Better veteran services on way: minister

Minister for Veterans' Affairs Andrew Gee says reform of support for veterans will not be delayed.
Minister for Veterans' Affairs Andrew Gee says reform of support for veterans will not be delayed.

Veterans will not have to wait for the findings of a royal commission into suicide for improvements to their support programs.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Andrew Gee has provided the fifth annual statement on veterans and their families, which outlines the government's key support priorities, in parliament on Monday.

He said work was being done to better assist their transition to civilian life, improve claims processing and harmonise legislation to make it easier to understand and access compensation.

For the first time, the 2021 census asked if respondents had ever served in the Australian Defence Force.

Mr Gee said the data collected would show the government a clearer picture of how many veterans there are in Australia, where they live and other key demographics to better target support.

The statement came on the same day the royal commission into defence and veteran suicide began its public hearings.

Mr Gee said the testimonies would be a "watershed" moment for the country.

"Mistakes and failings must be acknowledged. Truth must be told. Action must be taken," he said.

More needed to be done to destigmatise mental health issues and stop bullying, abuse and sexual assault in the ADF.

"I am determined to address the high rates of suicide amongst the ADF and veteran community," Mr Gee said.

"They have given us their best and in return it's only right that we give them our best."

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Australian Associated Press