Follow-up to “Veteran refused care – because DVA is paying”

It took six month but I eventually got a response from my local politician to my recounting of my experience being reject for psychiatric care – because DVA was paying.

Back in February, I wrote a story titled “Veteran refused care – because DVA is paying“.

After my initial failure to get an appointment, I wrote to my local federal member, Ann Sudmalis, who also happened to be on a committee looking into veterans’ issues (I forget the specific title and focus).

It took about six month, but I eventually got a response from Ms Sudmalis – which was actually no more than a cover note, covering a letter from Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester in response to Ms Sudmalis.

Mr Chester’s letter re-hashed the government’s position already expressed in my earlier story – including his assertion that “this is not a system-wide problem”.

In so asserting he also did acknowledge that “when these instances do occur, it can cause inconvenience for clients and embarrassment for providers”.

If you read my initial story, I think you’ll agree that ‘inconvenience for clients’ is not at all what I was concerned about [more like slap-in-the-face rejection for someone who may already be in a very fragile mental state].

Mr Chester also informed Ms Sudmalis that “DVA has contacted Mr Hartigan and provided him with assistance” – which is true – but again, not at all the point of my issue or concern – but was offered as a ‘full stop, no more action required’ at the end of the letter.

Upon reading Mr Chester’s letter initially, I accepted it for what it was – a politician’s response to an constituent-raised issue, which added little or no substance to the debate, and skilfully dismissed my broader concern, by acknowledging (truthfully) and drawing a line under my personal case while downplaying the bigger issue.

I bring all this up again for two reasons.

First, for the fact that my concern in the initial story went far beyond my personal experience and posed serious questions ‘for the greater good’. But, by informing Ms Sudmalis that “DVA has contacted Mr Hartigan and provided him with assistance”, both politicians seemed satisfied to walk away assuming ‘problem solved’. Yet, while my personal circumstances are actually sorted, the big-picture issue is unchanged (and apparently unexplored).

The second reason I am revisiting this story is because, on initial reading of Mr Chester’s letter, I saw nothing of much note in it. But, I guess I wasn’t paying attention, because, for some reason, I re-read the letter the other day and noticed something just a little bit startling to me.

In two lengthy paragraphs, Mr Chester explains to Ms Sudmalis that [and I paraphrase] indexation of GP bulk-billing fees under Medicare, which had also been frozen in the past, were unfrozen on 1 July last year, standard GP and specialist fees were unfrozen on 1 July this year and specialist and specialist procedures would be unfrozen on 1 July next year.

But all that pertained only to Medicare. Mr Chester didn’t actually mention DVA’s schedule of fees in this context, leaving the reader (me) to assume that DVA’s schedule of fees still are and will remain frozen.

 

At the end of the day, no good came of my interaction with my local parliamentarian and the relevant minister (except that I got to write about this issue again, and pump it out in the Internet where awareness may do some good).

Defence Veteran’s Affairs and its minister continue to suggest ‘we’ve got your back’ and ‘all costs will be covered’ – but do not acknowledge anywhere that “Not all service providers are willing to accept DVA-funded veterans as clients“, which I argue, is a simple truth that could avoid inconvenience, embarrassment – and slap-in-the-face rejections.

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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