Veteran Community News
Issues of interest to the veteran community in Townsville are included below, the most recent on top. These are some of the main sources of the News.
Please note, as news becomes old some weblinks may no longer connect to the original source.
Getting more Australians back into work
25 Sept 2023
The Albanese Government is improving incentives to get more Australians into work.
As part of the release of the Employment White Paper, the Government will make two key changes for pension and income support recipients. These include:
permanently enhancing the Work Bonus for pensioners over the Age Pension age and eligible veterans by providing new entrants with a starting income bank balance and retaining the higher Work Bonus maximum cap to provide more choice and flexibility to participate in the workforce.
doubling the employment income nil rate period to close to six months (12 fortnights) to reduce barriers for income support recipients to take up work by allowing them to retain concession cards and other supplementary benefits for a longer period when they first get back into employment.
Starting on 1 January 2024 – pending the passage of legislation – all new pension entrants over Age Pension age and eligible Veterans will have a starting Work Bonus income bank balance of $4000 rather than $0, and existing and new recipients will retain the current elevated maximum Work Bonus balance limit of $11,800 rather than $7800.
New powers for Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide
14 Sept 2023
The Parliament has today passed new laws that will support the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide to complete its important work ahead of its reporting date of 17 June 2024.
Defence suicide royal commission progress revealed
23 Aug 2023
The total backlog of veterans’ compensation claims is at risk of not being cleared by the deadline set down by a royal commission.
The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide handed down an interim report last year that made 13 urgent recommendations, including eliminating the massive backlog of compensation claims by March 2024.
Veteran Transition Strategy Launched
22 Aug 2023
Defence is committed to building a collaborative and connected transition ecosystem that supports the individual needs of Australian Defence Force (ADF) members and their families.
The Veteran Transition Strategy is a joint initiative between Defence, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation. It was developed through extensive consultation and engagement, including with current and former serving ADF members and their families.
The strategy identifies 6 priority areas that support positive transition outcomes for members and their families. These focus on empowering veterans and their families to:
plan and prepare for transition early
access a range of needs based support programs across the ecosystem
engage family and other significant support people in the transition process
access employment and skill based training aligned with their professional development goals
achieve a sense of financial wellbeing
feel that their service is formally recognised and valued.
Australian Veterans' Children Assistance Trust Scholarships OPEN NOW
18 Aug 2023
Applications for scholarships open each year on 18 August and close on 31 October. Read more about preparing your application in our Application Guide.
AVCAT scholarships include Long Tan Bursaries and sponsored scholarships. Sponsored scholarships are for the children and grandchildren of ex-serving veterans. Long Tan Bursaries are for the children and grandchildren of Vietnam Veterans and are available in each state and territory. The Long Tan Bursary is funded by the Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
AVCAT sponsored scholarships are funded by ex-service organisations and private donors.
These scholarships are for children and grandchildren of ex-serving veterans.
All bursaries and sponsored scholarships are for tertiary education and are $4000-$6000 per year, for up to three years.
Vietnam Veterans Recognised with the RVCGwPUC
6 Aug 2023
Australian Defence Force members who served during the Vietnam War have been recognised with the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation (the Citation).
The Citation was awarded by the former Government of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) to military units that distinguished themselves in battle. The Governor-General has formally approved awarding the Citation to Australian military units in recognition of their service during the Vietnam War.
New Veterans Employment Program
17 July 2023
The new Veteran Employment Program (VEP) was launched last Friday by the Hon Matt Keogh MP, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.
Designed to complement existing services, the Program is focused on raising awareness of the positive attributes veterans contribute as civilians, assisting employers in providing workplaces where veterans can thrive and opening pathways to new careers and further education through expanded recognition of prior learning.
New initiatives include two new grant programs to support veterans transitioning into employment and tertiary education opportunities.
Long Tan Bursary 2023
17 June 2023
50 years on from the end of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, the advocacy of Vietnam veterans lives on.
