Veterans

The Issue

The occupational therapy profession had its roots in treating wounded veterans returning home from the First World War, who had to be assisted to relearn and perform the functions of everyday living. Owing to the demands of military service, both physical and mental, a sizeable proportion of Australian veterans require the services of an occupational therapist (clinicians who help our veterans participate in meaningful and productive activities). The number of veterans requiring the services of an occupational therapist grows as our veterans age. A notable and growing cohort of veterans is those exiting the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in their 30s, who might need a lifetime of support.

While occupational therapists derive enormous professional satisfaction from working with veterans and war widows, their work had become increasingly difficult to sustain. This is because remuneration for such work was, in effect, frozen for nearly twenty years by successive Australian governments. OTs only kept working with veterans out of loyalty to longstanding clients, and by cross subsidies from more sustainable areas of work.

After a sustained advocacy campaign, involving the lobbying of successive Veterans Ministers and even a standalone website, OTA achieved its goal of winning a substantial increase in the fee paid by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to occupational therapists working with veterans. In the 2021-22 Federal Budget, this fee was raised by 27%, which will go some of the way to making this work sustainable. This was a welcome victory for OTs and the clients they support.

But problems remain.

On 1 October 2019, DVA introduced a new treatment cycle for those veterans and war widows being cared for by allied health professionals. The new cycle requires a client to get a new referral from their GP after twelve sessions with an allied health professional, or twelve months, whichever comes first. Learn more about the treatment cycle here. Unfortunately, the new treatment cycle imposes an enormous administrative burden on allied health professionals, work for which they are not remunerated. The problem is compounded by the fact that many GPs remain unfamiliar with the details of, and their key role in, the new arrangements. This leads to repeated and time consuming interactions between a client’s GP and their allied health providers. This is frustrating for all concerned. 

The Goal

  • A DVA fee schedule for occupational therapists which ensures such work is sustainable.
  • A treatment cycle that is efficient, involves a minimum of red tape, and does not place an undue burden on veterans and the allied health providers who support them.

Taking Action

  • OTA will advocate to ensure that the DVA fee schedule for occupational therapists is never allowed to become so outdated again.
  • OTA continues to engage with government and other key stakeholders to raise awareness of, and advocate for, the role of OTs in providing support to veterans.
  • OTA continues to advocate for a more efficient and less bureaucratic treatment cycle for veterans.

Latest Updates

26 July, 2021
The following article has been published in DVA Provider News: Recall notice: Philips medical breathing support devices. Health providers treating Department of Veterans’ Affairs clients who use Philips medical breathing support devices affected by a recall need to be aware of safety concerns associated with these devices.

16 July, 2021
The following article has been published in DVA Provider News: Extension to Provisional Access to Medical Treatment (PAMT) for veterans. While their claim is being considered, eligible claimants will be able to receive medical and allied health treatment on a provisional basis for one or more of the 20 most commonly accepted conditions for ex-serving members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF)

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