additional travel was required; and (c) at what cost.

(6) Is the policy a result of the recent tender process; if so, who were the winning tenderers, by state, and by federal electorate.

Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The Minister for Veterans' Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) has not changed the way in which veterans and war widows access taxi services when travelling for treatment under the Repatriation Transport Scheme (RTS). While the Department is currently investigating ways in which to improve Booked Car with Driver services to the veteran community, there has been no final decision on any new arrangements at this stage. Therefore, the long standing arrangements continue to apply. Under current arrangements, the Department may arrange and pay directly for taxi travel to specific treatment locations as part of the Booked Car with Driver services. These specific treatment locations include:

· a former Repatriation General Hospital;

· providers of prosthetics, surgical footwear and orthotics;

· Office of Hearing Services accredited providers;

· admission to the nearest suitable hospital; or

· specialised treatment not readily available in the community.

Travel to all other treatment locations requires a veteran to make their own arrangements and seek reimbursement from the Department.

(2) and (3) No, as there has been no change in policy.

(4) (a) and (b) DVA does not record this level of information about transport undertaken. Consequently, this information is not available.

(5) (a), (b) and (c) While DVA is aware of a small number of individual cases, there is no requirement for the Department to be advised if a veteran is required to see a different treating specialist than usual. Therefore this information is not available.

(6) See part (2) and (3) above.