Wednesday, April 22, 2015

“[C]ompassion fatigue”: Staff ‘too stretched’ to help veterans

From THE AUSTRALIAN -- APRIL 23, 2015 12:00AM

WA Chief Reporter

Former Afghanistan Digger Sean Milne says he has been let down
 by the Department of Veteran Affairs.
Picture: Colin Murty
Source: News Corp Australia

As Australians gather in Gallipoli to celebrate the centenary of the, a veterans’ support group says thousands of the nation’s recently returned ­soldiers are increasingly desperate and suicidal because the Dep­artment of Veterans’ Affairs is ­severely understaffed.
Arthur Ventham, who runs a support service in Perth’s northern suburbs, said whenever he called the DVA on behalf of an injured veteran he was told that each dele­gate had at least 150-200 case files on their desks.
“They just don’t have the staff to cope with the influx of (compensation) claims,” he said. “As of today, there are thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are living in their cars, under bridges and in the bush because they cannot get the help that they need to turn their lives around.”
One badly injured Afghanistan veteran, Sean Milne, told The Australian the DVA had treated him “like dirt” since he returned to Perth two years ago.
“They don’t care — they would prefer I commit suicide,” he said. “That would be easier for them.”
Mr Milne’s psychologist, Josh Hawes, who was deployed to Afghan­istan with the SAS, said his client’s mental health had been ­exacerbated by his poor treatment by DVA officers, who were swamped with claims and had “compassion fatigue”.
Mr Milne, who trained Afghan soldiers, broke his neck and injured his shoulder in an accident near Kandahar in February 2013.
He now suffers from complex regional pain syndrome, which his occupational therapist has diagnosed as a level of pain worse than amputation or childbirth.
Mr Milne can never work again and is restricted in all basic activities of daily life. He has severe muscular spasms that result in regular falls. “It’s like getting tasered,” he said of the spasms.
Mr Milne, who was discharged from the army last year, said he was still waiting for a full-body assess­ment of his injuries that he claims should have been done a year ago. Until then, he cannot ­access a Gold Card, which would cover his mounting medical and dental bills.
Mr Milne said the DVA had not yet accepted that his injuries were permanent and it had an attitude of not believing what veterans say. “They want to disprove you,” he said.
Mr Ventham, who runs the Northern Suburbs Veterans Support Centre, said Mr Milne’s case was the one of the worst he had seen.
“He is a military hero who has suffered unspeakable injustices in trying to gain recognition for his injuries,” he said.
A DVA spokesman said he could not comment on Mr Milne’s case.
[Please read the rest of Mr. Burrell's article's HERE.]

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