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Congratulations to Veterans after 35 years

Judith Collins MP
National Party Veterans Affairs Spokeswoman

07 December 2006

Congratulations to Veterans after 35 years

National Party Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Judith Collins is congratulating Vietnam Veterans and their families on the Agent Orange Compensation package they've negotiated after a 35 year wait.

"They finally have a memorandum of understanding with the Government reflecting most of the recommendations of the Joint Working Group set up last year to look at compensation.

"Unfortunately, the Government did not accept all the recommendations of the Joint Working Group and it follows the intemperate and unnecessarily aggressive denials by Helen Clark and the former Veterans Affairs spokesman, George Hawkins."

Ms Collins has thanked the Greens, New Zealand First, United Future and Act for helping to secure the Health Select Committee inquiry in to the effects of Agent Orange.

"Labour didn't want it, but I'm pleased the united voices of the many won the day."

Ms Collins says many veterans will be pleased that some recognition is being given, and funding made available, for their children through the EVSA (Neville Wallace Memorial) Youth Development Trust and that veterans, who have shown to have suffered from the prescribed conditions and their children who suffer from accepted conditions will receive ex-gratia payments.

The endowment of a Trust Fund for assistance to veterans and their families, a Welcome Home ceremony and the Oral History programme are good initiatives.

"However, for most veterans the extent of what they will receive is one health check, a formal apology and increased medallic recognition. The tax issue has not been redressed and will continue to cause distress to veterans.

"Although a full review of VANZ is overdue, it is disappointing that the Government has not seen fit to immediately separate the positions of the Secretary of War Pensions and the Director of Veterans Affairs New Zealand (VANZ).

"The report of Parliament's Health Select Committee tabled in Parliament two years ago, almost to the day, contains a list of recommendations relating to VANZ, many of which have still not been implemented.

"Many veterans will welcome a rewrite of the War Pensions Act. However, any such rewrite must not remove the "reverse onus of proof", that veterans receive under the current law. In addition, war pensions must be kept sacrosanct as they are now and not counted against veterans for income purposes.

"Despite the disappointments and the fact this Government initially denied the Vietnam veterans' cause by accepting the McLeod Report, the National Party supports the memorandum of understanding.

"I congratulate in particular the Ex Vietnam Services Association and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association for their unstinting representation of veterans and their families, throughout what has been a 35 year battle for recognition.

"Particular recognition is owed to John Campbell, Chris Mullane, Ross Miller, John Masters, Ray Seymour, Rick Ottaway and all the veterans and their families who bravely put their stories forward to the Health Select Committee that led to the truth being acknowledged. "

ENDS


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