The Albanese Government has introduced legislation aimed at addressing the alarming rate of veteran suicides. 

The government says its new bill is designed to simplify and harmonise veteran compensation and rehabilitation systems.

The move comes in response to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide's first recommendation, calling for urgent action to simplify the existing compensation and rehabilitation legislation.

The Royal Commission, established in 2021, has been investigating the various factors contributing to the high rates of suicide among veterans.

The current veteran compensation system, described as “complicated and difficult to understand”, has resulted from decades of incremental changes and overlapping reforms. 

Veteran claims are presently processed under three different pieces of legislation depending on the period and nature of service. 

This complexity has led to significant delays, inconsistent processing, and uncertain outcomes, contributing to mental health issues among veterans. 

The Royal Commission noted that the system is “so complicated that it adversely affects the mental health of some veterans and can be a contributing factor to suicidality”.

To address these issues, the government has introduced the Veterans’ Entitlements, Treatment and Support (Simplification and Harmonisation) Bill 2024, also known as the VETS Bill. 

This legislation aims to consolidate veterans' compensation, rehabilitation, and other entitlements into a single, streamlined framework under an improved Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA).

If it passes, from July 1, 2026, all new compensation claims will be processed under the improved MRCA, regardless of when or where the veteran served. 

The bill introduces a new payment for severely impaired veterans of pension age, harmonised support for household and attendant care, and improved travel payments for treatment. 

Additionally, the funeral reimbursement for service-related deaths will increase to approximately $14,000, with a $3,000 allowance for other veteran deaths. Gold card eligibility will be extended to previously excluded veterans, such as some national servicemen.

The government has allocated an additional $222 million over two years from the commencement of this legislation to support veteran and family entitlements. 

Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling provides 24/7 free confidential crisis support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families on 1800 011 046 or the Open Arms website. Safe Zone Support provides anonymous counselling on 1800 142 072. Defence All-Hours Support Line provides support for ADF personnel on 1800 628 036 or the Defence Health Portal. Defence Member and Family Helpline provides support for Defence families on 1800 624 608