Labor plans ‘once-in-a-generation’ fix for veterans

Tess Ikonomou |

Complex laws governing how military veterans are compensated for their service to the nation will be overhauled in a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to fix the system.

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Matt Keogh will on Wednesday introduce legislation to the lower house proposing to roll three laws into one, streamlining the pathway for veterans and their families making claims.

Simplifying the rules and having new legislation in place by July 2025 was the first recommendation of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide in its interim report.

Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide signage
The legislation changes were recommended by the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

The inquiry found the complex compensation claims process had harmed people’s mental health.

The bill put forward by the government will kick in a year later than recommended when it comes into effect in July 2026.

Mr Keogh will say the “mammoth task” of reform will mark the greatest shift in approach to veterans’ entitlements in almost 40 years.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get the system right for veterans and families,” he will say.

“A system that for too long has caused much unnecessary anxiety for the veteran community.

“This legislation is a significant step in ensuring a better future for defence personnel, veterans and families.”

A file photo of Matt Keogh
Veteran’s Affairs Minister Matt Keogh will introduce the legislation changes to parliament. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Under the changes, benefits from existing schemes will continue unaffected, with fresh claims to be covered by the new legislation.

Labor delayed the implementation schedule as it sought feedback from veterans on the changes, and to give people enough time to learn the new framework while making system upgrades.

Department of Veterans’ Affairs projections in the 2024 federal budget show payments for rehabilitation and compensation claims are expected to grow by $6.5 billion over the next five years.

More than 500 extra staff were hired to clear a huge backlog, which at its peak in late 2022 reached 45,000 in the queue.

Fresh claims are now being dealt with in a two-week period, and for some veterans, support is being provided in less than two months from the date of lodgement.

The royal commission will hand down its final report in early September.

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