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Viet Nam package will benefit those in need

8 December 2006

Viet Nam package will benefit those in need

Veterans' Affairs Minister Rick Barker said today that the government's response to the recommendations of the Joint Working Group on concerns of Viet Nam veterans will benefit those needing assistance.

"The Government, Ex-Vietnam Services Association (EVSA) and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RNZRSA) have worked closely to develop a comprehensive and wide ranging package that addresses the health of Viet Nam veterans and their families by ensuring those who need additional support are able to receive it," said Rick Barker.

"Ex-gratia payments for Viet Nam veterans and their children who have specific conditions are available. The conditions these payments cover are set out in the United States Academy of Science Institute of Medicine 'sufficient evidence of association' list, which is considered the gold standard for medical research in this area.

"The Government has committed to monitoring the science around the effects of serving in a toxic environment and if peer-reviewed science shows a link, New Zealand will immediately provide the enhanced support that follows from this.

"For those suffering serious difficulties but whose conditions are not on the United States Academy of Science Institute of Medicine 'sufficient evidence of association' list, a trust has been set up which will have the flexibility to provide assistance.

"The trust will be run by the veterans' organisations and will be able to make discretionary payments to Viet Nam veterans, widows, children and grandchildren. The trust was not a recommendation of the Joint Working Group, but an outcome of subsequent negotiations between the veterans' organisations and the Government.

"The sole intention of the trust is to provide flexibility where there is no scientifically proven link," said Rick Barker.

The trust will have a Crown endowment of $7million and will exist for 30 years, after which the endowment will be returned to the Crown. Interest from trust is expected to provide $500,000 a year for the trustees to administer. A Joint Implementation Group representing wide range of agencies will convene in early 2007 to determine the exact status, form and criteria of the trust.

"I urge all Viet Nam veterans and their families to take time to read what is a very comprehensive response. I also strongly encourage those Viet Nam veterans who are not receiving assistance from Veterans Affairs New Zealand to contact them to find out what they are currently entitled to. If anyone is still dissatisfied they should write to me and I will personally look into the matter," said Rick Barker.

ENDS

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