WAGGA veterans say the federal government needs to focus on mental health assistance for ex-soldiers rather than scoring them discounts.
Ex-Australian Defence Force personnel can use their veteran card to access more 10,000 discounts from about 500 businesses, with up to 40 per cent off for over-the-counter and online products and services.
It comes as part of the Veterans' Covenant, which provides ex-servicemen and women with lapel pins in recognition of their service.
However, local Vietnam War veteran Des Carmody said discounts will not help returned service people who are in need of mental health assistance and better access to healthcare services.
"We have young people coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq and they are committing suicide to the extent that more people have died from suicide than what were killed in Afghanistan itself," he said.
Instead of shifting its duties to private enterprises, Mr Carmody said the federal government needs to acknowledge that its troops are struggling with their mental health.
"For example, I have just written a letter to a good mate of mine and he is in a bad space. I said try and get some help mate, but a lot of them won't because they have to fight all the way - and they're not up for the fight," he said.
Although local veteran Nigel McMullen "gladly welcomed" the new discount scheme, he said the federal government's focus should be on providing veterans better access to medical support.
Mr McMullen, who was deployed to Afghanistan, said veterans are struggling to get their compensation claims accepted, as well as, access to treatment.
While monetary assistance can provide some relief, he said medical support needed the most attention, particularly in the area of mental health.
"Most of us soldiers can push through the physical pain and barriers, but with mental illness it is a big kick in the gut and it takes out even the best of us," he said.
"That is where we need to focus a lot of our efforts, in finding not just ways to cope but ways to prevent it. Finding a way to make soldiers less susceptible to mental illness would be ideal."
In other news:
Veterans and Defence Personnel Minister Darren Chester said the veteran card gives Australian business owners the opportunity to show thanks and respect for those who have served.
"Bringing corporate Australia on board will be a tangible benefit to the veteran community, with the card providing access to services and benefits for eligible veterans," he said.
"There is no set criteria for how businesses choose to show that respect and recognition, but I have no doubt we will see the numbers grow with more businesses supporting the covenant and veterans and their families have made."
- If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.