In recognition of the sacrifices made by Vietnam veteran families, the Long Tan Bursary was established to provide the descendants of Vietnam veterans with support for the cost of tertiary education, ensuring they gain the skills and qualifications needed to pursue their chosen career.
In 2023, thirty-seven children and grandchildren of Vietnam veterans have been awarded $12,000 bursaries to continue their education post-secondary school.
Veterans’ Legislation Reform Pathway Consultation - Webinars
18 Apr 2023
The public consultation on a pathway to simplify veteran compensation and rehabilitation legislation is going digital, with community members now invited to participate in webinar sessions.
These webinars will provide a wider opportunity to learn more about the proposed future model for veteran legislation from experts in the Department, ask questions and provide feedback.
We have a number of webinars, tailored to specific veteran interest groups.
General veteran community webinar, 6:30 – 7:30pm AEST Wednesday 26 April 2023
Current serving member webinar, 6:30 – 7:30pm AEST Thursday 27 April 2023
Advocate webinar, 6:30 – 7:30pm AEST Tuesday 2 May 2023
General veteran community webinar, 6:30 – 7:30pm AEST Thursday 4 May 2023.
Register online to attend a webinar through the DVA website. We encourage you to share these webinar dates with your networks.
New laws boost protections for people to engage with the Royal Commission
13 Apr 2023
The Royal Commissions Amendment (Enhancing Engagement) Bill 2023, which passed Federal Parliament late last month and was enacted today, further strengthens protections for serving and ex-serving ADF members who wish to safely share their stories with the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. The legislative changes were made in response to a key recommendation of the Royal Commission’s Interim Report released last August.
The new confidentiality protections ensure sensitive information provided to the Royal Commission – such as confidential written statements, verbal accounts or information shared with a Royal Commission staff member – is treated in the same way as information disclosed during private sessions. For example, information covered by these protections: won’t be admissible in civil or criminal proceedings against a person; the unauthorised disclosure of sensitive information will be a criminal offence; and all information will be kept confidential for 99 years after it is provided; and prohibitions extend to Freedom of Information requests and subpoenas for information.
The improved protections will also apply to information already shared with the Royal Commission.
Better Access to Information for ADF Personnel and ex-serving Veterans
4 Apr 2023
Changes have been made to improve information access from the Department of Defence and Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) for members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), veterans and their families.
This includes the establishment of Information Access Units within the Department of Defence and DVA, additional education material on the information access process, how and why redactions occur, and updates to both Departments’ websites.
Veteran Chaplaincy Program Pilot
3 Apr 2023
The Pilot Program will continue until 30 June 2024 with evaluation and consideration regarding next steps as part of the Pilot.
The program aims to deliver on the following objectives:
Facilitate access to spiritual health support and other DVA support programs.
Provide pastoral care, mentoring and education through transition and into civilian life.
Provide pastoral care and spiritual health support during crisis, high intensity or acute events, in particular supporting adjustment, grief, and recovery.
Pilot program extending legal support for Queensland veterans
24 Mar 2023
More than 160 legal assistance services have been provided to these clients, including 62 legal advices, 19 legal tasks and six Court/Tribunal representation services.
The program is accessible through The Oasis Townsville, a community hub providing a safe space for people with shared experiences to connect with each other and the wider community. Outreach services are also available to Cairns and Mackay.
Simplifying Veterans Legislative Framework
17 Feb 2023
THE HON MATT KEOGH MP
MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL
16 February 2023
VETERANS’ LEGISLATION REFORM CONSULTATION PATHWAY TAKES SHAPE
Today the Albanese Government has taken the next step in responding to the recommendations of the Interim Report by the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide by commencing public consultation on a Pathway to simplify veteran compensation and rehabilitation legislation.
In September 2022 the Albanese Government accepted Recommendation 1 of the Interim Report, agreeing there was an urgent need to simplify the existing legislation.
The proposed pathway to simplify the Veterans’ legislation will be available from today for public consultation.
The proposed pathway seeks to reform more than a century of veterans’ entitlement legislation, providing veterans the support they not only need, but deserve.
