RSL Australia Federal Budget 2023-24 Report

Federal Treasurer, The Hon Dr Jim Chalmers MP, handed down the 2023-24 Federal Budget on 9 May 2023. It is the first full budget for the Albanese Government; delivered against a challenging national and increasingly uncertain global economic environment.

In recent weeks the Treasurer has, on multiple occasions, flagged the Government’s spending priorities as being to address the cost of living and to strengthen Australia’s healthcare system.

The Returned & Services League of Australia made a detailed pre-budget submission to the Government which included calls for appropriate funding to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, strengthen the advocacy system to better enable veterans to navigate the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) claims process, and to review and uplift DVA remuneration for healthcare providers.

Given the Treasurer’s pre-budget commentary and the Government’s response to the recent Defence Strategic Review, it is not surprising that the Budget did not include any headline items specific to veterans and their families. However, inclusions around the cost-of-living relief and strengthening Medicare are provisions will be of benefit to veterans and their families. The continued investment to reduce the DVA claims backlog is welcome.

Although not included in this Budget, the Royal Commission into Defence and Suicide has announced on 8 May that a separate process is being undertaken with Treasury to explore funding for implementation of recommendations. The Royal Commission has signalled that this will likely include consultation about the scope and functions of an implementation body. This is a significant and positive step forward in the Royal Commission process. The RSL stands ready to engage and to help others take part in the consultation once formally open.

Budget Measures

The Australian Government has committed $328 million for DVA to support veterans and their families in 2023-24.

Responding to the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide Interim Report

The recommendations handed down in the Interim Report can be broadly categorised as legislative reform, claims administration and access to information. This Budget included funding commitments across all three categories, which were announced in the DVA Portfolio Budget Statements – available here.

Other Budget announcements focused on Veterans and their families  

The following measures were announced in the DVA Budget papers which are available here. RSL will continue with further analysis of these and other measures as more details become available to identify the impact for veterans and their families.

Supporting veteran families at risk  

$0.5 million additional funding over four years from 2023-24 to expand eligibility for the Acute Support Package (ASP) to grandparents who are full-time carers for children of veterans.

The ASP is designed to support veteran families in times of crisis, and prior to this announcement it was available to veteran families and widowed partners, but not grandparents. ASP services include a range of wellbeing and skills-based support services to build family capability and function, including childcare, counselling, household assistance, transport and extra-curricular activities for children.

Volunteer training in suicide recognition and intervention

$2 million additional funding over two-years from 2023-24 to support the continued delivery of mental health literacy and suicide intervention for the veteran community.

This provision will see DVA continue to deliver workshops and training sessions across the country covering issues such as suicide awareness and mental first aid training. Around 4,000 participants are expected to participant over the next two-years, comprising veterans, families, caregivers, friends and ex-service organisations.

Other Budget announcements that include Veterans and their families

The Budget announced provisions totalling $14.6 billion intended to deliver the Government’s cost-of-living plan to provide help with power bills, bring down out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare costs, increase rental assistance, create more affordable housing and boost wages.

The cost-of-living plan includes the following measures that are intended to be of benefit to many Australians, including veterans and their families:

Strengthening Medicare

The Budget included $3.5 billion over five years to help stop the decline in bulk billing and $33.3 million for DVA over four years towards the Supporting Bulk Billing in General Practice (Veterans’ Access Payment).

The Budget also included the following provisions designed to deliver greater flexibility in the way healthcare is accessed and delivered:

  • $82.5 million over four years for Veterans’ Home Care and Community Nursing Programs.
  • DVA funding of $288.5 million over four years for residential aged care.
  • Community Nursing programs $19.7 million to establish MyMedicare, a voluntary patient registration scheme that will strengthen the relationship between patients and their primary care team and provide access to patient-centred funding packages, including veterans.
  • $98.9 million in wrap-around primary care for frequent hospital users with chronic disease to access multidisciplinary care in the community.
  • $112.0 million to incentivise GPs to provide high-quality, continuous care to patients in residential Aged Care homes
  • $47.8 million to improve the management of chronic wounds for diabetes patients in primary care settings
  • $143.9 million to improve access to after-hours primary care through Primary Health Networks After Hours Program and Healthdirect.
  • $358.5 million for eight new Urgent Care Clinics, in addition to continued funding for the 50 existing Urgent Care Clinics around Australia. Veterans and eligible dependents will be able to access urgent care at these clinics using their Veteran Card. This measure provides additional funding of $2 million for DVA to support the full rollout of an expanded national network of Urgent Care Clinics

Increase for Commonwealth Rent Assistance Recipients

The Budget confirmed a $2.7 billion investment over the next four years to fund a 15 per cent increase in the fortnightly payment for people in receipt of Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA). This will see an increase of $31 per fortnight to the maximum CRA payment. The measure is expected to benefit 76 per cent of current recipients, including some veterans and their families, and provides an extra $13.5 million to veterans and families.

Lower out-of-pocket health costs

The Budget announced $2.2 billion to fund the initiative to enable more people to receive two-months’ worth of medication/treatment from a pharmacist, instead of the current one-month limit, from September this year through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The Government expects that this change will save eligible individuals up to $180 each year and be of benefit to approximately 3.6 million PBS participants. Veterans will benefit from fewer visits to their GP and pharmacist and will save up to $43.80 a year, per medicine.

Summary of RSL Calls to Action

Read the full report here.

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