Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My name is Liz Cosson. I'm the deputy secretary and chief operating officer. I have a team here that is very happy to take questions from the committee.
By way of a brief introduction, as a department, we are approximately 2,000 people who are spread across Australia in delivering our services and support to our veteran community. I'll give you some statistics in relation to that community shortly. Also, as part of the department, we have a Repatriation Commission and a military rehabilitation and compensation commission. Joining me is the deputy president of the Repatriation Commission.
We work collaboratively to look at how we can best serve our veterans and the broader community. We have around 300,000 clients, and 174,000 of those are veterans with an average age of about 65. We have about 154,000 clients who are dependants of an average age of about 79. Of those, 120 are widows of World War I veterans.
Our numbers are reducing. We see them reducing to about 240,000 by 2020, but what we as a department are identifying is that the younger veterans, our new veterans, are presenting with quite complex claims, and they require a different approach in managing their circumstances.
We have a budget of just under $12 billion Australian. About $6 billion of that goes to compensation and support, as outlined. About $5 billion goes to health and well-being. We also have a commemorations program of about $66 million.
Over the last couple of years, and in a dedicated effort in the past 12 months, what we have been doing is listening to our veteran community to identify how we can change our programs to improve our service and best serve our younger veterans, because we are hearing from them that they are not as satisfied as our older cohort of veterans. We've been working in collaboration with the Department of Defence to look at what our future operating model will be. Ms. Pope, who is with me, is leading that transformation.
Among the key things we are hearing is that we need to change from just focusing on claims to improving the transition from service into the community, and to moving a lot of our ADF members from a life of being dependent on the ADF community to a life of independence. We also have heard that a few of our veterans have not been happy with our claims processing times and the way they have to approach the department. We have been placing a lot of effort on our time taken to process, and in the budget we received just over $13 million to support us in improving the processing activities.
What we've also heard about is the importance of families. You referenced our Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service. We also receive funding in the budget to extend the eligibility of our veterans counselling services to pick up more broadly the family members.
You mentioned our commitment to Vietnam. We had about 60,000, including our nurses, who deployed to Vietnam, but unfortunately we only know one in three of those veterans, and from recent conflicts, we only know one in five. Our efforts are really focused on how we can connect to those veterans and that broader community where they do have eligibility for our support and services.
In addition to what I've mentioned and your interest today, I'll conclude my opening. That was just by way of introduction on what we're doing as a department. I'm very happy to open it up to questions from the committee.