Veteran Community Issues Meeting Thu 20 June 2024

Veteran Community Issues Meeting Thu 20 June 2024

INTRODUCTION

This veteran issues meeting will be co-chaired by Greg Whitehouse and Ian Lindgren

Join us as we delve into the daily challenges faced by the veteran and veteran family community, especially with the impending conclusion of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide we arrive at a crucial juncture awaiting the release of the final report on September 9, 2024. This moment prompts essential questions concerning progress in key areas such as:

  • Addressing the underlying complexities contributing to the angst, complexity, and trauma which contributes to suicidality in the Defence and Veteran Community.
  • Evaluating the proposed simplified and harmonised veteran legislation reforms.
  • Ensuring that members of broader support networks and service providers linked to the Commonwealth are receiving adequate treatment akin to business expectations.

Moreover, since our last meeting, a pertinent question arises: Have the young children and adult children of veterans been duly considered, and have there been tangible improvements in their experiences? These pressing issues shed light on the intricate realities faced by individuals connected to the veteran and veteran family community on a day-to-day basis.

Some initiatives currently underway are firmly locked behind closed doors with no meaningful stakeholder engagement, yet at the other extreme others have been jointly planned by the Comonwealth, veterans and the veteran family community.

Lasty, is this where we expected to be when the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide was established on 8 July 2021

We need attendees that are willing to speak up and more importantly take action, despite the potential negative consequences. We need to do all that in a controlled environment where emotions do not conflict or impede the outcomes.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This position paper aims to shed light on the pivotal issues facing the veteran and veteran family community and to provide actionable recommendations for meaningful change. As our regular attendee from the Australian Commando Association ACT often states, "we need a framework for organising information to help provide timely, accurate, and relevant intelligence to our decision making process" because this will lead is down the path of identifying potential centers of gravity, and possible courses of action.

At the last meeting on 24 May we agreed:

  • By 1 August 2024 to define and understand the most pressing veteran, veteran family community and veteran support network needs in order to present them to DVA in a manner that is sufficiently compelling it leaves no option but to resolve them.
  • That our activity is not a DVA bashing activity; rather it needs to be balanced, so the Commonwelath and our community can work on it together.

The other actions and findings were:

  • We commissioned a survey on Veteran and Veteran Community Health Care that is live at this link: https://bit.ly/3V5UXRs
  • We asked why is it that the DVA Card is not accepted widely, and in some Garrison cities like Darwin significant numbers of veterans must travel to other states for treatment, and of note there are no women's health services that accept DVA Cards in Darwin and this might also be the case in Toowoomba.
  • We found that the issue is not accepting DVA cards is widespread in every state and territory.
  • Linked hand in hand with the former issue we identified concerns about the strict adherence to DVA fee schedules.
  • We asked why is it that Garrison Cities and regional areas grant funding was confusing, duplicated and had no overall coherent purpose.
  • We discussed the need for Veteran and Family Hubs to exist under governance originating in DVA, but delegated to hubs so they can make relationships locally and within the states..
  • We disagreed with the former line from the Commonwealth that still comes out at times that “Despite the important role advocacy plays to assist and support veterans it is not something which is currently governed by any one party or entity”
  • Those in receipt of aged care services indicated that quite often they are not allowed to receive DVA services and sometimes assets like wheelchairs and beds are removed.
  • Children are often overlooked in terms of working with children certifications and also because within Open Arms children under 16 must have their parents present when it could be a parent that is the issue.
  • From the medical community we had examples of continually being hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and questionable pathways to clinical decisions. There was also a lack of transparency in decision making and concern that if you spoke out you would be removed. (Late Note: I felt that this was limited to some degree, but as we will find out this week, it is much broader and affects allied health professionals in other ways as we hear from an audiologist with issues with the Provider Upload Page and Transaction Reference Number)

On a positive note, we have spoken to the Deputy Secretary Policy and Programs, and if we can get examples to him and they are correct, he will do his best to solve them rapidly. This is typical of the new leadership immediately below Alison Frame. So that falls on us, the veteran and veteran family community to undertake.

DVA have agreed to attemd out August meeting, so that gives us our time and space.

How to achieve this?

We need volunteers to do this. It is not the time to listen out of interest; instead, it the time to act decisively after thorough consideration.

Lastly from a personal point of view I advise that we have two businesses express interest in assisting us as part of their corporate social responsibility programs, and while neither is locked in, we must continue to market our need because it is then that we will gain traction. So please do not forget to approach businesses for tax deductable corporate funding.

VETERAN COMMUNITY ISSUES MEETING ON 20 JUNE 2024

The Current Situation.

  • The Royal Commission. Over the last three years, the Royal Commission has been a pivotal force in examining the systemic issues affecting veterans. Tension is palpable within the Commonwealth as Commissioner Nick Kaldas has publicly criticised various entities, adding urgency to address these unresolved issues. I have developed the sense that the final report from the Royal Commission is not going to be kind to many who are supposed to be supporting us. We should also note that one 11 June 2024 the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide had planned to deliver a special report to the Governor-General in June, detailing a proposal for a new entity to follow the Royal Commission. This new entity would provide independent oversight - including monitoring the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations - and help ensure that the prevention of Defence and veteran suicide and suicidality is a paramount consideration for Government and relevant agencies. The Royal Commission had planned to deliver this recommendation in advance of the Final Report, in recognition of the urgency of addressing the national crisis of Defence and veteran suicide. However, the Royal Commission has decided to delay delivery of the special report to allow the Commonwealth appropriate time to respond to matters arising during procedural fairness processes. As such, the recommendation for establishing a new entity will instead be included as part of the Final Report, to be delivered to the Governor-General on 9 September this year. See.
  • DVA. As a member of the Ex-Service Organisation Round Table (ESORT), I have witnessed significant efforts by the Secretary, Deputy Secretaries, and Commissioners to address veteran issues. However, many middle to high-ranking public servants seem resistant to genuine change, focusing more on internal processes than veteran and veteran family outcomes. More recently the stresses apparent are now preventing us from asking questions of the leaders in DVA below the Deputy Secretaries and the Commissioners. Thankfully we now have a single channel in approved by the Secretary to pass these questions. No one is trying to offend anyone, but the "tug of war" between the two states of mind in Table 1 below of being in an organisation that has sound leadership at all levels, where the executive team is healthy and aligned, compared to an organisation that does not display these characteristics has polarising characteristics during change management.
  • The ADF. The ADF is out of my scope, and many will have varied opinions, through relationships I have made I know that the people delivering the work they are being tasked with delivering, are working their rear ends off getting it done.
  • The Commonwealth. The Commonwealth aims to harmonise legislation by modifying the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (MRCA) as the new veteran legislation. Despite claims of thorough consultation, the approach has been piecemeal and we have no veteran and veteran community position. It will be put to Parliament in June 2024. The simplified legislation will continue to create the angst, complexity, and trauma which contributes to suicidality in the Defence and Veteran Community. Why is this so when every other Australian can have workplace injuries assesses and finalise in months as the norm, and fe wpeople need volunteers quasi legal advisers to assist at all times due to complexity.
  • Service Providers. Service providers dedicated to supporting veterans face numerous challenges, from unpaid invoices to bureaucratic inefficiencies. The claim that 97% of invoices are paid on time masks deeper issues, such as delayed payments to major service providers. How many years have we seen the message "we are experiencing an increase in invoices so expect delays?" I continually see that same businesses between $200,000 and $600,000 behind in invoice payments between 30 and 60 days overdue. Is this why some businesses make veterans pay up front now, or just simply do not deal with the Commonwealth?

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

Veteran Suicide. There is nothing more important to act on.

Change Management. One of the most stressful and challenging business activites that often fail. Table 1 below shows some of the characteristics that insert themsaleves.

