Veterans worry Human Services portfolio in new hands

WAR veterans from throughout the wider community are surprised and more than a little worried about Veteran's Affairs Minister Stuart Robert also being given responsibility for Human Services.

In the recent ministerial re-shuffle, Mr Robert was promoted with two major portfolios in his care.

This second portfolio, a huge area of responsibility with over 35,000 employees, covers a broad range of social and health services including Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support.

Some veterans are concerned their hard-won entitlements may eventually be merged into the "social security pool".

Warwick RSL Sub-branch president John Skinner said veterans' entitlements were the responsibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs, however there had long been a push from the federal bureaucracy to combine the department with Centrelink.

"Were this to happen, veterans become just another number of more than 10 million people who are already clients of Centrelink," he said. "Veterans have unique problems with their health, both physically and psychologically, and should be entitled to the experienced and separate services of the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

"After all, that's exactly what DVA was established for in the first place.

"Their expertise is built over almost a century of working with those who have returned from war, peace-keeping operations and other deployments where their health has been affected.

"This is expertise Centrelink does not have."

Mr Skinner, who had already met with Mr Robert, said although the Minister was an ex-Defence Force member, he served as an intelligence officer, "which is about as remote as it is possible to be from junior frontline soldiers".

"Minister Robert went through the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Royal Military College to become an officer in the Army and this is about as good an education as is possible in this country," he said.

"He has served as shadow minister for defence, science, technology and personnel and from 2013 was the assistant minister for defence in the Abbott Government.

"We, as veterans, hope this experience will ensure the minister will advocate on behalf of veterans against the federal bureaucracy to maintain the Department of Vet Affairs as a separate entity."

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