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Positive start to 2005 for veteran community.



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Minister for Veterans' Affairs Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence

Thursday 23 December, 2004 VA094

POSITIVE START TO 2005 FOR VETERAN COMMUNITY

The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, De-Anne Kelly, today extended her best wishes to the veteran and defence communities for a happy and safe Christmas and New Year.

"I look forward to a productive year in 2005 for veterans’ affairs, and to working with the veteran and defence communities," Mrs Kelly said.

"The year will have a positive start with a number of initiatives commencing from 1 January 2005 that will increase the support and health care offered to the veteran community.

"Some 8000 war widows and widowers who rent privately and receive a DVA income support payment will receive an increase in their overall payment as a result of the Government’s commitment to pay rent assistance in addition to the ceiling rate of income support."

Mrs Kelly said the high quality and comprehensive medical care available to the veteran community will also get a boost in 2005.

"Registered GPs will receive 115 per cent of the Medicare Benefits Schedule fee, plus an increased Veteran Access Payment, when treating eligible Gold and White Card holders. Registered GPs will receive up to $11.85 more for treating veterans, depending on the service provided," she said.

"Of course, GPs treating members of the veteran community will also be eligible for the $10 loading for services delivered after hours, as part of the Government’s commitment to support round the clock GP services under Medicare.

"This Government has also committed $158 million over four years for most medical specialists who provide services to veterans. Specialists covered by this initiative will receive an across the board fee increase of 15 per cent for consultations and 20 per cent for procedures.

"All Australian former prisoners of war in low-level aged care facilities will have their daily care fees paid for by the Government, and will be exempt from income tested fees."

Mrs Kelly said the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will be closed for the Christmas-New Year break, from Monday 27 December 2004, reopening on Tuesday 4 January 2005.

"Christmas is a special time, but for those members of the veteran community who need support during the festive season free 24-hour counselling is offered through Veterans Line - even during the Christmas-New Year break. Any veteran, war widow or member of their family who needs support can contact Veterans Line on 1800 011 046.

"Again, I extend my warmest wishes for a happy festive season to the veteran and defence communities."

Media contact: Matthew Magin 0411 079 843