What Occurs in Organisation as key Change Management Dates Approach

KEY ARGUMENTS

  • Where is the promised improvements for veterans and the veteran family? When I attended a briefing on the new legislation reform to simplify and harmonise veteran compensation and rehabilitation legislation, and I won’t attribute this comment to anyone, but it was presented as ”the simplified system will be an unchanged MRCA. This a good because we won’t need to train people in a new act, we can use the same processes, and we won’t need any new systems.” There is no mention of the word veteran, veteran family or veteran centric in there. It is focussed on everything other than the veteran or veteran family. The simplified legislation will continue to create the angst, complexity, and trauma which contributes to suicidality in the Defence and Veteran Community. Note: I want to acknowledge the former SES Band 1 Officer that led the work. He did an outstanding job given the task he was issued.
  • Why wasn't a green fields solution considered? I can't repeat the answer.
  • Resistance to Change: Despite the leadership's willingness to implement change, some senior managers within DVA exhibit resistance, compromising potential progress. Overcoming this resistance is vital for meaningful reform. Many current initiatives are predominantly inward-focused and not genuinely aimed at improving veteran outcomes. A more outward, veteran-centric approach is needed
  • Governance. Governance, or "how stuff works", is essential to be clearly defined and optimised and continuously improving. There is not much of this. According to the Australian Institute of Company Directors corporate governance is the system that

    • directs and controls an organisation. It is the framework of rules, relationships, and processes that direct and control an organisation. It ensures that the organisation can meet its mission effectively. Given than DVA outsources to ex-service organisations much of the activities that are delivered to it to assist it in meeting its outcomes to Government, corporate governance extends outside of DVA to those business processes that deliver to DVA. So, then we have to consider Management. 'Governance' is different to 'management'. 'Governance' consists of oversight and setting the organisation's strategy, risk tolerance, policy, and culture. Management is about executing day-to-day operations. Here we ask:
    • Is all the investment in ESOs delivering interoperable solutions, and
    • given our focus on children is everyone that works with vulnerable people, the disabled and children on a daily basis holding a valid working with vulnerable people or children certifications?
    • The simplified veteran legislation will continue to create the angst, complexity, and trauma which contributes to suicidality in the Defence and Veteran Community.
  • Who Defines Veteran and Veteran Family Issues? Veterans and their families or a public servant bureaucracy?

SIGNIFICANT INITIATIVES

The Advocacy Working Group. Before I state the purpose of this group; to me the major agreement that has come out of this working group that has re-started three times is that prior to November 2023, it was DVA’s policy that advocacy was governed by no one. It just all happened. This has changed the results of the first two working groups were not presented to ESORT. DVA has taken ownership of the governance of advocacy. The new working group is discussing an independent body to govern advocacy. This would be a company limited by guarantee and governed by a board. This is good because the Advocacy Training and Development Program has not worked.

Offsetting and Superannuation Working Group

This has been split into two working groups because the taxation working group based largely in the Douglas Case implications is far more complex than Offsetting on its own. The group which consists of members from the Young Veterans Forum and ESORT, and an adviser provided by the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans Association, has met once last month and writing the terms of reference the veterans recommended that the two elements separate.

ESO Peak Body Draft Options Project

DVA has taken the initiative here and has an independent company reviewing the various proposals from do nothing, an ESO Peak Body, to a whole of veteran community independent governance body.

Aged Care Working Group

There are concerns Australia wide about aged care for veterans and despite our requests to have this conducted as a joint veteran and DVA activity, this is being conducted internal to DVA. I actually have a issue that is being investigated because children of veterans are expected to take up the liaison role with DVA when their parents are placed in aged care. The request for a day long investigation was made in Sep 23 and began in earnest after escalation three weeks ago. I expect as an ESORT member to see the results in a unfiltered way and with only the privacy issues that are needed. Something triggered a family to spend over 20 hours on the phone with me, make a complaint to DVA and provide some 70 pages of notes to me. Not to mention losing entitlements and then having them reinstated when I intervened.

Grants Advisory Working Group

This is a working group that has a sound terms of reference, but for some reason has ceased progress.

Significant Veteran Issues

That is a fair bit to absorb, but we should be able to agree on and define the most significant veteran and veteran community issues this Thursday if we approach this is a coordinated manner. No emotion: no need to restate the moral trauma you have experienced, and we will not tolerate disruption. Disrupt and you get one warning and then you are out.

CONCLUSION

We stand at a pivotal moment for the veteran and veteran family community, and also for those that support us.

Only veterans and veteran family members can define lived veteran experience. A public servant bureaucracy cannot do this and if it tells us what our issues are they are unlikely to be accurate.

While significant efforts are underway, much remains to be done to ensure that initiatives are genuinely veteran-focused and outcome-oriented. By addressing issues from the bottom up without filtering and developing them into top down engagement as a major stakeholder, we can support DVA in making positive, lasting changes. It is not something that can be done in isolation by any party.

CALL TO ACTION

We urge you to join us in advocating for these critical changes. Together, we can make a difference. Register to attend this Thursday 20 June 2024 between Midday and 2pm Canberra time.

Registration Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcldeiprzsvHtCVpuhCG29DUJh9yf6jK83U

14 to 20 Sep 24 - 25th Anniversary of Australian Service in Timor-Leste

Update as at 12 June 2024

Details


After the meeting at DVA on Wed 12 June 24 to coordinate the Commonwealth aspects of the 25th Anniversary of Australian Service in Timor-Leste

DVA are sponsoring a week long commemoration that focusses on the period 1999 to 2013. DVA acknowledges that this also includes the AFP and ADF (and anyone else) who was in East Timor before INTERFET and those who have continued to serve there until this day.

Activities

The three key activities that have been identified so far are:

14 Sep 24 – Australian Peacekeeper Day. This will be run by the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans' Association and be held at the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial in Canberra. It is a Saturday so perhaps a good day to attend. If unable to attend all Peacekeepers are encouraged to hold their own commemorative activity on this anniversary of when the first UN peacekeepers were deployed by Australia in 1947.

17 Sep 24 - A ¾ day seminar at ADFA was discussed and it has not yet been approved. It would have a number of key speakers from the time, and there was a lot of encouragement to ensure it was open and tailored to everyone. DVA was very open about doing this and genuinely wanted to make it all inclusive. Some of the considerations discussed were that it should not just be speeches by prominent veterans of the day, but also recollections from veterans of all types, maybe a few letters that they wrote home that sort of thing. Nothing firm yet, but plenty of ideas to inject entertainment.

20 Sep 24 - This will be a national commemoration service broadcast live on the ABC from the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial in Canberra. This will be a Friday

Known Social Media Sites and Websites

The Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans' Association will maintain a list of known website and social media sites that relate to private commemorations on this webpage.

In addition to DVA the following attended:

  • Air Force Association Limited;
  • Australian Defence Force:
    • Navy
    • Army
    • Air Force
  • A representative to advise Heads of Corps and respective Corps Associations on communicating the anniversary program
  • Australian Federal Police;
  • Australian Federal Police Veterans Association
  • Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans Association;
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade;
  • Naval Association of Australia;
  • Repatriation Commissioner;
  • Returned and Services League of Australia;
  • Royal Australian Regiment Association;
  • Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner; and
  • United Nations and Overseas Policing Association of Australia.

It was identified that the Australian Electoral Commission should be invited to the next meeting

We must work together with DVA

Introduction

It was great to have grass roots veteran organisations attend and participate in the National Veteran, Veteran Family and Veteran Support Network Issues Meeting of 24 May 2024 as depicted in the image below. Perth based Greg Whitehouse the Chairman of Veterans, Emergency Services, Police and Industry Institute of Australia (VESPIIA) co-chaired the meeting with me.

While we wait to circulate the minutes of the meeting the purpose of the post is to make all attendees, and all interested people, aware of the outcome of the meeting.

