RSL Australia welcomes additional $328m committed to veterans in Federal Budget
The Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL) has welcomed the 2023-24 Federal Budget and the more than $328 million in funding that has been allocated to veterans and their families through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA).
RSL Australia National President Greg Melick said it was encouraging to see a significant injection of funding to support those who have served our country.
“This commitment to the health and wellbeing of veterans, in addition to a substantial investment to address key recommendations from the Interim Report for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide is incredibly promising and addresses a number of challenges experienced by veterans,” Greg Melick said.
“It is also heartening to see the inclusion of a number of cost of living measures from Medicare reform to subsidise energy bills and an increase in rent assistance to support Australians across the country, including many in the veteran community.
“We welcome the investment to strengthen Medicare and increase access to primary healthcare, and we hope that this will increase access for veterans seeking appointments with GPs once we understand the impact of this measure more broadly.
“However, we are disappointed that the Budget did not include identified funding for the full implementation of all recommendations of the ongoing Royal Commission, as well as a commitment to implement demand-driven funding to support veterans’ welfare, rather than having to fight for funding each budget year.”
While supportive of the commitment of funding to DVA, Greg Melick said RSL Australia looked forward to engaging with the Federal Government on additional measures to support the more than 581,000 veterans and their families across them country.
“We acknowledge that the economic environment is uncertain and fiscal conditions are tight, but for these reasons we made extensive calls on government for sustained funding to address the inequities and barriers that continue to be experienced by the veteran community,” he said.
“We remain committed to our pre-budget calls for the establishment of an implementation body to oversee the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and will continue to advocate to the Federal Government to ensure this remains a priority.
“Our veterans are skilled and capable people who make significant contributions to our communities post-service. Investing in services, support systems and wellbeing programs to strengthen their health and welfare remains our core focus.
“Veterans and their families can take heart in knowing that Australians continue to value their service and sacrifice, both during and after their ADF service, and we will continue to work tirelessly with the Federal Government to ensure our members are supported with practical services and programs.”
Other budget highlights include:
- An additional $4.8 billion in funding for veterans’ compensation and support payments.
- $254.1 million over four years to modernise and sustain ageing IT systems, and ensure more timely payments and access to services for veterans and families through DVA.
- $64.1 million in 2023-24 to retain more than 480 DVA staff who are working to deliver frontline services to veterans and families;
- $2 million over 2 years from 2023–24 to continue the Department of Veterans’ Affairs mental health literacy and suicide intervention training program for the ex-service community
- Expanded eligibility for the Acute Support Package (ASP) introduced in the October 2022 Budget to include grandcarers – grandparents who are full-time carers of children of veterans
- $82.5 million for the Veterans’ Home Care Program and Community Nursing services
The RSL also welcomed the $50,000 re-enlistment bonus for Australian Defence Force personnel but said this should be seen as just the first step in a campaign to build an increased and sustainable military complement.
The RSL also reiterated its concern that some 30 projects have been either reduced, delayed or scrapped in a bid to save $7.8 billion, with funding reprioritised as part of the $19 billion reinvestment, to help fund the recommendations of the Defence Strategic Review. This funding is fully offset from Defence’s current budget.