Budget vets package welcomed
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