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The Hon Matt Keogh MP

Minister for Defence Personnel

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

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Stephanie Mathews on 0407 034 485

DVA Media:

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28 February 2024


SUBJECTS: Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide; Veterans Legislation Reform.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Back to Canberra, where an exposure draft of legislation is being introduced this week. This is on veterans’ entitlements. I want to bring in the Veterans’ Minister, Matt Keogh, thanks for your time. This follows the Royal Commission, which basically said, the whole system's too complicated, it's leading to too much trauma for veterans. Simplify it. How does this work?

MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE PERSONNEL, MATT KEOGH: Exactly right Kieran. So, any veteran who's engaged with this scheme knows there's three different pieces of legislation. Sometimes veterans fall under more than one or all three pieces. It made it hugely complex, added a lot of stress and anxiety for veterans. What we have released here with the exposure draft will move to a system where all new claims will be dealt with under one piece of legislation, the modern MRCA, as it's known. That'll mean that it's easier for veterans to know what they're entitled to, makes it easier for advocates to help them in lodging claims and it'll make it quicker for the Department to process claims, which is really important, because that means veterans get the support they need sooner.

GILBERT: And when we say sooner, the timeframe that the Royal Commission on Defence and Veteran Suicide said was two weeks, that's the timeframe that they need to have some response. Are you meeting that timeline now?

MINISTER KEOGH: So, when we came into Government, we inherited a situation where there were some 42,000 claims that DVA had received and had not been given to anybody to assess. We've now got it down to a circumstance where now there's about 1700 sitting there, which will be allocated within two weeks of them being received. If a veteran puts in a claim right now to DVA, within 14 days, someone will be looking at that claim to assess whether all the information that we need is there and then process it through to being accepted.

GILBERT: And officials will make contact with the veteran? So, they'll know that this has been received and it's being looked at. 

MINISTER KEOGH: Yeah, which is a huge change over what we've seen since we came into Government.

GILBERT: The Royal Commission also suggested that the backlog be cleared by the end of March. Where does that stand? 

MINISTER KEOGH: So, that's that backlog, that 42,000.

GILBERT: So, that's gone?

MINISTER KEOGH: That's gone. So, now, within two weeks of you lodging a claim, someone will be looking at it and assessing. Now, assessing can take some time, because if your claim needs further medical reports, if there's other information we need, need to drag some information out of Defence, for example. That will take some time and we're trying to get that to happen as quickly as possible and reduce the time it takes to process. But critically, it means instead of people literally waiting over 100 days, up to two years, we saw people waiting before anyone within the Department even looked at their claim, they'll be starting to be looked at within 14 days of receipt.

GILBERT: So, when you've been in this job now for a fair while, enough to know the system, know the Department, know the problems, why has it taken so long to deal with such a critical issue of national interest? It's our veterans and the wellbeing of people that served in our uniform.

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, the fundamental problem was the Department wasn't properly resourced. We made a commitment at the election to provide 500 additional staff in claims processing. We've exceeded that to make sure that we could get through this backlog, process claims as quickly as possible. That was a key commitment we took. The Department is now the best resourced it's been in three decades to make sure we can deliver these outcomes.

GILBERT: And in terms of just finally, that's speeding up the process. What's your goal there in terms of how quickly you want these things turned around by the Department?

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, obviously we want them to be dealt with as quickly as possible. And as I say, sometimes we need further medical reports to come in or information to come out of DVA. And there's a two stage process. The first is whether someone's condition is linked to their Defence service so they can then get access to all the health care they need. The second part is determining compensation. And so one process follows the other. But I can understand why veterans would say, well, this should be a matter of months, not a matter of years, and that's what they've confronted previously and that's what we want to get to.

GILBERT: And is the care being provided alongside? Because, as we saw so tragically in that Royal Commission, far too many veterans have taken their own lives in the face of the pressures and the demands put on them by the job in the first place and then the lack of support.

MINISTER KEOGH: And that's why this is crucial. This is about making sure that veterans have a clear understanding through simplifying the legislation, what they're entitled to, what they can get access to, and the resourcing of the Department to make sure they can get through that claims process as quickly as possible so they can get the support that not only that they need, but frankly, they deserve to have.

GILBERT: Indeed they do. Veterans' Affairs Minister Matt Keogh. Thanks.

MINISTER KEOGH: Thanks a lot Kieran.


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