Royal Commission Day Two

Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide hears of lengthy delays for veterans seeking help

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide continues in Brisbane, hearing evidence of prevalent mental health issues and long delays for assistance within the military.

On day two of public hearings, the royal commission heard the story of Jesse Bird, a veteran who lost his life to suicide in 2017.

Mr Bird had served as a private in Afghanistan, and upon return to Australia had appealed to the Department of Veterans Affairs for assistance, on a permanent impairment claim.

An inquest into his death found his repeated claims went unanswered by the department before he took his own life.

Interim national commissioner of defence and veteran suicide prevention Dr Bernadette Boss criticised the department, calling for urgent reform.

“I don’t think you have to be professionally qualified to understand that that is going to cause problems for somebody who is already unwell,” Dr Boss said told the royal commission on Tuesday.

She said the system designed to assist veterans were too complex, with too many obstacles to assistance.

“It is like spaghetti junction behind a wall,” Dr Boss said.

The counsel assisting the commission said anecdotal evidence showed some veterans waited more than a year to find out if their claim for medical help would be approved.

Dr Boss said in addition to new department reforms, more peer support options for defence personnel should be an urgent priority.

“I’m convinced that there are people we could have been saved if they’d had someone to talk to very early on,” she said.

A new and improved health system for the defence industry is set to roll out in 2023.

Psychiatrist Dr Andrew Khoo said military personnel were alarmingly vulnerable to mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We’re talking three in four could be diagnosed at some stage in their life following their service with a psychiatric illness,” he told the royal commission.

If you or anyone you know needs immediate support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or via In an emergency, call 000.


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