A new review of the veteran welfare system, to be undertaken by external consultants McKinsey & Co, is a clear admission of failure from the Morrison-Joyce Government on the eve of an election.
The Government knows the veteran community is fed up with long delays at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), with waiting times for many claims blowing out to 12-18 months.
DVA is struggling to deal with a huge backlog, with 68 per cent of veteran disability pension claims and 42 per cent of claims for war widows/widower benefits yet to be finalised as of April this year.
Report after report, including coronial inquests, has shown delays and poor services are having a terrible effect on veterans’ mental health and wellbeing.
This is why Labor called for the Royal Commission into defence and veteran suicide to look at the impact of DVA and the veteran support system.
DVA officials themselves have admitted the department simply does not have enough staff to deal with the backlog and desperately needs more resources.
This latest review, which will report back in December, follows a number of recent reports and inquiries, including a landmark 2019 Productivity Commission report on the veteran support system, which the Government has failed to fully respond to.
It raises questions about what they have been doing for the last eight years and makes a mockery of its so-called ‘Veteran Centric Reform’ program.
It further highlights the results of years of outsourcing, labour hiring and privatising DVA by the Liberals and Nationals.
Rather than spend money on another external review, the Government should just implement Labor’s announced policy to reform and restore the public sector, and axe its ideological staffing cap.
This would allow DVA to hire the permanent staff it needs to support veterans and not rely on record levels of poorly trained labour hire workers, which has been as high as 50 per cent for frontline claims processing staff in recent years.
Veterans and their families deserve better.