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Federal budget 2017: Veterans welcome new mental health funding

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Advocates for veterans have welcomed news of a $350 million support package for former soldiers and their families in Tuesday’s budget, but say more needs to be done.

The package is set to include more than $220 million in spending on mental health, suicide prevention and programs to help personnel transition to civilian life, according to News Corp Australia.

Veterans have welcomed new mental health funding. Veterans have welcomed new mental health funding. Photo: John Donegan

That will include more than $30 million for non-liability mental health services to ex-servicemen and women, who will no longer have to prove their mental health condition is linked to their service before receiving treatment.

The government will also spend $10 million on suicide prevention programs, which will include a pilot program that provides case management for veterans after they are discharged from hospital.

Soldier On chief executive John Bale said it appeared the package would allow veterans to get help more quickly, and would also open up more services to their families.

“It means that people are now going to access mental health services more quickly and therefore have a greater chance of returning back to a happier, healthier life,” he told AAP.

He said many soldiers struggled to adapt to normal life after returning from conflict and many were driven to self-harm, which hadn’t been helped by a lack of access to government-funded support until now.

But he said the government needed to work more with community groups that provided a support network to veterans.

“We’re hoping the next phase of this is working out how to improve the support given to the community sector that is on the ground, often providing services in conjunction with the department of veteran affairs,” he said.

Veterans Affairs Minister Dan Tehan said veterans’ health was his No.1 priority.

“If an eligible person requires treatment, it will be paid for,” he told News Corp.

Opposition spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth supported the increased funding for mental health issues, but wanted to ensure it was new money.

“The government must rule out funding any new programs through cut to services elsewhere,” she said in a statement.

She also urged the government upgrade the DVA’s computer system to make it easier for veterans.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

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