The next time DVA sits in on these meetings is August 2024. Therefore, our aim was to:

By 1 August 2024 to define and understand the most pressing veteran, veteran family community and veteran support network needs in order to present them to DVA in a manner that is sufficiently compelling it leaves no option but to resolve them.

We are taking this approach because DVA is working exceptionally well at the senior levels, but we do not see as much change as we would like in the areas that are most damaging to or community.

Who Benefits from this Activity and Corporate Funding Needed

The most significant issue up front is that this activity is not run for the benefit of any ex-service organisation. It is privately funded by Ian and Maria Lindgren for the benefit of our who community and those who look after our health. Ian Lindgren uses his membership to the Ex-Service Organisation Round Table (ESORT) as a mechanism to take grass roots information direct to the Secretary DVA and also to the other members of ESORT. The ESORT is the key representational body for the veteran community through 15 veteran organisations, DVA, JTA, ADF and others as invited to share and coordinate issues.

This initiative, and a recently started activity in The Oasis Townsville, are the only known organisations that such broad-based veteran issues are discussed and corporate funding is needed. All were asked to seek out funding and ask willing companies to contact Ian Lindgren on 0414 245 254.

Survey

The Recent Survey will remain live for at least the next three months and the link is here: https://bit.ly/3V5UXRs

This is not a DVA bashing activity; rather it needs to be balanced, so DVA and our community can work on it together.

Whilst not a large enough sample population, the two key results were as follows:

  • 41% of respondents indicated that improvements had been noticed in DVA Services and this was consistent across all states and territories. The improvements focussed on calls immediately after claims were lodged, and other communication processes. At the same time, it was emphasised that these were not major in anyway. They were improvements, nonetheless.
  • The concern about claims processing, whilst still significant is now overshadowed by the limited number of medical professionals willing to accept a DVA card, and this includes Gold Cards.
  • Then at third place it was the continual grind we find when we visit medical facilities and the provider has not been paid by DVA for many months. This does nothing to encourage business to support veterans. My own exerience in following this up is it is always everyone else's fault that DVA, but that is beginning to fall on deaf ears and our Repatriation Commisioner, Kahlil Fegan DSC, AM, is taking the lead to investigate it with Deputy Secretary Teena Blewitt PSM.
  • Running a close fourth were concerns about why strict adhereance to DVA fee schedules were forcing veterans to travel often interstate to seek medical treatment. No logic to this inflexibility could be found because it seemed that the inconvenience to veterans and their families was justified by sheer bloody mindedness and adherence to a schedule of fees without sensible flexibiliy.

It was uniform across states and territories that fewer medical professionals accept the veteran cards because they do not cover costs. It was clear that the DVA contract clause:

“When a provider cares for a veteran and agrees to accept the DVA fees and conditions of treatment under the DVA white or gold card, they agree that no charge was or will be levied against an entitled person for the service."

Has little meaning because a company’s directors first duty is to ASIC and not DVA, in that it must do all it can, not to trade insolvently. Attempting to threaten companies with this clause is causing them to turn veterans away as it has in the Canberre CapsCLINIC here: https://www.capsclinic.com.au/360uv/dva-patients/

Of Note in Darwin and Toowoomba almost no medical professionals accept the veteran cards because they do not cover costs and all women’s health was conducted outside the Territory despite providers being available above the DVA fee schedule.

LTGEN John Caligari AO DSC (Ret'd) made the comment that from Garrison Cities and regional areas grant funding was confusing, duplicated and had no overall coherent purpose. John also spoke of the need for Veteran and Family Hubs to exist under governance originating in DVA, but delegated to hubs so they can make relationships locally and within the states.

This lack of governance came close to home over the weekend where it was clear that the former throwaway line that “Despite the important role advocacy plays to assist and support veterans it is not something which is currently governed by any one party or entity” has no place in the emerging environment where we all need a single source of truth and were DVA outsourced functions are governed by DVA, but carried out of ESOs. Just this week an ESO used as resource to advise a family that funeral costs would be covered, but DVA denied them. Who is right? How can an important issue like that be interpreted two ways?

Those in receipt of aged care services indicated that quite often they are not allowed to receive DVA services and sometimes assets like wheelchairs and beds are removed.

Children are often overlooked in terms of working with children certifications and also because within Open Arms children under 16 must have their parents present when it could be a parent that is the issue.

From the medical community we had examples of continually being hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and questionable pathways to clinical decisions. There was also a lack of transparency in decision making and concern that if you spoke out you would be removed.

On a Positive Note

On a positive note, I have spoken to the Deputy Secretary Policy and Programs, Andrew Kefford PSM, and if we can get examples to him and they are correct, he will do his best to solve them rapidly and before August. This is typical of the new leadership immediately below Alison Frame. So that falls on us, the veteran and veteran family community to undertake. We need volunteers to do this. I'll be contacting you, or please beat me to it.

A Veteran Banner

Jeremy Stredwick put forward a paper that many veterans do not participate in marches on Anzac Day. One of the reasons is that they do not feel alignment to a singular banner that is at their location of service. The recommendation was for a “Veterans’ Banner” representing the service of all veterans regardless of era, branch, rank and operational service and this was positively received.

Conclusion

It was a lively discussion that made two hours dissappear in seconds and the next meeting in on Thursday 20 June 2024.

Don't forget Corporate Funding - We Need it


ESORT Communique - 14 May 24

Please find below DVA's Communique released as the ESORT finished on 14 May 24.

Australian Peacekeeper Magazine Autumn 2024 Edition

Hot off the press is the Australian Peacekeeper Magazine Autumn 2024 Edition in this the 25th Anniversay of INTERFET

New Not for Profit Organisation Checklist

The Australian Institute of Company Directors has released a new Not for Profit Organisation Checklist. One for small NFPs and another for larger NFPs. This information is very applicable to ex-service organisations, any association that is supporting the veteran and veteran family community and there is an equivalent for regular businesses.

Memorial to Peacekeepers to be opened on Anzac Day at Myrtleford Victoria

On Anzac Day this year Myrtleford RSL Sub Branch in North East Victoria is promoting the theme "Peacekeepers – Honouring their Service". At the conclusion of the 11am Service a free-standing Memorial to Peacekeepers will be unveiled at the Myrtleford RSL.

The Sub Branch Secretary, John Twyford, on behalf of the Sub Branch President, Bryan Meehan, has extended an open invitation to all Peacekeepers to attend the Anzac Day service and for the unveiling of this important memorial. The Memorial is a tribute to all Australian Peacekeepers involved in deployments since 1947, its artwork was inspired by the well-known image of then 1RAR Private Jason Putland - assisting a Somalian boy at a food drop during Operation Solace, in 1993.

Immediately after the unveiling ceremony, all guests, local community members and visitors will enter the RSL Hall for a light lunch and refreshments – ($5.00 donation on entry). The bar will be open at RSL prices. There will also be a raffle for an Anzac Bear and a traditional two-up game will be conducted. Please note that children under 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.

Please RSVP to the RSL Sub Branch Secretary, John Twyford by Tuesday 16 April 2024 by email: rslsecmyrt@outlook.com

We thank the Myrtleford RSL Sub Branch for commemorating Peacekeepers on this year the 25th Anniversary of INTERFET. We know Myrtleford is very proud to be able to name its Memorial Square after Sergeant Albert Lowerson, VC, who was born in Myrtleford and passed away in Myrtleford after living a full life, so we have paid tribute to Sergeant Albert Lowerson, VC below.

Sergeant Albert Lowerson V.C.. At Mont St Quentin on 1 September 1918, Lowerson was cited for his "conspicuous bravery and tactical skill". His bold actions included bombing a German strong-point which was holding up the attack. With a small team he inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and captured 12 machine-guns and 30 prisoners. Badly wounded in the thigh, he refused to leave his position until the prisoners had been sent to the rear, and the post had been consolidated.

