From: Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Subscription List
Sent: Wed 15/05/2013 8:58 AM

STRENGTHENING VETERAN MENTAL HEALTH

The 2013-14 Federal Budget will provide an additional $26.4 million over four years to strengthen the mental health support available to Australia’s veteran community, with new measures to take effect from July 2014.

“With the draw down in Afghanistan, the mental health of veterans is a critical priority,” Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, said “This additional funding will help with the prevention, early intervention and treatment of mental health conditions for our veterans and provide an improved compensation claims process,” Mr Snowdon said.

Under the funding, $14.6 million will go to extending existing arrangements which support immediate treatment for diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, other anxiety disorders and depression, without the need to lodge a compensation claim. The arrangements will be extended to include treatment for alcohol and substance misuse disorders.

These arrangements, already available to ex-serving personnel with operational service, will also be extended to ex-serving personnel with eligible peacetime service since 1994.

This responds to the Government’s commitment under the 2011 Review of Military Compensation Arrangements to examine further evidence on access to this treatment.

In recognition of the central role played by the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS), eligibility for this service will also be extended to new groups of current and former serving ADF personnel through this Budget.

These new groups will include border protection personnel, disaster zone personnel, personnel involved in training accidents, ADF members medically discharged, and submariners; and their partners and dependent children up to the age of 26. Partners, dependent children up to 26 years, and parents of ADF members killed in service-related incidents will also be included. This will be funded at a cost of $6.4 million over four years.

Around $1.1 million will also go towards the establishment of a post discharge GP health assessment for former ADF members.

“These steps are important to give wider access to treatment for mental health issues, a crucial move forward and a reminder of this Government’s ongoing commitment to support Australia’s veteran and ex-service community,” Mr Snowdon said.

In addition, the Gillard Government is also funding a range of initiatives designed to build mental health resilience.

A new online program called LifeSMART will build upon the successful Defence resilience program, Stress Management and Resilience Training, to provide a similar program for the ex-service community.

“LifeSMART will assist ex-servicemen and women with problems they may encounter in their daily lives, especially upon returning from service and transitioning back into civilian life,” Mr Snowdon said.

LifeSMART will be complemented by the establishment of a peer-to-peer support network to allow for ongoing support and care for the recovery of clients with a mental health condition.

“Trained peers will be matched to a person in need to assist in the development of coping strategies and management of the day to day challenges of life with a mental health condition,” Mr Snowdon said.

This Budget will improve processing for compensation claims, with a particular focus on the timeliness of claims for mental health conditions.

“To assist veterans with making claims for mental health conditions, the Government will also develop new pathways for making access to Department of Veterans’ Affairs arrangements easier for clients with mental health conditions,” Mr Snowdon said.

“This includes helping to ensure that the compensation claims process does not exacerbate a client’s mental health condition.”

The funding in this Budget will strengthen and enhance the well-established mental health programs that provide invaluable support when and where needed for Australia’s veterans.

“These men and women have fought for our country and have made sacrifices to ensure we live how we do today. They deserve the best support and care available, something this Government is committed to providing,” Mr Snowdon said.

For more information on the 2013-14 Federal Budget, visit www.budget.gov.au.

Media inquiries: Minister Snowdon: 02 6277 7820
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046.