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Better Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans

Veterans will now be able to access treatment for mental health and substance use problems without having to prove their condition is related to their service.

Eligibility is being extended to include a greater number of members with peacetime service and access to the Veterans and Families Counselling Service will also be broadened under the new measures.

The move has been welcomed by the The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA).

“PHAA congratulates the Australian Government for its commitment to prioritising the mental health and related care of veterans and their families now and into the future,” said Michael Moore, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the PHAA.

“Studies conducted in the United States indicate that at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or depression.  US studies have also indicated that rates of veteran suicide are much higher than previously thought.  Further, increases in rates of smoking are strongly correlated with the stress of deployment and combat, and smoking statistics show that tobacco use is tremendously damaging and costly for soldiers.

“Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, has emphasised that funding for treatment will not be capped and will be driven by demand.  He has also stressed that the Government is determined not to repeat the mistakes made after the Vietnam War in its approach to assisting the contemporary cohort of veterans.  This follows a decade of increased military operations, including the conflict in Afghanistan.

“The Government has an important responsibility to our veterans and their families to mitigate the impact of their combat experiences.  It is worthwhile noting that the experiences of veterans can also take a heavy toll on their families.  Australian research has shown that partners and children of Vietnam veterans experience high levels of depression, self-harm and a high suicide rate.  The lessons of the past should be used to inform current and future policies and programs designed to assist veterans, their families and communities.

“From a public health perspective, the mental health of veterans – and the related issues of smoking and alcohol and other drug use – represent a significant area of need in terms of both personal impacts and policy and program responses.  We welcome the Australian Government’s renewed commitment in this area,” said Mr Moore.

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