25th Anniversary of INTERFET and follow on UN Operations

25th Anniversary of Australian Service in Timor-Leste



This year marks the 25th anniversary of the International Force East Timor (INTERFET), showcasing Australia's enduring commitment to peacekeeping and peacemaking and recalling the 22 nations that contributed. Last week the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans' Association met with the DVA Commemorative Team, where proposed commemorations were discussed and are planned to commence in the week around Australian Peacekeeper Day on 14 September 2024. We understand that the theme is "25 Years of Australian Service in Timor-Leste" thereby involving all who served in East Timor, now Timor-Leste.

The Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans' Association recognises as veterans all who took part from the ADF, AFP, DFAT, AEC, and other contributing government and civil organisations and this is highlighted on our website's homepage. We look forward to working with the AFP and all other organisations again, and their veterans, as well as any civilians that had a part to play.

DVA will make its official announcement shortly.

Commemorative plaques reflecting the occasion will be made available, and grant funding feasibility is being explored. Stay updated by considering membership with the Association to engage with upcoming initiatives.

In the Service of Peace

Ian Lindgren
Chairperson
Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans' Association

Join the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans' Association

Australian troops, members of INTERFET, disarm and arrest members of the Aitarak Militia, Dili East Timor 21 September 2009. Credit David Dare Parker
"OPERATION LAVARACK" 1 Oct 99. INTERFET soldiers of the Second Battalion Royal Australian Regiment land in Balibo as Operation Lavarack continues to work to end the country's instability. Credit ADF Media
General pictorial of Op Annandale a patrol of mountains near Suai. Credit ADF Media
AFP and ADF Credit ADF Media
A redesigned bronze plaque will be made available

Minutes of the Register of Veteran and Veteran Familiy Issues Forum 21 Mar 24

This month's meeting on the National Register of Veteran and Veteran Familiy Issues examined the governance, if any, that binds all the veteran and family hubs together and supports then at local, state and the Commonwealth level. It also considered how many veterans were aware of the consultation process currently underway to simplify veteran legislation and whether or not two months is sufficiient time to consider the legialtion and its flow on effects. We also examined the Claims Statistics and assessed whether or not the backlog had been eliminated.

Your can read the Minutes below.

Support for Veterans in Need of Complex Care at Home

Harwell Home Care a very personal story

We proudly announce that Harwell Home Care has become that latest member of our National Network of Healthcare Providers. A landmark collaboration designed to uplift and transform the quality of healthcare services provided to veterans at home. This partnership symbolises a commitment to excellence.

A Mission Born from Personal Experience

The inception of Harwell Home Care was inspired by a very personal story. CEO Joseph Hardy witnessed firsthand the challenges faced by his own father, a Vietnam Veteran, as he navigated the complexities of DVA home health care. Determined to ensure that no veteran would have to endure less-than-dignified care, Hardy embarked on a mission. His goal? To uphold the independence and respect of veterans across Australia, providing them with the compassion and care they deserve.

Tailored DVA Nursing Services

Harwell Home Care is not just another healthcare provider; it is a sanctuary where veterans can receive the specialised care they need. Providing services through the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) Home Nursing Care program, they offer services exclusively designed for veterans with complex healthcare needs.

This ensures that every veteran has the opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life in the comfort of their own home. From day and night care tailored to suit individual requirements, to expert medication assistance and wound care, our services are diverse and thorough.

Harwell Home Care stands out for its holistic approach to home healthcare, ensuring veterans can lead a fulfilling life within the comfort of their own homes. Their services are meticulously designed to cater to a broad spectrum of needs:

  • Day and Night Care: Understanding that healthcare needs don't clock off at 5 pm, Harwell offers tailored care packages for both day and nighttime requirements.
  • Medication Assistance: Veterans receive precise and safe medication administration, adhering to stringent clinical guidelines.
  • Wound Care: With expertise in wound management, their professional team ensures optimal healing and comfort.
  • Catheter Care, End of Life Care, and Personal Care: From catheter maintenance to compassionate end-of-life care, and attentive personal care assistance (including feeding, showering, or dressing), Harwell Home Care covers an extensive range of veterans' needs.

Joining with the Peacekeeper Network of Health Providers

By joining the Peacekeeper Network of Healthcare Providers, Harwell Home Care not only amplifies its capabilities but also joins a wider community dedicated to veteran care. This collaboration signifies a unified aim: to provide unparalleled, dignified healthcare to those who've served Australia and all in the network can be found here on this page.

Contact Harwell Heath Care for a Personalised Care Assessment and join the veterans who've found solace, respect, and impeccable care with Harwell Home Care.

National Phone: 1300 064 430
National Fax: 0731555099
admin@harwellhomecare.com.au

Become A member of the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans' Association


Festival Of Veterans Arts (FOVA24) 15 to 24 March 2024

Celebrating the creative lives of veterans

FOVA24 takes place across the iconic Melbourne Arts Precinct from 15 to 24 March 2024

Festival Of Veterans Arts (FOVA24), celebrates the creative lives of veterans through Veteran Community-focused gatherings and public events from 15 to 24 March 2024. The first of its kind initiative aims to engage and support the Veteran Community through the arts, to celebrate veteran artists and explore the value of creativity in the workplace.

FOVA24 includes exhibitions, workshops, live performances and talks, including a one-day summit on 23 March 2024 focused on the importance of creativity to the Veteran Community.

Read all about FOVA24 here, and if you are in Melbourne it is highly recommended.

28 Feb 24 ESORT - DVA becomes more transparent

The purpose of this post is to provide information on the outcomes from the Ex-Service Organisation Round Table (ESORT) of 28 February 2024. This advice is provided to the members of the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans’ Association, all other veterans, veteran families and the veteran support network. Our definition of veteran includes all those who have deployed on peacekeeping operations in the national interest of Australia including members of the AFP, DFAT, AEC, state police, NGOs and anyone missed.

In preperation for ESORT we did send a message to all financial members of the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans’ Association to help with this preparation, and then we joined with the Australian Commando Association ACT and ran a nationwide activity to gain a position on each item on the ESORT Agenda. We thank Jeremy Stredwick for facilitating the meeting. Likewise other ESORT members who attended so they could gain the opinion of post 2000 veterans were Pat McCabe the National President of the TPI Federation, and Luci Casey from Partners of Veterans Australia. Working together gave us additional considerations.

The key issue that arose while we were meeting is the new veteran legislation and this is covered below.

Ian Lindgren
Chairperson
Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans’ Association

_______________________________

Background

ESORT serves as a pivotal forum for facilitating collaborative, two-way discussions and issue resolution involving veterans, their family members, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, the Joint Transition Authority, and relevant organisations. For further details on ESORT, please refer to the following link.

Summary

The meeting on 28 February was an exceptional display of transparency and cooperation, surpassing any I have experienced during my four years in the veteran community. This positive impression was further solidified on 29 February 2024 when I received a private demonstration of the intended claims processing information, planned to be publicly accessible on the DVA website in the next six weeks or so. All it need is aproval by the Minister, Hon Matt Keogh MP.

These developments once again underscore the significant positive impact that Alison Frame, Secretary DVA, along with the Deputy Secretaries and commissioners, including Repatriation Commissioner Kahlil Fegan DSC AM, have made on the operation of the DVA.

The Elimination of the Claims Backlog

On 13 Feb 24 the Minister announced that all new initial liability and incapacity claims are now allocated for processing within a two-week timeframe, effectively eliminating this part of the backlog. He also announced that DVA is also on track to clear the remaining backlog of Permanent Impairment claims before the end of February.

I was rather sceptical of this because it did not give the full picture. In arrears I can see that the Minister can only put so much in a press release. We can now fill in the gaps.

