Military veterans will get an official promise for better care once they return from service if Labor wins the next election.
Labor leader Bill Shorten said he would sign Australia’s first “military covenant”, based on a United Kingdom agreement which provides an undertaking “that those who serve or have served, and their families, are treated fairly.”
“Australians who serve in our armed forces often require specialised health and social services assistance – this is about making sure those needs don’t slip through the cracks,” Mr Shorten said in a statement on Wednesday.
Under the plan, the Veterans’ Affairs Department will have to report on waiting times for pension payments and how often they’re meeting targets.
Employment of veterans will also be tracked, with the unemployment rate of ex-service personnel sitting at twice the national average.
It will also require the government to report on measures to prevent suicide and improve mental health among ex-service men and women.
Data shows the average time taken to process permanent impairment claims for veterans was almost five months.
The suicide rate from 2002 to 2015 was also 14 per cent higher among ex-aerving men than all Australian men, after adjusting for age.
In a recent submission to a parliamentary inquiry on veterans, psychologist Dr Madeline Romaniuk said a big challenge for military personnel moving into civilian life was the lack of a handover from the military health system.
“At an organisational level, there is a gap in care for some of the most at-risk personnel,” she told the committee.
“To then have to ‘start over’ once out of the military, can prove too difficult for many.
Labor said it would work with the Australian Defence Force, the department and ex-service organisations to draft the wording of the covenant and associated laws.
In addition, a Labor government would seek to introduce laws requiring future governments to report annually on how they are supporting serving and ex-service personnel.
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