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Vietnam Vet Treament Must Apply To All Occupations

Treatment For Vietnam Vets Must Apply To All Occupations

Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley today welcomed the Government's move to provide better health services for Vietnam veterans and their families.

"The Green Party is delighted that finally, after decades of neglect, something now looks like happening for Vietnam veterans and their families who continue to be haunted by the aftermath of their exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange," said Ms Kedgley.

But she called on the Government to extend the same recognition and compensation, including veteran pensions at the superannuation rate, to all servicemen and women who had become ill as a result of chemical, nuclear or biological exposure during their service in the military.

Ms Kedgley cited as an example servicemen who were aboard the HMS Otago and Canterbury which was sent to Mururoa to support a Greenpeace protest by the Labour Government in 1973.

"Many veterans who were on board the ship are seriously ill as a result of their exposure to nuclear radiation and some have already died," she said. "But none of them are even eligible for veterans pensions, despite the damage to their health caused in the course of their service on behalf of New Zealand. They are not covered under Section 80A of the War Pensions Act which would entitle them to a veterans pension. They cannot even be buried in a serviceman's grave. Nor do their surviving spouses have an entitlement to a pension.

"This is a scandal. We send men and women off to serve on our behalf, but when they become sick as a result of their service to New Zealand we do not compensate them properly," she said.

The Green Party also urged the Government to compensate a range of other New Zealanders who have been chemically exposed to dioxin and other chemicals in their jobs.

"Many timber workers are seriously ill as a result of their exposure to high concentrations of PCP's," she said. "These other individuals need the same recognition and assistance from this Government as our Vietnam veterans.

"We congratulate the Government for taking the issue of the Vietnam vets out of the too hard basket but we ask that the principle be applied fairly and to its logical conclusions."


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