  • What is a claim to a veteran and veteran family? A claim to a veteran is a claim for Tinnitus, Anxiety, and for example irritable bowel syndrome is three seperates claims. One claim per condition conditions.
  • What is a claim to DVA? A claim to DVA is the three single conditions claims rolled up into a one word definition; a claim.
  • Mixed Messages and the importance of Trust. This presents confusion because one should not have two definitions with the same name. The lowest common denominator is the item you count, because it is here you can see the effort that is involved and while Tinnitus can be accepted in days; it may take a year to accept irritable bowel syndrome. DVA have now demonstrated transparency to list the number of claims provide data stating the number of conditions that are being processed. This builds trust because nothing is worse than looking like you are trying to mislead a veteran.

Diagram 1 shows my conception of what this means and clearly indicates the positive message the Minister was describing that was under control. Technical advocated may disagree with the terminology, whereas my aim is to get a point across. We commissioned a survey that indicates that it is true that the claims backlog has been eliminated; although we noted that 10% of veterans suggested they had not been contacted within two weeks of a claim being submitted


New New Claims Data Page

On the day following ESORT I was given a demonstration of the possible new Claims Data Page to replace the current page here. It was always intended that this page included a simple introduction with rolled (summarised) data and that is what I saw. It is yet to be approved by the Minister and if it is approved it will likely include detailed spreadsheets that can be downloaded and assessed by anyone with the knowledge to understand the information and this will show the good and not so good of claims processing. Most importantly it is transparent and shows a process under control because once public DVA will be driven to improve it.

Diagram 2 shows my conception of what this means and although it may not give those in the processing queue great hope initially; it should over time as the figures are transparent and DVA is held to account to ensure they improve.

So What?

Given that a claim can consist of anywhere between 1 and say 30 conditions, when DVA states it has 200 unallocated claims, and the average number of conditions per claim is 15, then that means it has 450 unallocated conditions. There is nothing wrong with this, so long as it is presented and as mentioned above the complete data file that states the number of conditions unallocated, being processed etc is planned to be in the next release of the Claim Data on the DVA Website.

New DVA Website

We were advised that there will be a new DVA website that conforms with modern website layout and accessibility standards as soon as it is approved by the Minister.

The Legislative Reform Process – A Single Veteran Legislation Act

This highly anticipated document reduces the veteran legislation from three acts to one.

We have been given until 28 April 2024 to review it and consult with the government. It is likely that the legislation will be introduced into parliament in June 2024, so we need to ensure it meets out needs. It includes issues like house hold services being made available to all and the funeral benefit being raise to $14,000 for all that meet the criteria.

Whilst every organisation will now review it and provide feedback, we gained approval to have the most experienced advocates meet in one place and over a period of three days give the “veteran community opinion.” More to follow on that as it is organisation.

The Key documents to go to:

The Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans’ Association will set its own agenda for review, but as we did with the Australian Commando Association ACT facilitation, we will have a separate review for al those who do not feel they are represented at ESORT or anyone that simply wishes to attend. We will also facilitate the review by advocates for the whole community.

We have no opinion on the legislation as yet.

If you would like a presentation and an opportunity to discuss the new legislation these will be freely available on request and keep an eye on this page for the contact details when they become available.

Hearing Aids

We were advised that for those still working and under the age of 64 there is a high probability that a request for hearing aids will be seen as a special circumstance and the full cost of higher quality hearing aids may be paid for by DVA. This is already occurring and Pat McCabe, the National President of the TPI Federation should be recognised for her role in this. Importantly the DVA executive demonstrated flexibility in consideration and that there is leeway to consider a wider scope for full approval.

Aged Care

An aged care taskforce has been established internal to DVA to resolve may issues, but particularly those where aged care homes might not allow veterans and war widows to use DVA services. I would have liked to see one of the ESOs co-chair this, but let’s see how it goes. We will all need aged care one day. I have a feeling that at the moment some of the difficult issues are being overlooked, but with the transparency now in DVA, I feel confident that something like a national survey of DVA clients in aged care might give the true picture and this will be received well by DVA.

MyService

It was identified during the MyService brief that there were 20 projects currently underway and that none of them have veterans involved as a senior user on the governance board, nor were veterans participating in the user acceptance testing of the projects before they go live.

It was agreed that veterans will conduct user acceptance testing and we will discuss a veteran being involved in the governance of the projects.

It was also identified that a claim can still go through MyService and not be properly completed and nor have the correct support documents. Therefore, it was agreed to place an advisory not on MyService to use the services of a no cost advocate supplied through ESOs to help ensure that the claim has a chance of being considered and ultimately bec oming successful.

Acceptance of DVA Cards

The APPVA raised this and because we believe that that facilities that are accepting DVA cards is falling and that it is not a matter of just paying the medical community more, rather it is a matter to ask what do you need to come back and provide services to the veteran community without co-payments or full payments.

Andrew Kefford PSM, Deputy Secretary Policy and Plans responded, and I will release that information once I get a copy of Andrew’s document.

The important thing to note are that if you are required to pay up front or provide a co-payment, after doing so (the hard bit) submit a Claim out-of-pocket medical expenses.

There was also some discussion about whether or not a provider is legally permitted to charge more than the DVA rate. As a person with a business background, I feel that a business owner’s first duty is to their company remaining solvent and not to DVA’s fees schedule. We are all allowed to disagree, and we will have a clearer picture soon. I feel that there should never be a time that DVA fees are not accepted, particularly if they were raised. More debate to follow.

The Australian Special Air Service Association submission on the 20 year Review of the IGADF

A well put together submission that outlines many concerns was noted by all.

The MATES Program

The Secretary and Andrew Kefford PSM presented much of this. I do not propose to cover it here because it is complex.

A DVA Proposal for a Peak Body

The Secretary outline her intent to engage a consultant to further investigate a business case into the establishment of a ESO or veteran peak body. This consultancy will provide independent expertise to engage broadly with ex-service and veteran organisations at the national and state levels to develop proposals on a peak body, including:

  • The potential roles and responsibilities of a peak body
  • Principles of operating model
  • Potential membership requirements and processes
  • Funding model
  • Any drawbacks or risks associated with a peak body.

The consultant will commence consultation from March and we have asked them to engage with all ESORT members and Young Veterans Forum in the first instance, and to seek further recommendations from the veteran community.

Some ESORT members were sceptical. I formed the opinion that if the Secretary DVA wants to add to the work that the RSL, APPVA and many others have done on this then DVA should be commended. Previously this would not have happened in such a transparent manner. If 5% of it meets our needs, then that is good because it will be placed in the melting pot with all the other submissions and

Grants Reform

Changes made to the Veteran Wellbeing Grant (VWG) include:

  • The requirement for all not-for-profit organisations applicants to be registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC)
  • Encouraging collaboration, including how co-funding and/or in-kind contributions would demonstrate the sustainability of the project or activity. This strengthens the previous guidance on sustainability in accordance with the VWG Program outcomes
  • More detail encouraging non-ESOs to apply in consortium with an ESO

Future BEST Grant funding will be totally reviewed to consider the need of wellbeing officers as well as compensation advocates. It is likely to be creative and include increased funding but will not be part of the grants round about open.

Co-Design Consultative Workshops

DVA will host six online consultative forums a year which will be led by one of its Deputy Secretaries.

  • 4 March 2024 - Understanding the Veteran Experience (UVE) Off-Base Workshop, Currumbin RSL Female Veterans. An engagement to consult the Gold Coast community on the experience for Women Veterans, discuss and present on important DVA updates and understand and discuss challenges and opportunities for the community.
  • 5th, 6th, 7th March. Joint Defence and Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy Webinar. Webinars to consult with the Veteran community about the Defence and Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
  • 12th-13th March. Veterans’ Families Policy Forum Brisbane. This is a DVA consultative event with Veteran family members which provides a platform to raise issues directly with the Australian Government, generate ideas to solve issues facing these communities and co-design DVA products and services. The Forum informs future policy and service delivery options, and builds networks across the represented cohorts. This year’s Forum will include male family members.
  • 14- 15th March. Postvention Lived Experience Workshops. These are workshops for the family members of Veterans who have died by suicide. The purpose of these engagements is to leverage lived experiences to inform future postvention services and support. These workshops are run as a facilitated, collaborative, interactive and conversational engagement. It is structured in a safe, trauma informed and outcome focussed way.
  • 2nd May. Understanding the Veteran Experience On-Base Workshop, Lavarack Barracks Townsville. UVEs are conducted on ADF bases. The UVE provide DVA staff a deeper understanding of the lived experience of serving members and the unique nature of military service. The workshop is conducted in focus group style with serving members engaging in discussion and activities to explore their experiences and ideas, this is followed by a shared lunch and then a base tour or static display to give DVA staff a hands-on understanding of the risks and weights that serving members deal with every day
  • Week of 29th April - 3rd May. Understanding the Veteran Experience Off-Base Workshop, Townsville. The UVE off-base workshops help to better connect DVA staff to the Veteran experience. The engagement will also help to inform DVA’s organisational culture and future policy and service delivery.
  • Community Consultation Series. An initial series of 6 Community consultations focussed on specific topics of interest to the Veteran Community, current scheduling includes:
  • 9 April – Aged Care
  • 18 June – Veteran Engagement Mechanisms
  • 18 Sep – General Forum
  • More dates and details to follow
  • May 24. Female Veterans Forum. This is a DVA consultative event with Women Veterans and provides a platform to raise issues directly with the Australian Government, generate ideas to solve issues facing these communities and co-design DVA products and services. The Forum informs future policy and service delivery options, and builds networks across the represented cohorts. This two day forum is tentatively scheduled for May

Improved Governance and Veteran Consultation as a Stakeholder

The following ESORT Workshops are commencing with stakeholders from DVA, the veteran community and a wide variety of agencies:

  • Working Group - impact of taxation on lump sum retrospective superannuation payments
  • Advocacy Reform Working Group

Conclusion

We may have had two Afghanistan and MEAO veterans present at ESORT. I feel that needs to change so we do not have the current duplication of information given to many organisations with only the ESORT able to do something about it. I welcome a review and that is the policy of the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans’ Association.

I was pleased to see that the observers were all Afghanistan and MEAO veterans because this allows them to form opinions on how better this activity could be conducted to suit that demographic. At the same time, we must not forget the passing parade of current veterans, family members and war widows, so we must also ensure their needs are met. I look forward to a review.

Overall, this was the most cooperative and transparent ESORT I have attended and it was great to see the Young Veteran representative, James Dallas, at the table participating as a equal on ESORT.

    National Veteran Issues Community Forum - 7 Mar 24

    Our objective is to create an environment where our issues are openly publicised, prioritised and solved with DVA. Issues cannot be buried, or filtered by any organisation because the activity is totally transparent. It is crucial to proactively address potential triggers for suicidal ideation among veterans.

    National Veteran Community Issues Forum

    Reflections from the First Forum

    Our inaugural forum exemplified the unity within the veteran and veteran family community, alongside the comprehensive support network of professionals dedicated to our well-being. The presence of the most senior leaders from the DVA was notable, although their premature departure hindered constructive engagement and we made no progress.

    Going forward, it is imperative to ensure sustained attendance from key decision-makers to effectively address critical issues.

    Given the unresolved matters from the previous month, we are committed to reengaging with the DVA to collaboratively address the following that were not resolved:

    1. Identifying and rectifying deficiencies in the business processes governing authorized GP assessments and the prompt payment of invoices, including ancillary services such as radiology, through proactive intervention by DVA's senior leadership.
    2. Exploring alternative approaches to ensure the continued acceptance of DVA cards and fee schedules by the medical profession, acknowledging the need for fair and equitable remuneration in line with industry standards.

    In other words having no red in the flow chart diagram for invoice payment in the diagram to the left.

    Click here to Register to Attend the National Veteran Issues Community Forum - 7 March 2024.

    Click here to visit the Visit the National Register of Veteran Issues.

    Click here to lodge an issue so it can be captured.

    How to Eat an Elephant? In Bite Sized Chunks

    The Elephant

    We really need to address the elephant in the centre of the room and work with DVA to ensure that it does not weaken its ability to resolve issues so they can continuously improve. This cannot be done if the resources are spread so thin that DVA tries to eat the whole elephant of issues at once. It needs to take one bite and a time, and to consult veterans, because a public servant does not see a veteran issue as a veteran does. You cannot solve an issue if you do not understand it. DVA needs to focus on bite sized chunks of the elephant, with veterans, and other stakeholders and see then through to completion like each the random issues listed around the elephant to the right.

    We do not think that DVA will participate in this next forum, so we will be addressing issues like:

    • Offsetting. Why is it that a veteran can work for 40 years, and put money into DFRDB each pay, and then after a healthy discharge he gets sick and makes a claim and receives a payment for the injury but loses 100% of his DFRDB. This does not happen to civilians in Australia.
    • The Douglas Case
    • The acceptance of DVA cards
    • The payment of invoices on time. We see many businesses that are up to $1m in arrears in terms of being paid by DVA, and some of this can be 60 days late. This will not attract people to support veterans.
    • Plus, lots more listed in the National Register of Veteran Community Issues


    Help us understand the Claims Backlog

    We are told that the claims backlog is almost eliminated

    We are told that the claims backlog is almost eliminated.

    Does this represent the lived experience of veterans and their families? In order to find out, please take three to four minutes to complete this survey.

    Sufferings of War and Service Memorial

    Register to attend the Sufferings of War and Service 930am Thu 22 Feb 24 at the Australian War Memorial

    Sufferings of War and Service

    Register to attend the Sufferings of War and Service 930am Thu 22 Feb 24 at the Australian War Memorial

    A service open to the public of a new sculpture at the Australian War Memorial recognising and commemorating the suffering caused by war and military service.

    The Australian War Memorial has worked with veterans and their families and advocates to commission this work of art, which represents those affected by operations and during training; in war and on peacetime service.

    Created by artist Alex Seton, For Every Drop Shed in Anguish will provide a place at the Memorial for those who have experienced and witnessed the ongoing trauma that can result from service, and for Memorial visitors to reflect on this experience.

    “Every droplet has a unique shape, defined by its delicate surface tension, as if about to burst. Their rounded liquid forms suggest blood, sweat or tears — for every drop ever shed in anguish. Most importantly, when touched these forms reveal themselves to have an inner strength and resilience that provides hope and promise of healing.” - Alex Seton, artist

    The ceremony is open to the public.

    Register to attend here.


    Veteran Claims Backlog

    All new initial liability and incapacity claims are now allocated for processing within a two week timeframe

    We have an exceptionally sound relationship with the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and also DVA. However, there are times that we have to test what has been said to ensure that it represents the lived experience of veterans and veteran families.

    In a recent Press Release the following was stateted:

    • Thanks to the Albanese Government’s increased staffing and resources for DVA, all new initial liability and incapacity claims are now allocated for processing within a two week timeframe – effectively eliminating this part of the backlog and a return to business as usual levels.
    • As at 31 January 2024, the total number of claims yet to be allocated to a delegate has fallen to 3,697.
    • DVA is also on track to clear the remaining backlog of Permanent Impairment claims before the end of February, so they too reach a business as usual rate of allocation.
    • Eliminating the claims backlog is a huge step in the right direction and the staff in DVA are to be commended for their tireless work.

    Does this represent the lived experience of veterans and their families? In order to find out, please take three to four minutes to complete this survey.

    Etienne Ryckmans - In the Service of Peace

    Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans’ Association Advocate Etienne Ryckmans describes the significant experiences he had in the Army and then as a civilian peacekeeper as a UN Special Investigator in Bosnia-Herzegovina. An investment in knowledge that explains his dedication as a volunteer now. His personal footage in a conflict zone is remarkable.

