If you’re like most Australians, you have a deep respect for the work our defence forces do to protect our beloved country. And if one of your family members or friends is a member of the forces or a veteran, that respect is no doubt combined with a lot of love. We all want the best for our brave servicemen and women and veterans.
That’s why you might be surprised and concerned to learn that many of Australia’s 641,000 veterans aren’t aware of the wide range of specialised support services and benefits they earned through their service – and so are missing out on assistance that could be vital to their health and wellbeing.
In fact, a 2018 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare pointed out that although veterans tended to have greater health and welfare needs than non-veterans, there was a real lack of official government data on how veterans accessed the services they needed or even which services were the most helpful.
If you have a veteran in your family or group of mates, you may have noticed yourself that they’re struggling with physical or mental health issues and don’t feel particularly supported. But there’s now a way you can offer real help, by referring them to Veterans Benefits Australia. Better still, all of these incredible health services are also available online, so you or a loved one can get support from a healthcare professional in the comfort of your own home.
Veterans Benefits is an online platform designed to help former Australian Defence Force (ADF) members discover what services and benefits they’re entitled to, help veterans obtain the necessary government funding to cover the costs associated and to connect them with organisations that provide services and benefits to veterans.
Tom Bailey founded Veterans Benefits in 2016 after he noticed that many ADF veterans struggled to access the free or subsidised treatments available to help them deal with health and wellbeing issues they’d incurred during their time in service.
“You’d think that there’d be more information out there but even navigating the Department of Veterans Affairs’ website is pretty complicated,” Bailey says. “I saw that veterans didn’t know what they were entitled to and nowhere for service providers to talk in a safe way to veterans about what they could offer them.”
Veterans Benefits is a one-stop-shop for veterans’ benefits, where users can find a range of entitlements and concessions, including government-subsidised or fully funded exercise and dietary plans, counselling and mental health programs, dental treatment, physiotherapy, medication management services and drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Veterans can even apply for funding to have their home cleaned regularly if they struggle to do so themselves.
Bailey says that it’s often these important health and wellbeing support services that are the most difficult for veterans to access, because qualifying to receive the benefit requires applying for DVA funding.
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“Sometimes, even if they find out what their entitlements are, going through the layers of bureaucracy needed to pursue a claim for funding is just too hard without someone guiding you through it,” he says.
Veterans Benefits provides that guidance by walking its users through every step of the application process – all a veteran need do is register an interest in one of the support services programs on the Veterans Benefits site and a Veterans Benefits specialist will be assigned to their case to provide personalised assistance in accessing that service.
“We take them through all the hoops of getting funding to make it easier for veterans to claim their entitlements,” Bailey says. “We get a lot of lovely emails from people who say they wouldn’t have got the help by themselves – we recently helped a veteran who’d had several knee surgeries and was in a lot of pain, and had no family, organise to have a cleaner visit his home every week.
“Just making sure he’s in a nicer, cleaner environment and can keep on top of it makes a difference.”
Bailey adds that accessing one helpful service can sometimes kick off other positive life changes for veterans.
“I was talking to a veteran recently who told me he was really depressed when he discovered the exercise program on our site, which helped him create a routine and eventually get into a more positive mindset,” he recalls. “He told me that exercise really did save his life.”
Veterans Benefits uses its expertise in veterans’ affairs to raise money for Young Veterans, which is used to provide wellbeing and social programs that the government doesn’t fund.
And users of the Veterans Benefits site can sign up for a free, monthly newsletter that will let them know when a new benefit is added to the site, as well as keeping them abreast of veterans’ issues and any changes made by the DVA.
“There are people who are very eligible for help that just aren’t getting what they need, and we want to change that,” Bailey says.
So if you know and love a veteran, tell them about the benefits Veterans Benefits could help deliver – after all, they earned it.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services advice.
Our mission is to provide more connection and awareness for veterans to access free services including exercise programs, nutrition programs, physiotherapy and other fully funded services to assist with health and wellbeing.