Bud­get vets pack­age wel­comed

Western Suburbs Weekly - - News - By JON BAS­SETT

VETER­ANS groups have wel­comed the $350 mil­lion an­nounced for veter­ans’ care, in­clud­ing sui­cide pre­ven­tion, in the Fed­eral Bud­get last week.

“The one area that is still be­ing ne­glected, and it’s a Fed­eral Govern­ment pol­icy and is not the Depart­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs, is the fi­nan­cial rate of the spe­cial-rate dis­abil­ity pen­sion,” WA Veter­ans Coun­cil chair­man Max Ball told the West­ern Sub­urbs Weekly.

The Govern­ment touted the $350 mil­lion as help for veter­ans’ men­tal health across Aus­tralia.

Two veter­ans com­mit­ted sui­cide on An­zac Day, in ad­di­tion to one in South Aus­tralia and a serv­ing mem­ber of the armed forces in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory, both on April 29.

The $1092 per fort­night spe­cial­rate dis­abil­ity pen­sion, known as the To­tally and Per­ma­nently In­ca­pac­i­tated (TPI) Pen­sion, is given to ser­vice per­son­nel with an in­jury that makes them med­i­cally un­able to work.

Mr Ball said the pen­sion should be a “fair and just amount” closer to av­er­age weekly earn­ings, listed as $1533 last Novem­ber by the Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics.

He said the coun­cil was cur­rently analysing the Bud­get’s im­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing an ex­act def­i­ni­tion of the age, con­flicts or ser­vice that would be used to qual­ify for the new Younger Veter­ans Grants to­talling $4 mil­lion.

“Those grants are go­ing to be use­ful for us if we want to build a veter­ans hub or buy a car­a­van, but maybe not for our day-to-day op­er­a­tions,” Mor­ley-based Veter­ans 360 chief ex­ec­u­tive Jay Dev­ereux said.

Veter­ans 360 spe­cialises in find­ing home­less, sui­ci­dal and lost veter­ans, given them homes and direct­ing then to coun­selling, across all states.

Mr Dev­ereux said “good” changes funded in the Bud­get in­cluded $37.9 mil­lion and re­cently changed cri­te­ria for help for a men­tal health con­di­tion, re­gard­less of whether it is re­lated to ser­vice, and gen­eral prac­ti­tion­ers be­ing al­lowed to sign doc­u­ments for quicker ap­pli­ca­tions.

He said an ex­am­ple of change im­prov­ing veter­ans’ abil­ity for speed­ier as­sis­tance was the Govern­ment’s re­cent recognition a sol­dier could lift 138,000kg dur­ing ba­sic train­ing and 370,000kg over five years of ser­vice, which demon­strated the cause of later-life back in­juries.

FED­ERAL Bud­get fund­ing of about $350 mil­lion for armed ser­vice veter­ans suf­fer­ing de­pres­sion, sui­ci­dal thoughts, al­co­holism, in­jury and re­turn­ing to civil­ian life is wel­come. But why is it tak­ing this long to make post-ser­vice care and un­der­stand­ing part of the Aus­tralian way of life, given the lessons of his­tory and the ob­vi­ous real­ity the coun­try will con­tinue to be in­volved in con­flict? The lega­cies of par­tic­i­pa­tion in ma­jor con­flicts left veter­ans bat­tling the bot­tle, fam­i­lies, their mem­o­ries.

But the so­ci­eties to which they re­turned were of­ten obliv­i­ous to their ex­pe­ri­ences, un­fa­mil­iar with the na­ture of the con­flicts, and the gov­ern­ments which they had served were reticent to cre­ate post-ser­vice regimes of care and fair­ness.

It could be said that post-ser­vice life is more dan­ger­ous than be­ing in ac­tive ser­vice, given more re­turned ser­vice per­son­nel have com­mit­ted sui­cide than have been killed in re­cent con­flicts.

It is up to all Aus­tralians to de­mand and par­tic­i­pate in a post-ser­vice sys­tem of care and fair­ness, a source of as much na­tional pride as that ex­pressed on An­zac Day.

Jon Bas­sett - Reporter

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