Labor welcomes the announcement yesterday by the Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester that implementation of the new Veteran Treatment Cycle Initiative will be delayed until October.

For some time, Labor has raised concerns about the proposed changes to the treatment cycle for allied health referrals for veterans.

Under the changes, instead of a blanket referral for up to one year, GPs will have to refer clients to an allied health professional for a ‘treatment cycle’ of up to 12 sessions or one year, whichever comes sooner.

At the end of each cycle, the 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.

The delay in the implementation of the treatment cycle shows that serious problems remain with the transition to the new system.

This last-minute backflip by the Government on the start date shows it has failed to consult properly with veterans and health professionals.

Labor is pleased they are finally listening and hopes the delay will allow for proper communication and processes to be put in place to support the changes.

But Labor still has serious concerns about this harsh and inflexible one-size-fits-all model and the impact it will have on many veterans, who deserve the best possible care and support.

Labor believes the system should be more flexible and veterans with complex cases should be exempt.

These changes follow cuts in the Budget of $40 million from critical allied health services to our veterans.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has admitted this cut will result in veterans having access to fewer services.

This was on top of the Repatriation Medical Fee Schedule freeze, which has already seen a reduction in access to critical medical services for our veterans.

This is nothing more than cruel and callous cost-cutting at the expense of some of our most vulnerable veterans.

Our veterans, ex-service personnel and war widows rely on access to essential medical services.

They need a system that works for them.