Defence force veterans feel abandoned and no longer acknowledged for their service and sacrifice when they move into aged care, a royal commission has been told.
The Department of Veterans' Affairs admits it has been "passive" about its role when veterans have to move into the mainstream residential aged care system.
The RSL says many older veterans and widows or widowers are under the impression the DVA will provide care and services for them for as long as needed, including veteran-specific residential aged care.
"At a time when most vulnerable, that is needing aged care, they feel abandoned by DVA and no longer acknowledged for the service and sacrifices they made for their country," the RSL said in a submission to the aged care royal commission.
DVA secretary Elizabeth Cosson admitted the department needed to do more to assist veterans when they transition from its low-level aged care services to the mainstream system that provides a higher level of care, run by the health department.
"I agree that we have been quite passive in our role in relation to our veterans moving into mainstream aged care," Ms Cosson told the royal commission on Tuesday.
"We can't just, as you put it, turn a switch and then not have any visibility of what is the care that they're receiving and to ensure that we do take that responsibility through life for our veterans and that we do have active programs and active management arrangements."
Ms Cosson, who is overseeing veteran-centric reforms at DVA, said the department had invested in helping members transition out of the defence force and back into civilian life.
"I believe we now need to do something similar in the aged care space," she told the Melbourne hearing.
Ms Cosson suggested introducing a coordinator to help veterans transition into mainstream aged care, an idea she came up with while preparing for her appearance at the royal commission.
She said there was a strong need to ensure aged care services provided appropriate support for - and recognition of - the unique sacrifices veterans and their families have made.
Vietnam War veteran Brian Lynch, 73, who still carries the mental scars from his 14 years of army service, said veterans need special support and have complex needs.
Mr Lynch noted that after World War I, then-prime minister Billy Hughes told Australia's armed forces they would be looked after when they returned from service.
"We the modern veterans do not want anything other than the pledge of Billy Hughes to be honoured," Mr Lynch said.
The DVA estimates there are about 631,800 Australians who have served, or are serving, in the defence force.
It provides services to about 287,000 veterans and dependants, 184,000 of whom are 65 or older.
Australian Associated Press