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2. About the agency

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs that assist the Australian veteran community.

The Australian veteran community totals more than 300,000 and includes: veterans, widows and widowers and dependants; serving members of the Australian Defence Force, including reservists; Australians who participated in British nuclear testing on Australian soil; and Australian Federal Police officers with overseas service.

DVA’s youngest client, the child of a deceased solider from Operation SLIPPER in Afghanistan, is under one year of age, while its oldest, a war widow, is 107.

More than 160 widows of World War I veterans continue to be supported by DVA, out of approximately 85,000 war widows and widowers, and there are still some 58,000 surviving veterans from a World War II service population of 1 million. Approximately 60,000 men and women served during the Vietnam War, a number roughly equivalent to the number of Australians who have served in ‘contemporary’ post-1999 operations. Of the estimated 46,000 Vietnam veterans surviving as at June 2013, DVA provides support to approximately 42,000. The department also supports Australian personnel involved in warlike, peacekeeping or peacetime operations.

DVA spans the generations and the department has proven to be an important resource and source of support to many. The services it provides to its clients include access to health and community care, rehabilitation and counselling. It also provides income support, compensation for incapacity and war caused conditions and/or injuries, pensions to war widows and widowers, education assistance for eligible children, home insurance, home loans and commemorative activities.

Last year DVA received 3.55 million client and provider phone calls, 9,596 client emails and 68,082 client visits to its shopfronts. It also assessed some 29,000 compensation claims, processed around $3 billion in income support payments, provided more than 73,000 counselling sessions through the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS), and administered close to $5.5 billion in health services provided to Repatriation Card Holders; including some 330,000 inpatient hospital separations.

As at 30 June 2013, DVA had:

  • departmental appropriations of $370.5 million
  • administered appropriations of $12.059 billion
  • 2,058 staff
  • 28 SES members (not including statutory office holders) of which 42 per cent were female.

The department works with and through the Repatriation Commission and the Military Rehabilitation Compensation Commission which determines the policies and programs for beneficiaries under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act (VEA) 1986, the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (MRCA) 2004 and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (SRCA) 1988. The department also administers other legislation including, amongst others, the Defence Service Homes Act 1918 and the War Graves Act 1980, and conducts commemorative programs to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of Australian servicemen and women.

As at June 2013, DVA’s client base included approximately 313,880 beneficiaries, with 18,557 MRCA and SRCA beneficiaries.1

DVA projects that its VEA client base will decline by almost half over the next decade. While the department does not currently have projections for its MRCA and SRCA clients, it is working with the Australian National University to develop a predictive modelling capability to support the expected increase of these clients in coming years following recent Australian Defence Force deployments.

The department’s three stated outcomes are to:

  1. maintain and enhance the financial wellbeing and self-sufficiency of eligible persons and their dependants through access to income support, compensation, and other support services, including advice and information about entitlements
  2. maintain and enhance the physical wellbeing and quality of life of eligible persons and their dependants through health and other care services that promote early intervention, prevention and treatment, including advice and information about health service entitlements
  3. acknowledge and commemorate those who served Australia and its allies in wars, conflicts and peace operations through promoting recognition of service and sacrifice, preservation of Australia’s wartime heritage, and official commemorations.

DVA maintains a geographically dispersed footprint with staff in each state and territory delivering localised services to the veteran community as well as performing national functions. Most policy functions are centrally managed in Canberra. DVA maintains national reporting lines for the majority of its functions, most of which report centrally to Canberra.

As at June 2013, DVA’s staff headcount comprised:
ACT NSW Qld SA NT Tas Vic WA Total % of Total
APS 348 285 362 135 16 71 252 104 1571 76.34
Executive Level

(EL1 or EL2)
257 40 71 23 3 4 42 12 454 22.06
Senior Executive Service (SES) 21 2 1 1 0 0 2 1 28 1.36
Statutory 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0.24

DVA’s client base continues to change with increasing client diversity across the generations and varied client expectations. This also includes a new, non-traditional client group of active Australian Defence Force members who access DVA services through the On Base Advisory Services (OBAS) arrangements established in the latter part of 2011.

DVA clients’ geographical footprint and psychosocial profile are also changing and expectations for increased access to online services are growing.

DVA will need to continue to maintain strong relationships with a growing range of Ex-Service Organisations (ESOs) that represent, to a greater or lesser extent, different portions of its veteran community client base. While DVA’s remit is unique in the Australian Government, its challenges are not uncommon to the APS and the department faces a number of pressures to increase its organisational capability in a changing external environment. It is also experiencing the same fiscal constraints as other APS agencies, and the same continuous pressure to increase efficiency.

 

1 DVA Annual Report 2012–13, pp. 17–18. Beneficiaries include persons receiving pensions or allowances or who hold a Gold, White, Orange Repatriation Health Card or Commonwealth Seniors Card. It includes veterans (approximately 48 per cent of total VEA beneficiaries), war widows and widowers (approximately 28 per cent) and dependants (approximately 24 per cent). VEA, SRCA and MRCA beneficiary figures are not mutually exclusive and cannot be tallied.