Last year proved to be yet another year of broken promises and delivery failures for the Morrison Government when it comes to veterans and their families.
The Government is failing to deliver on a key commitment to cut waiting times for processing claims through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and veterans continue to experience long delays in receiving their entitlements.
In Senate Estimates in October, DVA officials said that waiting times for veterans’ compensation claims have continued to blow out and it is not processing a huge backlog of claims quickly enough.
It was revealed veterans are waiting two to three months just for some initial liability claims while, anecdotally, many veterans complain of waiting six months or longer to receive payments in some cases.
In addition, the Government’s responses to twin reviews of the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) pension and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (DFRDB) scheme have been a slap in the face for Australian veterans.
After raising expectations he would increase the TPI payment and sitting on the report for more than a year, the Prime Minister announced in the Budget he would provide rent assistance to only around 10 per cent of TPI pensioners, leaving most disgusted they will miss out.
In Senate Estimates hearings, DVA officials said it would be another two years before benefits began flowing while they identify eligible veterans and make changes to legislation and IT systems.
On top of this, despite a December 2019 review of the DFRDB scheme finding the Defence Department provided dodgy advice to ADF members about their retirement options, the Government has failed to provide any compensation to veterans or make any changes to the scheme.
Last year’s delayed Federal Budget contained no additional funding for veteran wellbeing centres, most of which are well behind schedule.
In another broken election promise, the Liberals and Nationals committed to roll out six centres around the country by 2020, but now most of them will not be up and running until 2022 – a full two years late.
Also in the October Budget, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Darren Chester, failed to deliver on a promise to increase DVA fees for allied health workers, including physiotherapists and occupational therapists, which will make accessing these services harder for many veterans.
Finally in 2020, Scott Morrison stubbornly refused to listen to veterans and families and call a Royal Commission into veteran suicide, announcing instead a watered-down National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention.
The move was opposed by Labor, most of the crossbench and many in the veteran community. In an admission of failure, the Government was forced to withdraw its National Commissioner legislation in the last week of Parliament when it did not have the numbers to pass it in the Senate.
It just goes to show this is a government that’s all about the announcement, but never about delivery, and it continues to fail our veterans and their families.