Veterans

The Issue

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.

The currently ongoing Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicides provides an opportunity for OTA to advocate for and publicise the vital care that OTs provide for veterans, especially in the mental health space. You can learn more about the scope of the commission and read the terms of reference here. OTA would welcome any feedback or insights from members that will help inform OTA’s submission to the Royal Commission.

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. Occupational therapists only kept working with veterans out of loyalty to longstanding clients, and by cross subsidies from more sustainable areas of practice.

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 occupational therapists and the clients they support.

But problems remain.

On 1 October 2019, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (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 obtain 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 allied health providers and the client’s GP. This is frustrating for all concerned. 

Additionally, communication between DVA and occupational therapists who operate within the scheme continues to be inconsistent and at times, non-existent. Changes to provider forms, the Rehabilitation Appliances Program schedule, and internal processes are not communicated as widely as they should be. This places the onus on occupational therapists to continually monitor all potential channels where these changes might be found, imposing another unnecessary administrative burden on care providers.

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.
  • Improved channels of communication between DVA and the allied health professionals that provide care to veterans.

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 occupational therapists in providing support to veterans. This includes an upcoming comprehensive submission to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicides in early 2022.
  • OTA continues to advocate for a more efficient and less bureaucratic treatment cycle for veterans.
  • OTA will continue to raise communication concerns with the DVA, and advocate for a more open and two-way system.

Latest Updates

7 January, 2022
OTA has recently been advised by DVA about a number of changes to healthcare arrangements for occupational therapists effective from January 1 2022.

Following the lead of the Commonwealth Department of Health, DVA will make telehealth arrangements – originally put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – permanent.

Additional changes include:

  • New multi-disciplinary case conferencing services
  • The cessation of MBS occupational therapy (mental health) services for bushfire affected DVA clients

For more information, please follow this link to the DVA Provider News article and the update fee schedule located here

10 December, 2021
From 1 November 2021, DVA’s Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP) commenced new contracts for mobility and functionality support (MFS) and home modification products and services.

Please see the following articles about the change in contracts and associated RAP arrangements:

‘Changes to the Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP) schedule, guidelines and forms'
‘New complex home modification prior approval process'
‘New mobility and functionality support and home modification contracts and arrangements’

If you have any queries regarding the new contracts or changes to RAP arrangements, please email rapgeneralenquiries@dva.gov.au.

9 December, 2021
OTA has recently been advised by DVA about a number of changes made to RAP provider forms. The seven affected forms are as follows:

  • D1327 - Complex Home/Access Modifications
  • D1323 - Authority to Install/Modify - Home/Access Modifications
  • D9300 - Electric Mobility Aids - Part 1 - Medical Assessment
  • D1325 - Electric Mobility Aids - Part 2 – Assessment
  • D9379 - Electric Mobility Aids - Part 3 – Trial
  • D9381 - Authority to Install/Modify - Vehicle Modifications
  • D9160 - Request for Trial of Equipment (Exercise Bike/Knee Scooter) - 3 Months Only

For more information, along with additional changes to the Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP) schedule and guidelines, please follow this link to the DVA Provider News article.

20 August, 2021
The following article has been published in DVA Provider News: Health providers supporting veterans amid recent events in Afghanistan. This article provides key information for health providers supporting veterans amid recent events in Afghanistan.

4 August, 2021
The following article has been published in DVA Provider News: Increased DVA fees for occupational therapy and podiatry consultationsDVA provider fees for certain occupational therapy and podiatry services have increased from 1 July 2021.

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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