Saturday, November 3, 2012

SUPPORTING VETERANS

There hasn't been too much media comment on the recently announced package by Government to assist our war veterans ..... I guess for many New Zealanders we fall into the category of 'happy to acknowledge on ANZAC Day and happy to forget for the other 364'.

The package includes $60m of new monies (over the next five years) which, combined with the ever shrinking veteran demographic, means that the veteran community will be substantially better off.

The announcement represents the Government's response to the Report by the Law Commission into the War Pensions Act 1954.   The report contained 170 recommendations.  The package adopts, in full or in part, 132 of those recommendations.

The main changes include:
  • New and updated legislation replacing the existing War Pensions Act.
  • The introduction of two coverage schemes with the creation of ACC on 1 April 1974 being the point of division between the two schemes.
  • Increasing the War Disablement Pension and Surviving Spouse Pension rates by 5% beginning on 1 April 2013 (on top of the forecast CPI increase of 1.8%).
  • The War Disablement Pension to continue for four weeks after the recipient's death (currently ceases on date of death).
  • Veterans diagnosed with a terminal service-related injury or illness to be able to elect to receive one years worth of the maximum rate of the War Disablement Pension (worth $19,466 at the new rate) paid as a lump sum following the terminal diagnosis.
  • Increasing eligibility for support services such as home help and lawn mowing will benefit an estimated 3,000 additional veterans and 1,100 surviving spouses or partners.
  • A new 'Veterans Weekly Income Compensation' for veterans under the age of retirement and unable to work to be paid at 80% of the average wage (significantly higher than the currently available Veteran's Pension rate).
  • A veteran's advisory board ands specialist medical advisory board will be established to provide the Minister with independent advice.
Among the recommendations the Government did not agree with was the proposal to establish an Independent Tribunal (replacing the current War Pensions Appeal Board) to consider appeals against pension decisions.   The advice from the Justice Department was that New Zealand needed another Tribunal like a hole in the head.    Additionally the Government disagreed with the recommendation that veterans over age 80 should receive free comprehensive medical care.   The Government took the view that all care should be service injury related rather than age based.

It is intended that the legislative package giving effect to these changes will be introduced to the House early next year (the 5% pension increase does not require legislative approval and will happen automatically).    I am aware that the Veteran's Affairs Minister (Nathan Guy) is keen for as many veterans as possible to have their say during the Select Committee Phase and will be encouraging the Select Committee considering the legislation to travel to at least the four main centres provided always that the numbers and geographic spread of submission justifies this.

In the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to visit a number of RSAs around New Zealand.    The reaction I am getting to the announcement is a positive one.  Veterans are generally a pragmatic lot.  They acknowledge the economic constraints faced by Government.   To get this package through cabinet is a major and welcome achievement.
 

4 comments:

Noel said...

VWIC is a poor relation to the Aussie TPI. Ironically with all the prcrastination on this change most of those who really needed it will now be at Superannuation age and ineligible.
The Commission recommended 10 percent on pensions, just to gain parity, so the 5 perent shouldn't be seen as a real gain.
Pity these payments aren't indexed to politicans wages.
The previous short lived medical advisory board's only recommendation that was adopted was to bring the hearing threshold in line wit5h ACC. i.e. made it harder.
Indications are that VANZ will continue to monitor the NAS IOM Matrix and make changes accordingly. Sorry but there were hundred of studies back in 1990 that produced the small number of acceptable conditions on the presumptive list. The last update only produced one Veteran study and subsequently no major changes suggesting that as interest wanes in the scientific community no changes to benefit veterans can be expected in the future.
The Aussies have always claimed they look after their returned service persons the best and comparing the miniscule changes in this Government response to the LC Report they can continue to do so.

The Veteran said...

Noel ... well at least you don't disappoint, but you are predictable.

Your comments suggest a very narrow focus ... the new legislation is structured to meet the requirments of the entire veteran community going forward ... not just the VVet community.

And it would help if you could get your 'facts' right ... the LC did not recommend a 10% increase to the quantum of the WDP. I refer you to their recommendation 85. The word they used was 'meaningful' and in this day and age and acknowledging the financial constraints faced by Government the 5% was a good outcome.

The way I read it the Expert Medica Panel is charged with monitoring the NAS IOM matrix and recommending changes ... not VANZ.

You fall into the trap of comparing Aust vs NZL. Two different countries in case you hadn't noticed. Sure their TPI is generous but it can't be viewed in isolation. Aust does not have the Veterans Pension (universal and non means tested. When you add that into the mix the equation changes.

Look forward to reading your Select Committee submission panning the changes.

Noel said...

At the Papakura "roadshow" the concensus was for at least 10% to catch up with indexing to the average wage.
Surely you remember that.

The Veteran said...

Wasn't at the Papakura Roadshow but whatever, 'their' consensus 10% wasn't reflected in the LC Report which used the word 'significant'.

Is 5% significant? Perhaps in todays climate it is. Would 10% be more significant ... of course. as would 20% or 30% or 100%.

But politics is the art of the possible.

I prefer to look at the package in its totality and I reiterate my point that I think the Minister is to be congratulated in getting it through Cabinet.

A little bird tells me that Iain Lees-Galloway, the Opposition spokesperson on Veteran's Affair's is on record as having described the package as "generous".