The McKinsey Report into the Department of Veterans Affairs backlog has today been released by the new government.
The CPSU welcomes the release of the report that was kept secret by the Morrison Government but is concerned by some endorsed initiatives.
The expensive claims process diagnostic report is not the silver bullet needed to fix DVA, but it does reflect the concerns and some remedies that CPSU members have been calling for, for years.
The report finds that claims have grown by 48% p.a. between 2019 and 2021, which has increased the backlog substantially, and that understaffing also contributed.
The CPSU is concerned by a number of the initiatives endorsed by this report, which could lead to veterans being separated from the decision-making delegates, and a simplified focus on cutting the backlog without consideration for some veteran’s circumstances and the complex nature of some claims.
DVA staff are committed to the work they do and want to be able to deliver the comprehensive support that veterans need and deserve. They have spoken out time and time again, about the impact of understaffing with shocking levels of staff burnout and stress, high staff turnover and a workforce that has been de-skilled.
Since 2015, the Coalition Government imposed an arbitrary cap on the number of staff that Australian Public Service Departments could directly employ. And at the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, DVA Secretary Liz Cosson acknowledged what CPSU members have been saying for years – that the Coalition Government’s cap on staffing, and increased use of costly casual and labour hire contracts has created a growing backlog of veterans’ claims, which now stands at over 65,000.
CPSU members look forward to the new Albanese Government implementing its election commitment of converting 1,000 labour hire contractors to permanent employment and creating an additional 500 DVA jobs. If implemented this will go a long way to addressing backlog and problems highlighted in this report.
Quotes attributable to CPSU Deputy President, Brooke Muscat:
“To no one’s surprise this report finds that DVA is understaffed, and that understaffing contributes to an ever-growing backlog of veteran claims. The blame for this tragic failure lies squarely with the former Morrison Government – they failed to heed the clear warnings from the people doing the work.
“While new initiatives are always welcome, this report is not a silver bullet. What DVA needs is an increase in permanent staffing.
“There are some concerning initiatives in this report that would diminish the connection between veterans and decision makers. The CPSU questions the real impact lean management practices can really make, as the report claims implementation will reduce over 16,000 cases just by hiring a change coach, and implementing some Services Australia training.
“We must not lose sight of the real burden on the system, the fact that there just are not enough workers to get through the increasing claims. Veterans and DVA workers deserve a real commitment to address the issues and adequately fund and staff this critical agency to allow it to deliver the support veterans need.
“The first Albanese Budget is critical to ensuring DVA staffing is lifted to a level that will clear backlogs and curtail worker burnout. The CPSU looks forward to working with the new Minister to ensure that the department is staffed adequately and that new measures implemented are not just band aids. “