The Morrison Government is failing to deliver on its election commitment to cut waiting times for claims through the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) and streamline processes through the new MyService system.
In Senate Estimates last night, DVA officials revealed that overall waiting times for processing claims have blown out in recent months.
In particular, waiting times for Veterans Entitlement Act (1986) pensions, Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related claims) Act (1988) (DRCA) permanent impairment payments, and DRCA and Military, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (2004) incapacity payments are all up.
In response to questions from Senator Tim Ayres, DVA officials confirmed they are having to play catch-up to deal with a huge backlog of claims.
We have known for some time that DVA was overloaded and grappling with a spike in claims through its online claims portal MyService, with suggestions that simply allocating a file to a delegate was taking up to 75 days.
The Secretary of DVA, Liz Cosson, has previously said the Department had been hit hard by ongoing funding reductions through the so-called ‘Efficiency Dividend’ and needed more staff to do its job.
DVA has had more than 16 per cent of secure jobs cut since the LNP came to power in 2013, which has eroded its capacity to deliver services.
The Average Staffing Level cap has driven greater outsourcing and casualisation of DVA’s workforce.
In Senate Estimates, DVA revealed around 45 per cent of its staff are now non-APS employees and further, 26 per cent of its staff are labour hire contracted. This is simply unsustainable.
Digitisation has increased pressure on DVA’s services and forced it to choose between making savings and supporting veterans.
The recent cuts to veteran allied health are a good example of this – in previous Estimates hearings, DVA has admitted this was a saving needed to pay for DVA’s IT transformation.
Our veterans deserve better – they deserve to have their claims processed quickly, and access to affordable health treatment.
They should not be made to pay for the DVA’s IT upgrades.
Despite this, the Government continues to make promises it can’t keep.
This week, the Parliament passed the Veterans’ Covenant, which a symbolic commitment to look after veterans.
This Government is failing to back this up with real action and is letting our veterans down.
The Government needs to do better and Labor will continue to hold them to account until they do.