On 6th October 2020, the Treasurer handed down the 2020-21 Federal Budget that reflects the extraordinary year in Australian history. Through unprecedented spending, the budget aims to fight off the coronavirus recession and address the economic and health challenges emerging from the pandemic.
Here are the biggest measures affecting veterans and their families.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Funding
- $11.7 billion has been allocated to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in the 2020-21 Budget, to support 220,000 veterans and 100,000 dependants.
Mental Health Support for Veterans and their Families
- $101.7 million over four years for veterans’ mental health support and services.
- A one-off increase to the fees paid to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs mental health, social work and community nursing providers and a simplified fee structure for these services.
- An additional 10 specialist psychiatry training places each year for psychiatrists to specialise in veterans’ mental health care.
- Expanding the Open Arms’ Veterans and Families Counselling Community and Peer program, in addition to developing and implementing an outcome monitoring framework to monitor and assess Open Arms services.
- Expanding digital mental health capabilities through a pilot of web-based forums for veterans and their families, improving access to support for those in regional and remote locations.
- Extending the Coordinated Veterans’ Care program to eligible White Card Holders with an accepted mental health condition.
Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Veterans — rent assistance
- $25.9 million over four years from 2020-21 to exempt Veterans’ Disability Pensions from the income test for Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) and income support payments.
- This will result in more veterans becoming eligible for CRA and remove the need for the Defence Force Income Support Allowance.
- This measure responds to the Independent Review into the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) Payment by David Tune AO PSM and also addresses recommendations made
Other Non-Budget Measure Initiatives
- $1.7 million to increase support for veterans who travel for treatment in a private vehicle
Broadening the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program
- $6.0 million over four years (and $1.2 million in 2024-25) to continue the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program to support veterans seeking meaningful employment.
- Includes the annual Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards.
- This measure will also improve veteran employment datasets and support small business and entrepreneurship, including expanding the eligibility of the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme to transitioning Australian Defence Force Members and their families.
Joint Transition Authority — establishment
- $17.7 million over four years (and $4.4 million per year ongoing) to establish a Joint Transition Authority (JTA) within Defence to better support the 6,000 ADF members who transition each year
- The JTA will coordinate and provide support programs and services, to ensure that ADF personnel are connected with the appropriate supports through their transition to post-military life.
- This measure will implement a key recommendation of the Productivity Commission’s A Better Way to Support Veterans Report.
- The cost of this measure will be partially met from within the existing resources of the Department of Defence.
DVA Additional Resourcing
- $4.3 million to develop a data sharing and analytics solution for DVA and Defence
- $23.2 million to support DVA’s claims processing
- $36.6 million to assist the department in maintaining services standards
Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the End of WWII
- $1.1 million to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War
COVID-19 Response Package – Further economic support payments
- $113.2 million to provide two separate $250 economic support payments (November 2020 and early 2021) to eligible veterans’ affairs payment recipients and concession card holders.
- The payments are exempt from taxation and will not count as income support for the purposes of any oncome support payments
COVID-19 Response Package – Guaranteeing Medicare and access to medicines – extension
- $5 million to maintain home medicine services and expanded continued dispensing arrangements to support access to the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic.