Australia's veterans have provided an important service for the Australian community. The physical and psychological demands of military service result in a sizeable proportion of Australian veterans requiring ongoing supports the medical and allied health sector, including occupational therapists.
OTA is advocating to ensure that Australian veterans can access vital OT services under the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) scheme, and that OTs can operate efficiently and sustainably. OTA’s advocacy efforts are supported by the OTA Veterans National Reference Group, which comprises members who deliver services to DVA clients, and supports OTA to identify and progress areas of advocacy.
Royal Commission into Defence and Veterans Suicide
The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide is a landmark inquiry into the critical issue of mental health for current and former military personnel.
The increasing prevalence of suicide and poor mental health among Australian veterans and defence personnel must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Occupational therapy, for both mental and physical disability, can contribute to improved health outcomes for those who have served.
OTA made a submission to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veterans Suicide in 2022 (PDF, 232 KB). OTA has advocated for better access to OTs for veterans, especially in the mental health space. It also outlined the challenges that occupational therapists currently face when providing services through the DVA, and provides some potential solutions.
The Commission’s interim report was published in August 2022.
It recommended the simplification of Veterans compensation legislation (which currently comprises three separate Acts). The Commonwealth is pursuing the simplification of this legislation, and OTA made a submission (PDF, 328 KB) to inform this process early in 2023.
Learn more about the scope of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide and read the terms of reference for the Commission.
The Commission’s final report is due in mid 2024. OTA will continue to monitor the Commission’s progress and advocate to ensure improvements for veterans, and the OTs who support them.
Department of Veterans Affairs advocacy
OTA is continuing to advocate to DVA for improvements to systems and processes to make it easier for OTs to support DVA clients.
- Streamlining and improvement to the DVA occupational therapy schedule of fees
- Better communication between the DVA and allied health professionals.
- Reforms to streamline the allied health treatment cycle. The 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.
Department of Veterans Affairs fees
After a sustained advocacy campaign, the 2021-22 federal budget saw the DVA increase their occupational therapy fees by 27 per cent.
This achievement was made possible through advocacy by OTA, and the hard work of key members who lobbied local MPs and successive Ministers of Veterans Affairs as well as members telling their story in news articles.
This was a welcome increase after a sustained period of stagnation, but does not fully cover cost of OT services. OTA has continued to raise inadequate fees at a federal level to the DVA and the Minister for Veterans Affairs.