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Minister Andrew Gee says delays in letters from DVA on pensions should not have happened

Yesterday, AVN reported on widespread concerns that breakdown in communications from DVA were causing distress amongst some disabled veterans who discovered that their DVA pensions payments were reduced as of the 13th of January pension day.

The issue relates to inadequate communication to pensioners affected by changes in the income test relating to pensions managed by Centrelink that removes the need to top up DVA pensions with the now defunct Defence Force Income Support Allowance (DIFSA). While it has been confirmed that no pensioner will be worse off (indeed some 6,900 veterans will now be better off with access to rent assistance), the communications fiasco has created unnecessary angst and concern for some vulnerable veterans, and it’s still not clear if all DVA pensioners affected by the change have been contacted.

In an email seen by AVN addressed to member organisations of DVA’s Ex-service Organisation Round Table (ESORT), Acting Secretary DVA, Vicki Rundle said:

"Unfortunately, some of the letters advising of the changes to veterans were delayed, meaning some veterans did not receive a personal explanation as to why their DFISA payment had been reduced prior to 13 January.

"We are sorry for any distress this has caused veterans and their families.

AVN contacted the office of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Andrew Gee, who responded by saying:

“It’s disappointing that this delay with the letters has occurred. It should not have happened. The Department has apologised for the anxiety this has caused and I want to assure our ex-servicemen and women and their families that no veteran will be worse off by this change in legislation.

“These reforms simplify the payment arrangements for around 14,000 veterans and their families and increase access to rent assistance for our most disabled veterans with 6,900 set to benefit.

“I encourage any veteran who has questions or any concerns to contact the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on 1800 838 372 where help is available.

While this breakdown in communications will ultimately leave no one out of pocket (once their payments are eventually brought up to date), it highlights the weakness in the veteran support network and the lack of forethought on potential impact on those pensioners reliant on each and every dollar as is supposed to hit their their bank accounts. For some, being out of pocket for even just a few days can be the catalists of serious distress and anxiety.

This issue is important and shouldn't be brushed off as a trivial hiccup, if for nothing else than to raise awareness of the disproportionate impact of small oversights and to make things better next time around.


Additional background, courtesy the office of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs:

Some veterans may have received less in their recent DVA pension, however this will quickly be made up through increased Centrelink or Age Pension payments.

  • This is due to a change of legislation that came into effect on 1 January 2022, which simplifies and improves the Disability Pension for many veterans.

  • The Defence Force Income Support Allowance (DFISA) was a DVA income support payment. It was made to people whose social security income support payment was reduced or not payable because their disability income from DVA was counted as income by Centrelink.

  • In December 2021, legislation was passed to exempt these disability payments from DVA from being counted as income. These changes simplify the support system for over 14,000 veterans and dependants and removes the need for DFISA. This will also increase rent assistance payable to veterans or enable some disabled veterans to receive rent assistance for the first time – benefitting approximately 6,900 veterans and their dependants. The effective date for these changes was 1 January 2022.

  • The legislation implemented the recommendations of the review by Mr David Tune AO PSM into the adequacy of the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) payment. It:

    • exempts Disability Compensation Payment (formerly known as Disability Pension) as income under the Social Security Act. These changes simplify the support system for veterans and dependants and negates the need for the DFISA.

    • removes a means test imposed on Rent Assistance for certain veterans and dependants. These veterans and dependants are now eligible for Rent Assistance, or an increased rate of Rent Assistance.

    • it clarifies that the Disability Compensation Payment is a compensation payment, and that it should not be confused with other income support payments such as Centrelink’s Disability Support Pension.

  • This change removes the need for the DFISA, which is why some veterans will have seen a reduction in their recent DVA pension payments. However, Centrelink payments will increase by the same amount or even higher in some cases.

  • No veteran will receive lower total payments as a result of this measure. Many will receive more due to now being eligible for Rent Assistance, either for the first time or at a higher rate.

  • If a veteran is a private renter, they may also see an increase in payments.

  • Ceasing DFISA and increasing social security payments (such as Age Pension) will be staggered over two pay dates, because the effective date of 1 January 2022 was in the middle of a pay period for most veterans. If a veteran is checking their online payments, it will show part of the transition for payday 13 January 2022 but will show the full transition for payday 27 January 2022.


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