Aussie PM calls for urgent briefings to support "vulnerable" veterans

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-11 11:21:41|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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CANBERRA, June 11 (Xinhua) -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has admitted that the nation is "failing" its most vulnerable veterans.

Morrison on Monday night called for an urgent briefing on the military suicide crisis amid calls for a Royal Commission into the epidemic.

"The prime minister has called for urgent briefings from the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and officials in response to the devastating accounts of our veterans taking their own lives," a spokesperson for the prime minister told News Corp Australia.

"We recognize the seriousness of the problem and appreciate the candour and the work that has been done to ensure these issues are being raised."

"Ahead of the release of the final Productivity Commission report into Department of Veterans' Affairs rehab and compensation system, the prime minister will consider all options to ensure our veterans receive the utmost support and care," the spokesperson said.

"And that the system, which is failing some of our most vulnerable veterans despite our ongoing investments, is fixed."

Dave Finney, a Royal Australian Navy marine technician, took his own life in February after being told that he would have to wait five months and travel interstate to see a psychiatrist accredited by the DVA.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), male veterans under the age of 30 were 2.2 times more likely to take their own lives than those who never served between 2014 and 2016.

From 2001 to 2016, there were 373 suicides in serving, ex-serving and reserve Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel.

The families of the dead have called for a Royal Commission, saying a comprehensive inquiry is the only way the full extent of the problem will be uncovered, but Morrison has not agreed to establish one.

The Productivity Commission report found that there is a "culture of DVA denying claims" and that the current approach is "not adequate".

Gary Angel, a 72-year-old Navy veteran, said that he has had "terrible" battles with the DVA.

"They delay and delay and deny and deny," he told News Corp.

"Then you're dead. You wouldn't believe the amount of letters and reviews I've had with them," he said.

"I was in the Navy for 22 years, and was 38 when I left, like Dave Finney. The problem with these suicides is that the younger ones don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. What is happening is ghastly," he added.