    Michael Handley Documentary Interview Part 2 of 2

    Michael Handley

    Michael Handley - Peacekeeper and dedicated Veteran Community Member Part 1 of 2

    Michael Handley

    A Profile on Etienne Ryckmans UN Special Investigator – Bosnia – Herzegovina

    Bosnia – Herzegovina. Kosovo was facing a grave humanitarian crisis, with military forces from Yugoslavia in action against the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in daily engagements. Nearly one million people had fled Kosovo as refugees by that time, and many permanently did not return. This is Etienne Ryckmans' Story

    Jennifer Wittwer - Part 3 of 3

    The final installment of Jen Wittwer's story. A woman who set challenges for herself, for women and for all in the community and exceeded her expectations at every turn. The pick of the three videos.

    The final installment of Jen Wittwer's story. A woman who set challenges for herself, for women and for all in the community and exceeded her expectations at every turn. The pick of the three videos.

    East Timor from the perspective of a Peacekeeper

    Ricky Prout

    Jennifer Wittwer Part 2 of 3

    Jen Wittwer, CSM, FAHRI - Resilience in the Face of Change

    Wayne Snell - An AFP Officer's Recollections of Peacekeeping on a Global Scale

    Wayne Snell is a former AFP officer who has participated in many years of peacekeeping in countries that have had violent upheavals and required the application of peacekeeping and peacemaking skills to obtain a sound outcome. Wayne’s vast experience provides many lessons learned. This is Wayne’s story delivered as part of a Saluting Their Service Grant.

    Wayne Snell - Former AFP Officer.

    Wayne Snell is a former AFP officer who has participated in many years of peacekeeping in countries that have had violent upheavals and required the application of peacekeeping and peacemaking skills to obtain a sound outcome. Wayne’s vast experience provides many lessons learned. This is Wayne’s story.

    Jennifer Wittwer. A courageous woman at a time of great change.

    After viewing all three of Jen’s videos as they are released, there is some common ground with her book "Against the Wind". This was my review a year ago.

    "I have read Against the Wind twice now because for me it truly was a gift. A gift of knowledge, awareness, sadness, of triumph over adversity and being what you can’t see. I’ve got to say that I have been guilty of some ill-considered words that would have made women feel uncomfortable when I was younger… Now in my more mature years I would say that I get words mixed up trying to ensure I tread the path of awareness when speaking about women, to women. So, your words have been a sound and complete introduction to the difference between treating everyone as equal and considering things with equality and equity. This is why I read it twice…and I do hope I’ve learnt enough from you to help me in my drive to attract women volunteers for veteran related work. It is so hard to attract women and yet together we are so strong. But one of the things I’ve learnt in the past three years of working in the veteran community is that there are few women without very challenging experiences, and now I have a level of understanding as to why it is difficult to attract women to many ESOs."

    Ian Lindgren
    Chairperson
    Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans' Association

    January 2023

    Jen Wittwer, CSM, FAHRI - Resilience in the Face of Change

    Part1 in a three-part series on key aspects of Jen Wittwer's career in the RAN. It is the story of one of many courageous women at a time of great change, and Part 1 tells of Jen's experiences, her approach and her leadership style. This video was funded by a Saluting their Service Grant managed by the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans' Association.



    GP’s Accounts

    To support GP Practices transition back to the standard process, DVA will implement a temporary arrangement with a “No Wrong Door Approach” where, if invoices are sent directly to the Accounts team that do not have an “authority to pay”, they will be forwarded to the Compensation Team for review and approval. Where a compensation claim has been lodged by the veteran, “authority to pay” will be assessed and approved if it relates to the claimed conditions, and the invoice will be paid. Where no compensation claim exists, the invoice will need to be rejected.

    We have received a lot of concern in the past three weeks from the medical community who provide services to veterans. It appears that two years ago you were directed to stop sending invoices to state DVA offices and instead directed to send invoices to one central address. This changed without warning about six weeks ago when someone made the call to cancel all of your invoices and required you to go back to the original method which is still shown on the DVA website.

    Again, businesses have outstanding invoices, and in some cases moving rapidly towards $1m in excess of 60 days overdue. Payroll tax payments loom on the 7th of next month, PAYG Tax at the end of each month of you have high enough turnover, super and the big two, wages and the fact that you must pay your subcontractors within five days. That doesn’t leave much left!

    We have addressed this with the relevant Deputy Secretary and true to form Teena Blewitt PSM came back true to form on the same day and reversed the no payment decision with the following message to GPs:

    To support GP Practices transition back to the standard process, DVA will implement a temporary arrangement with a “No Wrong Door Approach” where, if invoices are sent directly to the Accounts team that do not have an “authority to pay”, they will be forwarded to the Compensation Team for review and approval. Where a compensation claim has been lodged by the veteran, “authority to pay” will be assessed and approved if it relates to the claimed conditions, and the invoice will be paid. Where no compensation claim exists, the invoice will need to be rejected.

    From 1 February 2024 the temporary arrangement will close and all GP invoices will need to send invoices to the DVA State offices and they will only be approved if they have an “Authority to Pay”.

    DVA has always held a rigid hard line on decision it made, no matter how many people were disadvantaged. It is good to see common sense reign.

    Fee for Services Advocates

    Beware of Fraudsters. There are plenty of great fee for service claims advocates out there that give a sound service...for a fee. Some of us need this; most don't.

    There are however some bad characters amongst them and for those in the Brisbane area be aware. While we cannot name the company as yet, the characteristics are a one page website, and google ratings where the newest have one star ratings. The rating then goes to five stars and the wording turns to praise. There is a reason for this. I'll let you ponder it.

    Have you been stung by them? Get in contact with me. Ian Lindgren, Chairperson. ian.lindgren@peacekeepers.asn.au

    Save the Date 29 January 24 - Veteran Community Issues

    Save the Date - 29 January 24

    Veteran Community Issues

    130 to 330pm AEDT

    Join us as we take a step forward in strengthening our veteran and veteran family community! The Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans' Association is thrilled to announce the first of our monthly veteran Community Issues meetings, aimed at identifying and resolving the issues that matter most to you.

    These meetings will serve as an open forum where every voice matters. We believe in transparency and progress, which is why we'll be tracking each issue raised and providing public updates on our website. This is your chance to make a difference and have your concerns heard and addressed. Our goal is to create a space where administrative issues are not only raised but resolved, ensuring no concern is left unheard or unaddressed.

    We welcome all veteran organisations to join us. The event is free and will be run on MS Teams.

    We're grateful for the support of the DVA, whose commitment to this initiative signifies the emerging standard of trust and teamwork under their new leadership. We're pleased to have some a number of the most senior staff at DVA attending this meeting, including Repatriation Commissioner Kahlil Fegan DSC AM, Deputy Secretary Alison McLaren, and Deputy Secretary Teena Blewitt PSM, as well as acting Assistant Secretary Simon Geraghty.

    Participants will have the opportunity to submit their issues ahead of time or bring them up during the meeting. For complex issues, we encourage you to support it with a paper. Remember, we're stronger together, and through collaboration and mutual support, we can make a significant impact.

    Join us in this journey of change and let's build a better future for our community! Save the date and coordination and registration details will follow shortly.

    We would like to thank the following organisations who have developed this with us as a team.

    TPI Federation, Paws for Hope and Understanding, Partners of Veterans Association, the Australian War Widows Inc, Defence Shed Wagga Wagga , Pro Patrica Wagga Wagga and Villy Community Darwin.

    The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has been granted a three-month extension

    The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has been granted a three-month extension by the Federal Government to complete its inquiries.