The Pathway for consultation anticipates:
New claims under existing schemes will cease after a transition period, from which point all new veteran claims will be dealt with under an improved Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (MRCA) as the sole ongoing Act. The MRCA currently services the majority of claims.
All benefits under existing schemes will continue unaffected, with only new claims or claims relating to deteriorated conditions to instead be covered by the single ongoing Act.
The consultation process will inform the way forward for government to simplify veterans’ legislation.
The Albanese Government is committed to a thorough and considered process which will deliver a better future for veterans and their families.
DVA services during the holiday season
10 Dec 2022
DVA will continue to provide support to veterans and their families during the holiday season. However, please be aware that some services will be impacted.
Check the link for details.
Providing more options for older Australians and eligible Veterans to work more in time for Christmas
1 Dec 2022
From today, pensioners over Age Pension age and eligible Veterans will be able to earn more income from working without reducing their pension, just in time to take advantage of seasonal jobs.
Eligible Australians would have the opportunity to engage in the workforce if they chose to do so at a time of workforce shortages without losing any of their income support payments.
Veterans’ and Families’ Hub Expansion - Information Sessions (Now there are 16)
19 Nov 2022
As part of the Federal Budget, the Australian Government is investing $46.7 million in eight new Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs across the country to provide essential services to veterans and families in areas with significant Defence and veteran communities.
This is in addition to the six hubs funded by the Federal Government, including investment in The Oasis Townsville. And the commitment to two further investments in Southeast Queensland and Tasmania made before the Federal Budget.
That makes 16 Veterans'and Families'Hubs on the way.
ADF Employment Offer Modernisation Program - Update at 17 Nov 2022
18 Nov 2022
Today the ADF Employment Offer Modernisation Program (ADF EOMP) released its suite of communication products for the upcoming initiatives under the Program. The purpose of this stage of communication is to inform members of key changes that will be implemented from May – July 2023. More detailed communication, including briefing sessions, will occur in Q1 and 2, 2023.
Background to the program:
To attract and retain the ADF workforce needed to deliver our mission, we need a modern and competitive ADF employment offer.
In 2019, Defence commenced the ADF EOMP to ensure a contemporary and competitive employment offer.
Important changes to housing, leave and military salary have already been achieved under tranche one of the ADF EOMP.
The next suite of initiatives will be implemented by 1 July 2023. These include:
New allowance framework (effective 25 May 2023).
New Categorisation and Location frameworks (effective 1 July 2023).
Additional 5 days Basic Recreation Leave (effective 1 July 2023).
To support any potential impacts from ADF EOMP initiatives, the trained force permanent salary rates will be increased by $2,000. Accordingly, the Reserve daily rates will increase by approximately $5.48 a day ($2,000 pro-rata). Trainee salary rates will also increase by a pro-rata amount of the trained force salary rate. This salary increase will be reflected in members’ pay from 8 June 2023.
Defence is committed to contemporising the ADF remuneration and conditions of service benefits to better support the needs of current and future ADF members and their families.
There is more information, including the CDF’s letter to the ADF workforce and several factsheets on the pay and conditions website.
New VLO at Townsville Mater Hospital
3 Nov 2022
Townsville Mater Hospital has a new Veterans Liaison Officer (VLO) who will be working four days per week. Her name is Charna and she currently works as the Complex Discharge Planner.
You can reach the VLO via:
The referral process is very simple for Mater staff, patients or community services who may be facilitating an early referral prior to a patient's upcoming stay.
If the DECT is unanswered, it will divert to Allied Health Administration to be answered by staff, or the ability to leave a voicemail is also an option. A DVA patient can be referred at any time during their stay, and our VLO team will monitor DVA inpatients via our online patient system.
We do encourage DVA patients to access this service as required and have educated our staff to facilitate an early referral to VLO to ensure early discharge planning and in-hospital specialised support for this patient population.
For completeness, also info on TUH VLO at the link below.
We want to make this process as clear and time efficient as possible moving forward.
As it currently stands a DVA patient at the Mater can also be referred to any of our Allied Health staff (as clinically indicated) to assist in best care delivery to meet their health needs.
