Veterans’ Affairs Spokesperson
10 April 2014 MEDIA STATEMENT
The Veterans’ Support Bill reported back to Parliament today rejects a key recommendation of the Law Commission Review on which it is based and ignores the submissions of veterans and the RNZRSA, says Labour’s Veterans’ Affairs Spokesperson, Phil Goff.
“A review of the 1954 War Pensions Act by the Law Commission, set up by the Labour Government in 2008, recommended that all war veterans put in harm’s way in an overseas deployment should be eligible for a veteran’s pension.
“This pension is in place of, rather than on top of, New Zealand Superannuation. It confers some small benefits such as a lump sum payment on death, a Community Services Card and continuation of the pension if hospitalised. Most returned service personnel who want to go on to the veteran’s pension do so not because of the benefits but because they see that as honouring their service on behalf of their country.
“Veterans asked that the requirement of significant disability (52 per cent of total disability or more) be dropped, something the RNZRSA strongly endorsed.
“The Government however ignored the veterans’ submissions on this and said the recommendation should ‘not progress at this point in time’.
“It’s a cynical decision. Time is not on the side of World War II, Korean, Malayan and Vietnam veterans. Their numbers are rapidly declining as age takes its toll.
“As the RSA says, why should it be necessary to be ‘significantly’ disabled to qualify for the veterans’ pension?
“This year we commemorate the centenary of the start of World War I. There will be many expressions of gratitude for the service of our veterans. But rather than simple rhetoric, surely we can acknowledge the centenary and our veterans in a more tangible way by extending their eligibility for a veteran’s pension.
“The cost is small, $11 million this year declining to $8 million in three years’ time as ranks thin.
“The message it would send, however, is an important one. We do honour their service and will look after them in return for their putting themselves in harm’s way for their country”, Phil Goff said.