Defence veterans living with a permanent disability must wait two years for rent assistance promised after the federal government rejected raising their pension.

Ex-service men and women on the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) pension hoping for a pay rate rise were instead allocated $25.9 million in the 2020-21 Budget for extra support, including rent assistance.

Labor’s veteran affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann said the two-year wait was a “slap in the face” to veterans living with a disability.
Labor’s veteran affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann said the two-year wait was a “slap in the face” to veterans living with a disability.

The money was to be spent over four years, but Department of Veteran Affairs officials have since confirmed it will take years before eligible recipients are identified and laws and IT systems are changed so benefits could start flowing.

DVA Veterans' Services Design first assistant secretary Veronica Hancock said the department needed time for the "system build" and the "passage of legislation" before rent assistance could be paid. 

"We won't have payments flow through until September 2022," she said. 

The TPI Federation, which represents veterans, estimates only about 10 per cent of the 28,000 pension recipients are likely to benefit from private rent assistance.

Federation president Pat McCabe said the organisation had been advocating for seven years to "restore fair and equitable compensation" as the payment represents "only 62 per cent" of the minimum wage.

"We were led to believe the Government supported our case, so we feel completely let down and disgusted with this outcome," she said.

"The government needs to do more to support TPI veterans who have served our country."

Labor's veterans affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann described the revelation as a "slap in the face" to ex-service men and women.

"The Coalition's own members acknowledged that this was the most deserving issue in the veteran community, so the response to the review was a huge disappointment and breach of trust," he said.

Earlier this month the government released its response to an independent Review of the TPI payment, which argued there was "insufficient evidence" to support a "broad increase" in the payment.

Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester said while he could "appreciate" it was not the outcome the TPI Federation had hoped for, their claims had been "exhaustively investigated" by the government.

"The government believes major reform of the veteran support system, particularly to legislation and entitlements, should be carefully considered and implemented incrementally to limit disruption and ensure it best meets the future needs of our veterans and their families," he said.

Originally published as Two-year wait for veterans' rent assistance