Our Allied Health team includes; Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Dietitians, Speech Pathology, Social Work, Complex Discharge Planner, Psychology and Diabetes Educators.
We also offer outpatient physiotherapy, inpatient rehabilitation, day rehabilitation under a specialist rehabilitation Doctor and a multidisciplinary outpatient pain program.
Operation NAVIGATOR funded in 25 Oct 22 Federal Budget
25 Oct 2022
Operation NAVIGATOR was funded in the Federal Budget on 25 October 2022. This will support a three-year pilot to coach first-posting serving veteran arrivals in Townsville on how they might see their future. It is a preparation for the inevitable separation from the ADF, with some thought being put in early to be better prepared for when the time comes and a decision is made to transition to civilian life.
The average length of service in the ADF is 10 years; in Townsville, it is significantly less.
Government Seeks Your Feedback on Veterans' Legislative Reform
20 Oct 2022
The Australian Government recently agreed to Recommendation 1 of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide Interim Report, which called for the development and passage of legislation to simplify and harmonise the framework for veterans’ compensation, rehabilitation and other entitlements.
Consultation on reforming veterans’ legislation has commenced today with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) seeking submissions from the community.
Albanese Government takes action on veteran and family support
30 Sept 2022
Legislation extending the Incapacity Payments for Veterans Studying Pilot Program, and the Defence, Veterans’ and Families’ Acute Support Package will both go a long way to ensuring veterans and families get the support they need and deserve.
Government Response to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide - Interim Report
26 Sept 2022
The Albanese Government has today responded to the 13 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide’s Interim Report.
The Royal Commission’s Interim Report is the culmination of the inquiry’s work to date, encompassing over 2,000 submissions, 178 private sessions and testimony from 208 witnesses.
The Interim Report’s 13 recommendations fall within three key themes: improving the claims process, Royal Commission administration and access to information by loved ones.
The Government has implemented one of the recommendations already (recommendation 5), agreed to nine, agreed in principle to one, and noted two others.
AIHW Report: Understanding the wellbeing characteristics of ex-serving ADF members
2 Sept 2022
The nature of military service makes understanding the wellbeing of those who have served of vital importance. This report examines wellbeing outcomes such as employment status, income, education qualifications, housing circumstances, and social support for ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members and their families. Using linked data, this report expands information on the Veteran-centred model as part of an ongoing body of work in partnership with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This report is based on ex-serving ADF members who had served at least one day of service on or after 1 January 2001 and were ex-serving as of 31 December 2015 and uses the 2016 Census data as the primary source of data to inform wellbeing outcomes.
Experts gather to examine Veteran Employment
22 Aug 2022
The Federal Labor Government has held the first of two Veterans Employment Round Tables, as precursor consultations to the Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit to better understand practical solutions to get more Aussie veterans and defence families into work.
Queensland State Partners of Veterans AGM in Townsville Mon 29 August
8 Aug 2022
The meeting will be held at the Townsville RSL (HMAS Room) at 139 Charters Towers Road, HERMIT PARK QLD 4812 at 1030h. Please note doors will open at 1000h for early birds.
THIS IS NOT AN ELECTION YEAR
More info about the theme and ticket price is available from:
Robyn at email@example.com or on 0407 985 991
RSVP with dietary requirements and payment is required by 15 August.
Funds Transfer for payment to: BSB: 034272 Account No. 145188
Helping veterans stay healthy at home
26 July 2022
The Government has today committed to ensuring veterans and veteran families have the
services they deserve, committing an additional $70.6 million in funding over four years to
increase Veterans’ Home Care fees for domestic assistance and personal care services.
Exposure draft legislation: Taxation of military superannuation benefits
24 July 2022
The Albanese Government is introducing legislation to ensure that no veteran pays higher income tax because of the Federal Court decision in Commissioner of Taxation v Douglas (the Douglas decision). A draft bill, Treasury Laws Amendment (Measures for a later sitting) Bill 2022: Taxation of military superannuation benefits, and associated draft explanatory material, have been released for public consultation.
