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 chair Max Ball told the Eastern Reporter. The Government said the $350 million would help 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 a fortnight special rate disability pension, often 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 his personal view was the pension should be a “fair and just amount” closer to average weekly earnings, which the Australian Bureau of Statistics lists as $1533 in November last year.
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 by 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 improving veterans’ ability for speedier assistance and demonstrating the cause of later life back injuries was the Government’s recent recognition a soldier could lift 138,000kg during basic training and 370,000kg over five years of service.
However, he said the Department of Veterans Affairs still had to collect and co-ordinate national recording of suicide, physical and mental injury and homelessness.