The federal government has pledged an extra $31 million to help support veterans dealing with mental health issues and their families.
Veterans’ Affairs Minister Dan Tehan announced the funding in parliament on Tuesday as part of the government’s response to a recently completed Senate inquiry into veteran suicide.
Around $16 million will be spent over four years on a new payment for financially vulnerable veterans claiming mental health conditions.
Just over $7.1 million will go towards extended support for families of support, with a further $2.1 million for an annual health assessment for ex-serving Defence Force members in the first five years after discharge.
An additional $4 million will be used to pilot a case management program for transitioning recently discharged personnel, plus $1.7 million for a scoping study to professionalise veterans’ advocacy.
“I want to reiterate to the entire Australian Defence Force and ex-service community that this government will continue to prioritise mental health support for our veterans,” Mr Tehan told MPs.
Mr Tehan noted the story of veteran Jesse Bird, who died by suicide in June, and publicly apologised to his family and friends.
He conceded that departmental processes failed – or did not exist – to offer service to the 32-year-old, who was dealing with physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“While struggling with all this, Jesse decided to end his life,” he said.
The case, which was subject to a review by Defence and Veterans’ Affairs, highlighted the issue of providing timely compensation and financial assistance to support veterans suffering mental health conditions.
“These issues let Jesse down as he was unable to get financial assistance when he needed it.”
The government has agreed to 22 of the committee’s 24 recommendations, including wide-ranging reviews of the department’s processes.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.
Multicultural Mental Health Australia www.mmha.org.au.
Local Aboriginal Medical Service details available from www.bettertoknow.org.au/AMS
This piece was first published on ‘SBS News’ 24 October 2017.