Submissions close on 5 August 2022.
New team to tackle domestic violence in Townsville and North Queensland
29 June 2022
Townsville is set to be home to a new Domestic Violence High Risk Team which will enhance responses to domestic and family violence (DFV) in the North Queensland community through time critical information sharing and safety management for victims and increased line of sight of high-risk perpetrators.
DVA’s Claims Process Diagnostic Report
23 June 2022
Reducing the claims backlog for veterans is a key priority for the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs and Departmental leadership. The goal is to eliminate the backlog by December 2023 (funding to support this due to expire in July 2023). The initiatives outlined in this report offer a path to eliminate the backlog by December 2023 and increase processing capacity by 2.4x through deploying 6 existing and 11 new initiatives. To eliminate the backlog on a more rapid trajectory by June 2023, DVA faces a choice between (a) accelerating 4 initiatives and deploying 4 further ideas or (b) deploying 73 additional FTEs
CBA announces new team to support veterans
16 June 2022
Commonwealth Bank has announced a new team of specialised business bankers to support past and present members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), and their families, who are looking to start or grow their own business.
Defence Families of Australia - Advocacy Map Update Autumn 2022
9 June 2022
This Advocacy Map is a snapshot in time of the advocacy work currently being undertaken by Defence Families of Australia (DFA). This is the second public version of this document, and will be a dynamic tool released quarterly through the DFA newsletter, The Advocate.
This is a working document, with the full internal version being constantly updated. The internal version, which is for DFA team purposes only, also includes details of the decision makers, allies, and business case for each advocacy entry.
The aim of this public Advocacy Map is to provide transparency of the work DFA does, and to offer the opportunity for Defence families and other stakeholders to support these advocacy efforts. It will continue to developed and refined over time.
Townsville Manufacturing Hub drives jobs and economic growth
8 June 2022
Manufacturers in Townsville are reaping the rewards of Queensland Government initiatives, with more than $3.1 million awarded in 11 grants to local businesses, which have created or supported more than 200 jobs.
Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing Glenn Butcher released the numbers on day one of Australian Manufacturing Week, highlighting that the Townsville Manufacturing Hub has contributed significantly to the local economy.
Problem gambling a quiet, deadly threat to Australia's military vets
8 June 2022
Problem gambling among Australian military veterans is shrouded in silence, a new study has found, with researchers now hoping to expose the quiet but deadly risk servicemen and women can face as they exit the Australian Defence Force.
Mental health co-responder launch, Townsville
2 June 2022
Mental Health Co-Responders program allows vulnerable people experiencing a mental health crisis to be assessed in their own home, by an experienced health professional with police in attendance, rather than being immediately diverted to a hospital emergency room to wait for an assessment.
Veterans’ Legal Service at The Oasis Townsville
31 May 2022
A free legal service funded by the Queensland Government to complement existing veterans’ advocacy services and Ex-service Organisations.
The service will provide a free outreach legal clinic at The OASIS Townsville every Tuesday and Thursday between 9am and 12pm.
The service will also be available outside its outreach sessions at OASIS. Simply contact our office on 4721 5511 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Townsville Community Law is funded to provide legal assistance services to eligible clients about:
Legal issues experienced by veterans during transition to civilian life
Legal issues experienced by veterans as a consequence of their service
Access to veterans’ statutory entitlements including:
War-caused disability pension entitlement or assessment claims under Part II of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1988 (Cth) (VEA)
Claims and appeals under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988
Claims and appeals under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (Cth) (MRCA) that relate to warlike or nonwarlike service, and
Matters relating to invalidity pensions under the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC).
Free Flu Vaccines
25 May 2022
Queenslanders will have access to free flu jabs across the state as the government seeks to curb rising cases. The free vaccines will be available until 30 June 2022.
CSC Webinars and Seminars
28 Apr 2022
Some great info in these webinars and seminars online.
Due to the current health risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, CSC is temporarily suspending all in person seminars and meetings. Our education team are still running online webinars.
