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Government’s commitment to veterans seeking compensation just ‘lip service’, claims MP Templeman

Macquarie MP Susan Templeman says the Federal government is merely paying lip service to veterans seeking compensation for injury and trauma after it emerged at a Senate hearing extra staff to handle some 49,000 unprocessed claims are only temporary and will finish in two years time.

The growing compensation issue is national but affects many Hawkesbury veterans too.

“So many Hawkesbury veterans have told me about the long waits they experience with the system, and that they simply ask for trained staff at the Department who understand the issues. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for, given what we have asked them to do, when they served the country,” said Ms Templeman.

At a Senate Inquiry into Australian Public Service (APS) capability, Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) officials conceded a boost in the number of staff to deal with an increased workload was temporary, and that they would need to go back to the government to request further Budget funding to maintain staffing levels from 2023-24 onwards.

“I welcomed the government’s announcement that it would provide 440 additional staff for DVA to improve compensation claims processing capacity. But evidence given by the Department [at the Senate enquiry] stated there were no new permanent positions being created, only temporary contracts,” Ms Templeman said.

MP Susan Templeman with Senate Finance and Public Administrative Committee Chair, NSW Labor Senator Tim Ayres

“Only about two-thirds of those 440 positions have been filled, and in the meantime, there was a backlog of more than 49,000 unprocessed compensation claims as of December last year.

“Veterans are waiting up to 186 days to resolve claims, and there is the very real chance the rest of those positions won’t be filled by the time the Department has to apply to keep funding them.

“In fact, last year in Senate Estimates it was revealed 42% of Department of Veterans’ Affairs staff were labour hire, including the majority of claims processing staff,” she said.

“The problem is that the government has imposed staffing caps on the public service, which means the DVA can’t hire the staff it needs to provide veterans with the services they deserve in a timely manner.

“DVA officials admitted in Senate Estimates in June that demand was continuing to outstrip staff capacity, and the Department needed to take more people on board to manage the workload.

“The 2021-22 Veterans’ Affairs budget was a clear attempt by the Government to apply short-term political fixes and band-aid solutions to a much bigger problem.

“It’s lip service by this government to a cohort of Australians who put themselves on the line for their country.

“The government needs to step up for our veterans like our veterans did for us.”

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