Veterans' Affairs defends placing pause on new applications to the Veterans' Independence Programme

Veterans' Affairs has defended its decision to pause what it calls a "discretionary" support programme – while it works through a backlog of requests for help.  

Emails leaked to AM revealed plans to cut access to things like lawn mowing, house washing, gardening and medical alarms for veterans without a service-related condition.  

The change applies only to new clients seeking access to the Veterans' Independence Programme and will be in place for 12 months. Those who are already accessing services, or have a service-related injury or illness, are unaffected.  

Speaking to AM this morning, Veterans' Affairs deputy head Alex Brunt defended the decision saying no veterans would be worse off, nor was no directive from the Government to cut spending.  

"What was seen over the last couple of years where veterans have claims resulting from their service – medical related claims have continued to grow, so some veterans are now waiting over a year to get results from their claim," Brunt said, "that is not a service we are particularly proud of." 

To combat growing wait times for support, Veterans' Affairs has decided to put more energy into those with medical conditions relating to their service.  

"We've got a discretionary area of our business, which is the veterans independence programme and this is where we've put a pause on for a year – we are shifting those resources to better enable us to better target and support those veterans with a health-related condition." 

Brunt said all the services offered under the programme are available through the public health or social welfare systems.  

And while Brunt had earlier said cutting the programme wasn't the result of a Government directive, when asked why they couldn't hire additional staff to work through the backlog – he signalled political pressures.  

"We would welcome more resources", Brunt said, "Government faces significant constraints right across the board at the moment, so we are working on the basis that we have to be able to shift resources internally and do what we can smarter. 

"We've identified areas where we can get increased efficiencies and gain, we're doing that, as I said we've brought on board more staff and where we have discretionary systems that can be provided through the public system and the social welfare system we are referring them there."

Veterans' Affairs has seen an increase in applications, which has come off the back of deployments to Afghanistan and East Timor.  

There was also a pause on applications during Covid.  

Brunt was adamant that veterans wouldn't be worse off.  

"If they have a medical-related condition, they can put in an application to veterans affairs." 

"Morally, the right thing to do is to sort those veterans and work with those who have the greatest need and a health-related condition."