    Commissioners Nick Kaldas (chair), Peggy Brown and James Douglas wrote to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus in October to raise concerns the current timeframe continues to impact the ability of the Royal Commission to deliver a final report and recommendations to bring about long-lasting improvements for the wellbeing of our Defence and veteran communities.

    The Royal Commission was due to present its final report and recommendations to the Governor-General by 17 June next year; however, the Commissioners stated that timeline was impacting key areas of work, including the:

    • opportunity for comprehensive action on procedural fairness for all parties; and
    • testing of recommendations with key stakeholders, such as the Australian Defence Force, Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs, and Defence and veterans’ bodies, including ex-service organisations, to ensure the Royal Commission delivers implementable recommendations to Government.

    The Royal Commission has previously expressed frustration at the slow response from Commonwealth agencies to requests for information, as well as claims of confidentiality, parliamentary privilege and public interest immunity.

    Commissioner Kaldas has today welcomed the Government’s decision.

    “Regrettably, the latest AIHW data released last month confirms there has been no improvement in the high rates of suicide in our Defence and veteran community,” Commissioner Kaldas said.

    “This Royal Commission must be a call to action. We, as a nation, can no longer allow the preventable deaths of our serving and ex-serving Defence personnel to continue.”

    “This short, three-month extension will help to ensure our final report is robust, evidence-based and fair to all parties, and contains recommendations that are realistic, fit-for-purpose and implementable – to ensure Government is well equipped to address what is a national crisis once and for all,” he said.

    The Royal Commission’s final report must now be delivered by Monday 9 September 2024.

    Meanwhile, the Royal Commission is moving quickly to appoint a number of Assistant Commissioners to ensure hundreds of outstanding private sessions with people with lived experience can be completed before the end of the inquiry.

    A recent legislative change allows for the appointment of Assistant Commissioners with the appropriate skills and experience to undertake private sessions alongside the three existing Commissioners.

    Commissioners Kaldas, Brown and Douglas have so far completed 639 one-on-one confidential sittings to hear the often-harrowing stories of those impacted by suicide and suicidality. There are some 320 private sessions still to be held.

    “We know how important these sessions are to veterans and their families, and the catharsis and validation they bring to so many people impacted by suicide and suicidality,” Commissioner Kaldas said. “Equally, these sessions provide us real insight into the lived experience of serving and ex-serving members, and their families, and this knowledge is vital to our inquiries.”

    "We want to continue to ensure they have the opportunity to be heard and the appointment of Assistant Commissioners will achieve that."

    The Royal Commission hopes to finalise the appointment of the Assistant Commissioners by the end of the year.

    Summary from the 7 Dec 23 Ex-Service Organisations Round Table (ESORT)

    The purpose of this news item is to brief you on the ESORT of 7 Dec 23. Chris Moss attended in my place.

    My over-riding concern is that while a lot of positive things are occurring within DVA, there remains no urgency to reduce veteran suicidal ideation. There are however small projects, piecemeal activities, that are doing well.

    Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Update - The Hon Matt Keogh MP

    Minister Keogh thanked all members for their efforts and contributions, not only through forums such as ESORT, but for the work they do in their respective organisations to support veterans and families. The Minister discussed key priorities including consultation on the legislation reform pathway to produce a better, simpler system of compensation, opening new Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs, and the importance of veterans and families having access to well-trained advocates as part of a broader eco-system of support.

    DVA Update – Secretary Alison Frame

    Secretary Frame acknowledged the significant contribution of ESORT members, and noted the value of ongoing collaboration in everything we do to learn from experience and leverage expertise in ex-service organisations. She highlighted achievements in 2023 including a significant reduction in the compensation claims backlog, recruitment of 500 additional DVA staff and implementation of MyService upgrades. Emerging priorities include Aged Care, continuing to meet information requests of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, Transition, Legislation Reform, connecting with veterans who are currently not accessing DVA services and building on DVA’s research and evaluation agenda, in collaboration with our Five Eyes partners across areas of common interest.

    My thoughts are that it is a pity you all cannot see the significant changes at the senior levels of DVA as a result of Alison Frame, Teena Blewitt PSM, Alison McLaren, Andrew Kefford PSM, and Khalil Fegan DSC AM commencing. Leadership starts at the top and there has been no more ignoring of ESORT member’s questions as there has been prior to 23 Jan 23 when Secretary Frame arrived. Equality and respect now are first and foremost and when subordinates take the old ways and provide a “non-answer” or attempt to ignore the veteran community, this approach is very quicky adjusted by the new leaders.

    Veteran, Family and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy

    I co-chaired the working group on DVA’s own draft Strategy noting it is based on best practice and is a living document. While the Strategy is focused on engagement, and designed to promote a structured and consistent approach for DVA staff to follow when engaging with the veteran community, members also flagged the importance of good communication. The final document will be released early next year.

    Veteran Journey Mapping

    The ESORT was given a presentation on efforts to map how veterans and families currently interact with government agencies responsible for providing services and programs. Mapping is about informing service planning across departments and to identify how the government can provide seamless, integrated and tailored services to improve experiences. The ESORT discussed areas for improvement noting ESORT will continue to be consulted as journey mapping evolves.

    My own thoughts are that following a veteran’s journey through DVA is very important because we can see where the blockages are, so I encourage this initiative and the APPVA is taking an active part in the activity.

    Royal Commission and Legislation Reform Update

    DVA is focused on implementing Recommendations 1 to 4, relating to legislation simplification, improving the compensation claims processing system and addressing the compensation claims backlog. The ESORT was provided with an update on the exposure draft legislation to simplify veterans’ legislation, including expected timing for consultation. There was discussion on areas of interest to members, including grandparenting provisions, non-liability healthcare and terminology contained in the current legislation.

    My opinion is that we will have to watch closely what occurs with our new legislation especially if it looks like it will be fast tracked through Parliament. More to follow on that.

    ATO implementation of the Douglas Decision

    Please note that earlier in the year the APPVA fought hard to stop the Douglas Decision Legislation and we won the argument at ESORT to stand up a working group and investigate it, however none of the major ESOs displayed any interest, and we did not have the resources to do it with the TPI Federation so it went through without a challenge.

    The Veteran Alliance Association provided a presentation to members on the impact of the Decision on affected veterans. Members discussed areas of interest. DVA is establishing a working group to further map out impacts and to inform ongoing consultation with the Australian Taxation Office. The importance of providing clear information to assist individuals to make well informed choices for the future was acknowledged. An invitation to join the working group will be provided to Members of ESORT soon.

    We will have to watch this carefully because it is disadvantaging many.

    Offsetting

    The Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans’ Association provided a presentation to members on offsetting provisions over the years and their impact. Discussion focused on options under the current system, and ensuring individuals have the right information to make informed decisions. Noting overlaps with the Douglas Decision, the working group being established will also consider offsetting in its remit.

    Offsetting causes significant distress and the APPVA will examine it to confirm that there are legal tools that allow veterans to be affected so negatively.

    Advocacy Working Group

    The Advocacy Working Group was stopped by the APPVA and the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia and the leadership of newly appointed Deputy Secretary Policy and Plans, Andrew Kefford PSM. The process being followed was similar to that permitted by the previous Secretary and not the current Secretary. A new working Group will be established in the new year and DVA has now for the first time confirmed that is responsible for the governance of advocacy.

    Minutes of the Register of Veteran and Veteran Familiy Issues Forum 21 Mar 24

    Ian Lindgren

    Chairperson

    2809

    This month's meeting on the National Register of Veteran and Veteran Familiy Issues examined the governance, if any, that binds all the veteran and family hubs together and supports then at local, state and the Commonwealth level. It also considered how many veterans were aware of the consultation process currently underway to simplify veteran legislation and whether or not two months is sufficiient time to consider the legialtion and its flow on effects. We also examined the Claims Statistics and assessed whether or not the backlog had been eliminated.

    Your can read the Minutes below.

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