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Navigating aged care as a veteran

Last Updated at December 10th 2021
Navigating the aged care system in Australia can be confusing at the best of times, let alone adding the complexity of being a veteran and having unique health complications from national service.

Key points:

  • Both My Aged Care and the Department of Veterans' Affairs provide aged care services that benefit veterans
  • If your needs increase, you may need to transition to the aged care system, but you don't have to give up all of your DVA care services
  • The DVA or Department of Health Services will handle the aged care means test assessment for veterans
Veterans at an Australian ANZAC Day commemoration event
The aged care services available through the DVA provides entry level home care compared to the Australian aged care system. [Source: Shutterstock]

There's a range of options if you're looking for aged care support services specifically aimed at veterans. You want to be assured that your needs are being met, whether that is through the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) or through the Australian Government's aged care system.

The DVA provides a number of basic aged care services to veterans and war widows/ers, who are eligible for low care services in their home or community.

It is important to note that the DVA cannot provide for complex care needs, which the aged care system does cater for.

Below we have outlined the different aged care options available to older veterans:

Aged care services through the DVA

Veterans' Home Care (VHC) program - Veterans' Home Care is available for Veterans Gold and White Cardholders. You will need to have a VHC assessment to find if you are eligible and to see what services you can receive.

These services can include domestic help, personal care, respite, and home and garden maintenance.

Coordinated Veterans' Care Program - This program is provided through the VHC and is for chronic conditions management for Veteran Gold Cardholders and management of accepted mental health conditions for Veteran White Cardholders.

Veterans will receive this health care in a general practice setting and it is meant to improve the quality of life of veterans and prevent hospitalisation. You can also access social assistance through this program.

Community Nursing Program - You can get nursing and personal care assistance through the DVA Community Nursing Program, which is available to veterans and war widows/ers. This program can be received in your own home and aims to help you either restore or maintain your independence at home.

It is also considered an intervention to early hospital or aged care admittance for veterans.

Services you may receive include medication management, hygiene and shower assistance including dressing, and wound care management.

You will need to be referred to this program by a doctor, nurse practitioner with Community Nursing specialisation, a hospital doctor, or hospital discharge planner.

Respite through VHC program - This respite care is offered to a carer of a Veteran Gold or White cardholder, a carer who has a Veteran Gold or White Card, or is a Veteran Gold or White cardholder who is a self-carer.

Respite care through the VHC program is provided in three different ways - in home, in a residential setting, or through Emergency Short-Term Home Relief (ESTHR).

You will need to contact the VHC Assessment Agency to access respite care. However, if you are getting residential respite in an aged care home, that requires approval through My Aged Care on top of the VHC approval.

Rehabilitation Appliances Program - If you require rehabilitation aids or appliances and are a Veteran Gold or White Cardholder, you may be able to access these products through the Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP).

You will need to get an assessment from your GP to access the program, or be referred to an allied health professional who can help, and they should also be able to assist you in finding products that meet your requirements. Your doctor will send off your form to the DVA supplier.

These aids can include diabetes monitoring, continence, falls aids, speech or swallowing aids, mobility equipment, and much more.

Convalescent Care - This is short non-acute care for illness or operation recovery following a recent stay in hospital.

Veteran Gold Cardholders will have this care paid for by the DVA, whereas Veteran White Cardholders will only be covered for specific conditions.

You can receive this care in any hospital, Multi-Purpose Services, aged care, or similar suitable facilities, but not in your own home. You will need to contact the DVA, on 1800 838 372, for more information on organising Convalescent Care.

Aged Care Services through My Aged Care

If your care needs increase or become more complex, you may find DVA aged care services don't meet your new needs - Government funding aged care services may fit your needs better.

To access Government funded aged care, you will need to contact My Aged Care, like all other older Australians do, and organise an assessment with either a Regional Assessment Team (RAS) or Aged Care Assessment Team/Service (ACAT/S). This will help figure out what services you are eligible for.

You can still receive services from the DVA as long as your services do not double up with what you receive through the aged care system.

None of these programs are funded by the Department of Veterans' Affairs, so you will be required to pay something towards the cost of your care if you can afford to.

Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) - Similar to the DVA's Veterans' Home Care, the CHSP provides entry level home care to older people in their homes.

This can include home and garden maintenance, personal care, respite, food delivering and services, transportation and social support, and domestic assistance.

You will be assessed by a RAS assessor and may pay towards the cost of the services you receive if you can afford to.

Home Care Packages (HCPs) - Depending on the level of care you need, you may be eligible for a HCP Level 1 - 4. The difference between levels is the hours of care you require, not the quality of care.

A HCP can help you stay at home for longer, even if your needs increase. You will be assessed by an ACAT/S member to see what level you will be eligible for.

Because there is a waitlist for HCPs, you can contact the DVA, on 1800 838 372, to provide you home care services while you wait for your package to be available.

Transition Care - All Australians can access Transition Care, which provides older people with recovery after a hospital stay.

This help can include physiotherapy, nursing support and personal care. You will need to have an ACAT/s assessment to see if you are eligible.

The Basic Daily Fee is covered by the DVA if you are a former Prisoner of War (POW) or Victoria Cross (VC) recipient. All other veterans will need to pay towards the cost of their care.

Short Term Restorative Care (STRC) - This program is a form of flexible care that can help older people regain or build on their independence and mobility after an illness or fall.

STRC aims to prevent or reduce an older person from getting hospitalised or to prevent a person's early entry into an aged care facility.

You will need to have an ACAT/s assessment to see if you are eligible, and there will be a team of professionals providing your services that will improve your mobility.

The Basic Daily Fee is covered by the DVA if you are a former Prisoner of War (POW) or Victoria Cross (VC) recipient. All other veterans will need to pay towards the cost of their care.

Residential Aged Care - If the aged care you require is too complex and can't be handled at home, you may need to look at residential aged care as an option.

Government funded aged care can provide 24/7 care and assistance for your daily living needs. You will need to be assessed by an ACAT/S to be able to move into an aged care home.

All veterans and war widows/ers will need to contribute towards the cost of living in aged care if they can afford to do so, unless you are a POW or VC recipient - which has other arrangements in place.

The DVA will complete the aged care means test for veterans, their partners and war widows/ers, for veterans with a DVA Disability Pension, and for war widows/ers with a DVA war widows/ers pension and an income support supplement.

The Department of Health Services (DHS) will complete the aged care means test for any DVA client that doesn't meet the above requirements.

As a veteran, do you feel like all your aged care needs are being covered? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

How can Veterans Care support me?
Can I have a Home Care Package with a Veterans Card?
Aged care services for the senior veteran community
Residential aged care and the Department of Veterans Affairs

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