People who served in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) or an allied defence force (as well as the spouse, widow or widower of a veteran) form an important minority of older Australians. This population can have a different experience of ageing, due to factors associated with ADF service.

The transition from military to civilian life is an important stage for veterans. While many can make this transition successfully, those who have chronic health issues, injury, pain or psychological concerns may find it more challenging [5].


In 2014–15, men aged 55 and over who had served in the ADF reported similar rates of chronic diseases to the non-serving population, including arthritis, back pain and problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, and diseases of the circulatory system. However, men aged 55–64 who had served had higher rates of mental and behavioural problems (1.8 times) and arthritis (1.6 times) than the non-serving population [1, 2].

Department of Veterans’ Affairs support

Veterans and their partners, widow(er)s or children receive various pensions and compensations from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA), which include help with health care and aged care services. At June 2017, more than 201,000 people aged 65 and over were receiving a DVA pension (which included service pensions, disability pensions and war widow pensions). People aged 65 and over made up 69% of all DVA pension recipients, with around 1 in 5 (19%) of all clients aged 90 and over [4] (Figure 1).

Aged care services

Prior military service may affect individuals throughout their lives, and both DVA-funded and mainstream aged care services are available to support older veterans.

The DVA provides two main community support programs for eligible veterans: the Veterans Home Care (VHC) program and community nursing services. The VHC program provides low-level support for DVA clients to continue living at home, through the provision of domestic assistance, personal care, home and garden maintenance and respite care services. In 2016–17, the VHC provided support for just under 50,000 veterans, and the most common services provided were domestic assistance (89%) and home and garden services (34%) [6].

Community nursing services provides high-level support for people with higher care needs or a disability, and these services include clinical care, personal care and palliative care services. In 2016–17, around 19,000 people received Community nursing services, and almost all clients had (95%) received clinical care services [6].

DVA clients can also access mainstream aged care services. The Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) is one of the main community- based programs, which provides entry-level support for older people to continue living independently in their homes. At 30 June 2017, the CHSP supported just under 24,000 DVA clients, representing around 3% of all CHSP clients.

Residential aged care is a higher level of support available for people who cannot remain living at home independently, and is available on a permanent or respite basis. At 30 June 2017, just over 26,000 DVA clients were in residential aged care, representing around 14% of all residential aged care clients [3, 6].


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2015. National Health Survey: first results, 2014–15—Australia. ABS cat. no. 4364.0. Canberra: ABS.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2018. Australia’s health 2018. Australia’s health series no. 16. AUS 221. Canberra: AIHW.
  3. Department of Health (DoH) 2017. 2016–17 Report on the Operation of the Aged Care Act 1997. Canberra: DoH.
  4. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) 2017a. Annual Reports 2016–17. Canberra: DVA. Viewed 6 March 2018.
  5. DVA 2017b. Factsheet VCS05—transition to civilian life 2017. Canberra: DVA. Viewed 21 November 2017.
  6. Steering Committee Report on Government Service Provision (SCRGSP) 2018. Report on government services. Canberra: SCRGSP.