Veterans’ welfare at risk from new Productivity Commission report

The CPSU is deeply concerned at a Productivity Commission recommendation to model support for Australian veterans on workers compensation schemes.

A draft report from the Productivity Commission has recommended abolishing the Department of Veteran Affairs and replacing it with a system modelled on workers compensation.

Public submissions are now open on the draft until February 11, with a final report expected to be completed by the middle of 2019.

CPSU Deputy National President Lisa Newman said: “The Productivity Commission is right in identifying that our veterans’ compensation and rehabilitation system is falling short of what people who have served our country need and deserve, but our members think it’s missing the obvious when it comes to solutions. Veterans deserve far better than what’s outlined in this report, just as much as they need better support than they’re currently getting.”

“Key details of this report will be deeply concerning for veterans, but also for our members in the Department of Veteran Affairs who work so hard to provide support and services to such a deserving group of Australians. Abolishing a department is not a solution at all, just a recipe for uncertainty and potentially wholesale job cuts. The needs of veterans and currently serving defence personnel are quite different and rolling both into a single ministry won’t serve either group’s interests.”

“The suggestion that veterans should be subjected to a workers compensation-style scheme is frankly offensive and gives the firm impression that the Productivity Commission is primarily concerned with what support for veterans costs rather than how well it supports people who’ve served in the Australian Defence Force. There have been some devastating cases in the media that suggest veterans support has already gone too far down the workers compensation path.”

“The Productivity Commission’s rhetoric of focussing on the lifetime wellbeing of veterans is a worthy goal, but it’s completely at odds with the reality of how workers’ comp schemes operate. Most of these schemes are designed to get injured workers off their books as quickly as possible, more concerned with fixing costs than the rehabilitation of people. The mental health challenges faced by many veterans are especially vulnerable to this kind of approach.”

“The support provided to Australian veterans is in desperate need of reform, but these much needed changes must be driven by the knowledge and experience of veterans themselves and the staff helping them in the Department of Veterans Affairs.”