Concern over change to veteran services

LOCAL RSL members hope to discuss the future of veteran services with the federal government.

The government announced a review of shopfront veterans services for towns including Bendigo last week.

Veterans Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson flagged changes to in-person services.

“More and more of our veterans, war widowers and their families are choosing the telephone or the internet to make contact with the Department of Veterans Affairs,” he said.

“Visits to our shop fronts are declining and are down 28 per cent since 2009.”

Bendigo District RSL sub-branch secretary Paul Penno said he was concerned by the review.

“We will be following up on those concerns with the minister, Senator Ronaldson,” he said.

“We are concerned with any suggestion that there will be a reduction in services to the veteran community.

“We have 900 servicemen and affiliates at our RSL and our aging veteran population really relies on local centres for services.”  

Veterans can access DVA Veterans Affairs Network services, which include disability pensions and entitlements, at Bendigo Health.

The Central Victorian Veterans Support Centre also operates from Bendigo Railway Station.

The volunteer centre, which receives limited government funding, acts as a go-between service but is not directly linked to the government.

Administrator Sue McQueen said any reduction in government services would strain the centre.

“Last year’s funding was slashed by $28,000,” she said.

“We received just on $41,000 which is less than half of our overheads.

“If they cut services the veteran community will suffer greatly.

“We deal with 400 enquiries per month and it would impact greatly on the centre’s resources.”

A consultation process will run until March 26, with further information at www.dva.gov.au

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