Defence selects McKinsey to review welfare system for veterans

19 October 2021 3 min. read

Blamed for an increasing number of suicides, the welfare claims system for ex-Australian defence personnel is set to be overhauled, with McKinsey selected to undertake the critical review.

Global strategy consultancy McKinsey & Company has been selected to help overhaul the welfare claims processing system for Australian defence force veterans, as announced by the Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel minister Andrew Gee. The primary aim is to reduce suicide-rates among former soldiers, with previous hold-ups in accessing funds and support services in part blamed for an increasing number of deaths.

According to figures cited by the Australian, as of April more than two thirds of veterans’ claims for a disability pension and over 40 percent of claims for ADF widow/widower benefits had yet to be finalised. At around that time, the government announced a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, yet an interim report isn’t due until the middle of next year. “We can’t wait for the Royal Commission to get cracking on this crucial reform,” said Gee.

Defence selects McKinsey to review welfare system for veterans

“One of my top priorities is to cut waiting times for veterans and their loved ones, and as such, I have directed that this rebuild takes place as a matter of urgency,” the minister stated. “This is not another review. McKinsey will immediately examine how the Department can simplify the claims process, how it is currently processing claims, and identify how we can have a faster, more efficient and effective system for all veterans and their families.”

A recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare determined that almost 1,300 Australian Defence Force members had taken their own lives in just the past 19 years, a number far greater than had been anticipated or previously reported, with the fresh study backdated to include all full and reserve members who had served since 1985, rather than covering only previous data-sets from 2001.

Of the 1,273 self-inflicted deaths in total recorded among the serving and former defence personnel of the study, the data showed that female veterans are twice as likely to take their own lives in comparison to the general population, while male veterans were around 25 percent more likely. This figure however grew to almost three times more likely for young male veterans who had been involuntarily discharged due to a medical condition, arguably requiring greater support.

Gee pointed to the near $100 million set aside in this year’s budget to employ hundreds of new claims-processing officers to address the ‘unacceptably large’ backlog, which he said was welcome news, but would be a waste if those new officers were dropped into an inefficient system, tangling themselves up in red tape. “If that budget boost is to have maximum effect we need to make sure that the fundamentals of the claims processing system are right.”

McKinsey – which will be paid in excess of $1.3 million for around ten weeks work, per AusTender – will as part of its review consult directly with the families of ex-defence personnel who have lost members due to suicide, to gain “a first-hand understanding of the impact of veteran suicide and the importance of a quick and efficient claims processing system.”

The recommendations are set to be submitted in early December, with reforms taking place by Christmas.


In the interim, any Australian readers seeking immediate crisis support can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, and Soldier On Australia on 1300 620 380. Other defence-specific support-lines and agencies include the Defence All-hours Support Line on 1800 628 036, a confidential telephone service for ADF members and their families, and the free and confidential service Open Arms Veterans & Families Counselling on 1800 011 046.