Veterans affairs office ‘feudal, chaotic’
One veteran was refused a mental health assistance dog because “his wife could do everything a dog could”.
Another was told her post traumatic stress disorder claim was false because she was pregnant and was suffering from depression related to that instead.
A third had to get his wife to secretly record his commander abusing him. The abuse related to his claim over being wrongly investigated and disciplined for alleged marijuana use in Afghanistan.
He was also told he would end up as a “trolley pusher at Coles” if he didn’t follow directives from a Veterans’ Affairs staffer.
These accounts, from veterans’ advocate Rod Thompson, are contained in one of more than 500 submissions lodged with an inquiry by the Senate standing committee on defence into suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel.
They give a devastating insight into the mindset of, and difficulties facing, veterans trying to navigate assistance and compensation claims after they leave the Australian Defence Force.
The flood of complaints has prompted some such as Mr Thompson to call for a royal commission into the treatment of veterans, given what he says is a life-threatening situation for many suffering ex-service personnel.
Mr Thompson, a Gulf war veteran, said the Department of Veterans’ Affairs was “dysfunctional, feudal and under-resourced’’.
“There has been an alarming spike of suicides related to DVA. Many veterans are just giving up and going to Centrelink,” he said.
But Veterans’ Affairs Minister Dan Tehan said systems changes were under way and being treated as a priority.
He said since taking up the portfolio last year he has pushed a series of reforms including making mental health treatment free for ex-military PTSD sufferers; commissioning the National Mental Health Commission to review suicide and self-harm prevention services for ADF members; and undertaking a “significant transformation” of the DVA.
“While the Senate inquiry has been taking submissions and hearing evidence, the government has been getting on with the job,’’ Mr Tehan said.
The overwhelming response to the Senate inquiry has led to the committee extending the time for submissions. It is due to report on March 30.