Australia's veterans' affairs boss warned against attempts to investigate her department's processing of claims, telling the minister last year she would not support an approach that focused on families who had lost a relative to suicide.
In October, Veterans' Affairs Minister Andrew Gee announced private consultants McKinsey would overhaul the Department of Veterans' Affairs'Veterans' Affairs' claims processing system Announcing the move, he said that the backlog of claims at the Department of Veterans' Affairs DVA is unacceptably high, which is delaying veterans and their families access to vital services and funding. Documents released under Freedom of Information FOI have revealed concerns raised by department secretary Liz Cosson about the proposed scope of the work being conducted by McKinsey consultants.
In a ministerial submission written in October, she warned the minister:
I am concerned with the direction of the McKinsey review into DVA claims processing to focus on families who have lost a loved one to suicide. I would be happy to facilitate a broader engagement with veterans and families with McKinsey and Co. It is understood that the secretary was concerned about families being approached by private consultants just as a long-awaited royal commission was about to begin public hearings where many of the same relatives were about to give evidence.
The secretary gave evidence to the royal commission last week, where she was asked if delays in DVA claims could raise the risk that veterans making claims could take their own lives? Ms Cosson told the royal commission hearing in Canberra that they believe that the claims backlog could be a contributing factor.
Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie, who obtained the FOI documents, has attacked Ms Cosson, accusing her of saying one thing to her minister, but another to the royal commission.
There are 60,000 claims on their books, according to the Department of Veterans' Affairs. It can take years for veterans to get compensation for their injuries, Senator Lambie said.
I'm glad that she told the truth under oath. But if she knows that the claims backlog is a 'contributing factor' to suicides, why did she not want McKinsey to investigate it last year? We've got a public servant saying one thing and doing another behind closed doors. It stinks to high heaven. The DVA was approached by the ABC for comment.