Extension of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide announced - until 17 June 2024
12 Apr 2022
The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has been extended by one year. This week the Attorney-General announced the Royal Commissioners have been given an additional 12 months in which to prepare their final report, which will now be due on 17 June 2024. The interim report remains due on 11 August 2022.
Free Non-Liability Rehabilitation
4 Apr 2022
COme in and see us at The Oasis Townsville Home Base for the veteran community.
A new free program to help veterans refresh their social wellbeing and employment.
The Non-Liability Rehabilitation program provides you with access to social wellbeing and employment support. It can also help you find a General Practitioner (GP) or get a Medicare card. The program is easier for veterans to access than the standard DVA rehabilitation. You do not need to lodge a compensation claim to access Non-Liability Rehabilitation.
This two-year pilot is part of the 2021-22 Budget, and is available from 1 January 2022. An evaluation of the program’s outcomes will inform future policy design.
DVA 2022-23 Budget Papers - note funding for more centres like The Oasis Townsville
30 Mar 2022
2022-23 Papers at the Link.
Of particular note, p.16 states the following re Veterans Wellbeing Centre, of which The Oasis Townsville is one:
Social connectedness is fundamental to wellbeing. Veteran Wellbeing Centres deliver integrated support to all current and former serving veterans and their families, including reservists, in partnership with ex-service organisations (ESOs), community and other organisations and state and territory governments. Currently, six centres are providing wellbeing services based on the needs of local veterans and their families, with expansion into South-East Queensland and Tasmania underway. Additional funding in the 2022-23 Budget will support the establishment of a further ten centres as part of this important support network.
BUDGET 2022-23 DELIVERS RECORD INVESTMENT IN DEFENCE AND SUPPORTING OUR VETERANS
30 Mar 2022
As part of our plan for a stronger future, the Morrison Government’s 2022-23 Budget continues its record investment in Australia’s national security by building Defence capability and creating jobs, boosting Australia’s cyber resilience, supporting Australia’s sovereign Defence industry and improving the lives of Defence Force members, veterans and their families.
Get involved with DVA’s rehabilitation pilot
7 Mar 2022
DVA recently established a two-year rehabilitation pilot offering eligible veterans social wellbeing and employment support, without the need to have an accepted compensation claim with the department.
Nominations for the 2022 Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards are now open.
3 Mar 2022
The Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards recognise organisations and individuals who employ and support veterans, and partners of current and former serving Australian Defence Force personnel, as well as celebrating veterans and partners who are doing great things as an employee or entrepreneur.
The Awards are an initiative of the Prime Minister's Veterans' Employment Program.
New Veterans Hub Community from CSC
27 Feb 2022
The Vets Hub is an online community dedicated to improving the financial well-being of Australian veterans and military families. Our vision is to provide a collaborative network of services, that are easy to navigate so that veterans and families can access the right support and information for them during the various stages of life.
Get free rapid antigen tests (RATs) if you hold a concession card
5 Feb 2022
From 24 January 2022, you can get up to 10 free RATs over a 3 month period with a maximum of 5 in a month.
You can pick these up from a participating community pharmacy. Find out where to collect your free RAT from a local community pharmacy on the Pharmacy Guild of Australia website. Keep in mind, supply is subject to availability. To get free RATs, you must hold a Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold, White or Orange card.
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee – release of interim report into Australia’s engagement with Afghanistan
30 Jan 2022
The Interim Report includes eight recommendations ranging from an assessment of Australia’s mission in Afghanistan, the provision of cost breakdowns, Australia’s evacuation effort, supporting the resettlement of Afghan nationals globally, and protection visas for Afghan asylum seekers and refugees currently in Australia.
Ombudsman's Report into DVA
communication with veterans making
claims for compensation
29 Jan 2022
This report is the outcome of the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s own motion investigation into the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (DVA) communication with veterans who make claims for compensation for injuries and conditions related to their service. The investigation considered the appropriateness of DVA’s policy and procedural framework for communicating with veterans during the claim process.