The Central Point Of Failure – The Department Of Veterans Affairs

I wasn’t sure if I should write this post.  My last opinion piece about the Department of Veterans Affairs was received quite well by the veterans community and prompted DVA to contact me to discuss my and many other young veteran’s issues.  What has prompted this follow-up piece tentatively titled “You Ignorant Fucking Bureaucrats!”?…

On the evening of 11 November 2013, undoubtedly scheduled to coincide with Remembrance Day, Channel 7’s Today Tonight aired a story about young veterans and the ongoing struggle for support with PTSD and mental illness entitled Fighting A Mental War.

The story began as a fairly straight forward account detailing the struggles of those who have had the unfortunate distinction of dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Frustration, anger and depression are some of the emotions one can feel when dealing with a Government Department seemingly intent on ignoring your calls for help and ensuring you don’t get access to quality support services and ultimately rejecting financial assistance for your national service at war.

This may seem like an extreme statement but when the person asking for support is a young service-person trying to access help for depression and/or assistance after experiencing a highly traumatic incident(s); being rebuffed by the very organization founded to help you only causes more stress and compounds an already volatile situation.  It is a fact that more young servicemen and servicewomen have taken their own lives post-deployment than have been killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ordinarily I would take a story broadcast on Today Tonight with a few dozen grains of salt.  But after watching Keith Payne VC fire up (a man I have had the pleasure of spending time with in both Afghanistan and Australia) and the pitiful response from DVA Mental Health Advisor Dr Stephanie Hodson I was poised to hurl my remote control at my TV in disgust.  I sat staring in disbelief, I wanted to break something, I could feel my pulse rising and my face getting hotter as my skin became flushed with rage.

Ultimately I calmed down but not before I fired off a steam of questions and statements to DVA via Twitter, Facebook and email.  Minister for Veterans Affairs Senator the Honourable Michael Ronaldson was also in my sights and received a highly sanitized and more eloquent email demanding answers about his representative’s insulting statements.

What did Dr Hodson say?  Below is the transcript from Today Tonight’s segment.

“Any suicide is tragic, and the department actively monitors suicide in veteran community,” Dr Hodson said.
“We actually do need to work on getting our staff more trained, but also about getting through these claims more quickly.”

Dr Hodson denies the department’s failure to plan ahead is resulting in long delays, leaving claims and lives in limbo.

“The department is processing claims as quickly as possible, but we acknowledge that some claims can take longer than we want,” she said.

Dr Hodson claims part of the problem lies with the veterans themselves.

“The problem is that it’s not until someone is in crisis that they will actually start to look for the services,” Dr Hodson said. “The treatment is there for veterans; we just need them to come and put up their hand and get it.” 

The full video can be found here:
Dr Hodson’s comments on behalf of DVA start at approximately the 8 minute 15 second mark.

I want to stress I am not launching a personal attack on Dr Hodson; she is clearly a very competent and qualified medical professional.  She previously served 22 years in the ADF as a psychologist and has been with DVA for the past decade.  This is a woman who has dedicated the majority of her career helping service-persons with mental health issues.

I am however attacking the Department of Veterans Affairs for the systematic failure of the past 40 years.  I’ve watched as my Father’s generation has been let down by DVA and his mates have been driven to suicide.  Decades later the same thing is happening to my generation.

By Dr Hodson’s own account, DVA needs to do more work; but also claims that the Department’s failure to plan ahead is not to blame.  So to Dr Stephanie Hodson and Minister for Veteran’s Affairs Sen the Hon Michael Ronaldson I put this to you:

The last Australians withdrew from Vietnam on Anzac Day 1975.  That was 38 years, 6 months and 18 days ago; and yet Australian Servicemen and Servicewomen are still not getting the support that we deserve and have fought for.

To have not learnt from the past and continuing to ignore the Department’s ongoing mistakes is akin to giving a Soldier with PTSD a noose and pointing him or her in the direction of the closet tree with a strong branch.

4 thoughts on “The Central Point Of Failure – The Department Of Veterans Affairs

  1. Chad and fellow ‘moving targets’:

    Long experience of governments and all their cast-iron assurances has made me suspicious.

    I had a look at the website of the Commission of Audit. Maybe I’ve missed something but all I could find on Veterans’ Affairs in the Commission’s Report was a vague description of DVA and AWM but nothing else. No recommendations at all for cutting costs and services. Given the track-records of various governments – that’s downright unnatural.

    It’s just too quiet. My anti-ambush sense is kicking in.

  2. This is a great story and, like the remainder of your posts, it needs to be taken further.

    Chad, as I have said before, you write well and have much to say AND you have done wonders too.

    I would like you to consider a more active lead role as one of the young bloods, but one whose father had problems and now those very same problems are actually WORSE !

    Several of us are working at it and have been for several years and it appears that there is now a groundswell about abuses in the ADF and thereafter; it is all about workplace safety mate !

    A DVA “whistleblower” and former DVA “insider” and I are writing a book – a biography of me, my abuses in ADF service and thereafter and continuing today, even after some 60 years.

    In my case, Navy & Comsuper accepted liability and I was awarded full pension from discharge in 1968 last year; this year DART has accepted liability and I have just been paid the full whack, BUT:

    #1 DVA has been the nigger in the woodpile since 1970, but particularly during the period 1996 to the present, despite…………
    #2 Being forced to apologise; also
    #3 Condemned in external review for harm to me; as well as
    #4 DVA being chastised by CDPP 2004 after ……….
    #5 Not heeding warnings 2003, including “this case is going to blow sky high” and …… has, with #6 Horrific protections, privacy breaches and illegalities breaching
    #7 On innumerable occasions The Crimes Act and Criminal code; also
    #8 Proven to have several times perverted the course of justice and
    #9 Reversed onus of proof while concocting false fraud and 6 false fraud situations I had to fight – NOT bloody on mate !
    #10 NOW, a 2nd external review has been ordered and there is a Code of conduct enquiry into the DVA Legal Head, after …………
    #11 Ministerial threat to sue me for false fraud allegations AND protections of two other DVA Legal Heads and much more – at my expense – but ENUF, its just that I think you could lead a new push against DVA.

    Keep up the good work

    Cheers and God Bless

    John Atkins

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