DVA initiatives to improve veterans’ access to healthcare

Amanda Lyons

29/08/2018 3:38:28 PM

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has introduced a number of changes to better assist veterans in accessing the care they need for body and mind.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has introduced three initiatives to help veterans access better mental and physical healthcare. (Image: AAP)
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has introduced three initiatives to help veterans access better mental and physical healthcare. (Image: AAP)

Serving in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is not an easy job, and returning servicemen and women can face steep challenges. Many struggle to settle back in civilian society, have an increased risk of suicide, and are also significantly represented among Australians experiencing homelessness.
To help meet the specific health and wellbeing needs of its personnel, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has implemented three key measures designed to boost access to the mental and physical healthcare they may require.
‘I think they are great initiatives that will help simplify access to care for veterans and provide increased collaboration between GPs and allied health providers,’ Dr Glenn Pascoe, GP and Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Chapter of Military Medicine, told newsGP.
Improving access to mental health care for transitioning ADF personnel
Eligible ADF members transitioning from defence have been able to automatically receive a DVA White Card (White Card) from the middle of this year.
The White Card enables its holders to access DVA-funded care from GPs, psychologists and psychiatrists for any mental health condition regardless of its severity or cause, meaning it does not need to be service-related. Card holders do not need to pay to access any mental health service, but will be required to make a co-payment towards any pharmaceuticals prescribed.
DVA clients can also access mental health services by using a letter from the department confirming their eligibility for a White Card. However, GPs who are presented with a White Card for the first time are asked to check the patient’s eligibility with the department.
The DVA is also encouraging GPs to suggest applying for a White Card to any veteran patients they feel would benefit from one, if they have not received one already.  
‘The process is a simple online application with automatic approval by DVA,’ Dr Pascoe said.
Changes to GP referrals of DVA patients
GPs can currently refer DVA patients to an allied health service for up to a year, with the additional ability to make an ongoing referral for chronic conditions. However, the process for these referrals is set to change from next year.
From 1 July 2019, GPs will be able to refer DVA clients to allied health services for up to 12 sessions or one year, whichever comes first. This will also apply to patients with a chronic condition.
This new arrangement will be known as a ‘treatment cycle’, and its purpose is to ensure greater GP involvement in ongoing care for DVA clients.
After a treatment cycle is completed, the allied health provider will need to report back to the referring GP, so the GP can assess whether there is a need for further treatment. The GP can then re-refer for up to another 12 sessions, refer to another provider, or even consider an entirely different form of treatment; whichever they feel is best for the patient.
‘There will be no limits to the number of cycles per year, so that is a real bonus for veterans who may need regular ongoing treatment, and ensures regular feedback to the treating GP,’ Dr Pascoe explained.
The DVA is consulting with allied health providers, medical practitioners and ex-service organisations on these changes in the lead-up to July 2019. The effectiveness of the new arrangement will be assessed after the first year.
Provisional Access to Medical Treatment trial for veterans
The Provisional Access to Medical Treatment trial is designed to assess a program in which eligible claimants will be able to receive medical and allied health treatment on a provisional basis for one or more of the most commonly accepted conditions for ex-serving members of the ADF.
‘Access to treatment for certain conditions has been simplified through the Provisional Access to Medical Treatment Trial,’ Dr Pascoe said. ‘There are 20 conditions that veterans can be treated for whilst awaiting acceptance of their claim. They just need to see their GP who can confirm if the treatment is appropriate for their claimed condition.’
Veterans who want to access the trial need to make a liability claim for a service-related injury or disease relating to the specified 20 conditions before 1 April 2019. They will then receive a letter from the DVA containing information about the trial and a treatment confirmation form to be filled out by a GP.

Australian Defence Force Department of Veterans’ Affairs mental health military medicine

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