A Department of Veterans Affairs contractor abruptly fired after trying to reinstate a disabled veteran’s payments has accused the department of sacrificing its mission to bureaucracy and ego.
Andrea Gynn was let go earlier in May after asking a supervisor if she could restore and backpay benefits to a veteran in dire financial straits who had demonstrated eligibility since February.
To her amazement, Ms Gynn says she was told she had breached the “chain of command” by not speaking with her team leader, despite the team leader telling her to contact the higher-ranking supervisor.
“I got the call that afternoon from the labour hire place saying you’re being let go based on this reason: failure to integrate and failure to follow the chain of command,” Ms Gynn, who was dismissed from her temporary position at the DVA office in Brisbane on May 16, told The New Daily.
“I accepted the fact that I’d be dealing with government bureaucracy, but there’s a big difference between dealing with government bureaucracy and dealing with people who allow a system to perpetuate an individual’s claim for longer than what is a reasonable period of time.”
It is understood that the veteran, who has severe mental health and mobility issues and is living on a boat in Cairns, was cut off from payments in July after failing to attend medical appointments. It is understood he has been meeting DVA requirements since February.
Ms Gynn said she had witnessed DVA claims being delayed because of poor communication between sections and overwhelmed or ill-prepared employees diverting claims up the bureaucratic chain to avoid dealing with them themselves.
“None of them integrate with one another,” said Ms Gynn, who has a background in workers’ insurance and compensation. “It’s a completely siloed system.”
The 38-year-old, who is originally from Canberra, said she was now worried for her client, whose payments hadn’t been reinstated at the time of her dismissal, and about 80 other veterans whose files she had been assigned.
“My concern was that they are not going to be looked at in a timely manner,” she said.
“I believe DVA could achieve greatness but for the absence of a commercially intelligent and genuinely empathetic approach,” she added, lamenting that the DVA’s goal of helping veterans appeared to have been “overridden by mountains of bureaucracy and egos”.
The DVA told The New Daily it did not comment on personnel matters or the cases of individual clients.
“Where a veteran does not undertake the agreed rehabilitation activities for a period of time, the Incapacity Payments cease due to non-compliance,” a spokesman said. “Incapacity Payments resume if the veteran recommences their rehabilitation activities, but they are not backdated.”
“Where instances for improvement are identified, DVA acts to make changes to processes and policies to ensure veterans and their families receive the support they deserve.”