Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel


September 28, 2019

Labor is calling on the Morrison Government to not go ahead with planned changes to allied health referrals for veterans, which are due to start on 1 October 2019.

Under the new Veteran Treatment Cycle initiative, GPs referrals to allied health professional will only be valid for a ‘treatment cycle’ of up to 12 sessions or one year, whichever comes sooner.

At the end of each cycle, the allied health provider must report back to the GP, who will decide if further treatment is required, and the veteran will need to go back to their GP to get a new referral.

This could mean an extra visit to the GP every few weeks for many veterans with high and complex needs, and result in gaps and delays in treatment.

Veterans will be out of pocket from the cost of increased GP visits and it will particularly disadvantage people living in rural and remote areas.

Shockingly, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has admitted the Treatment Cycle Initiative will reduce access to allied health services.

In their election promise to exempt some Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) veterans from the changes, the Morrison Government stated there would be a “positive impact on the community reducing the referral burden on TPI recipients”.

So the Government is effectively admitting the treatment cycle will create a greater referral burden for veterans.

The changes are due to a $40 million cut by the Government to allied health care for veterans in the last Budget.

Since the measure was first announced, there has been almost universal criticism from veterans, health professionals, experts and MPs alike.

Veterans are rightly worried the treatment cycle will lead to poorer health outcomes and have been voicing their opposition with allied health practitioners and MPs, while many ex-service organisations remain opposed.

Even the Government’s own backbenchers have called out the changes, with Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee Chair and LNP Senator Eric Abetz labelling the new system an unnecessary burden and calling for it to be scrapped.

A range of allied health professional groups have also raised concerns about the impact of the changes on their patients, including physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

In its recent report on the veteran support system, the Productivity Commission slammed the treatment cycle, saying “this initiative stops short of being an active, patient centred approach” and “DVA have not put in place measures to support the treatment cycle becoming a vehicle for promoting more veteran centred care (such as outcomes measures, or increased oversight by DVA)”.[1]

Labor welcomed the Government’s decision to push back the start of the treatment cycle to 1 October.

However, we still have serious concerns and are calling on the Government to abandon this policy, or at least delay its implementation to allow more time to properly consider and understand the impact it will have on veterans.

If the Government is serious about the health and wellbeing of veterans, they need to stop the veteran treatment cycle from going ahead.

[1] Productivity Commission 2019, A Better Way to Support Veterans, Report no. 93, p.702