On a day when our thoughts and sympathies go out to the victims of the school massacre tragedy in the United States (I wonder if anyone will have the temerity to term this a case of 'extreme workplace violence' ... again) here's a good news story to help balance the books (only a little I grant you).
Some of you may recall the story brokered by Barbara Dreaver, Pacific Affairs correspondent for TV1, regarding Bill Framhein and his quest for a Veteran's Pension to be paid to him in the Cook Islands.
Long story short. Bill served his country with distinction in Malaysia, Borneo and was the only NZ serviceman to complete four tours in Vietnam.
He is in receipt of a War Disability Pension and would be entitled to the Veteran's Pension if he were resident in NZ ... he's not, he's resident in the Cook Islands. There is legislative provision for Bill to receive the Veteran's Pension in the Cook Islands but there is a qualifying time-bar which Bill doesn't meet. There is no discretion in the Act for the Minister of Social Welfare to intervene (MSD administers the Veteran's Pension).
Following extensive lobbying by Don McIver, President of the Royal New Zealand Returned & Services Association, Alfred Ngaro MP (NZs first MP of Cook Island descent) and others, the Hon Nathan Guy, Minister of Veteran's Affairs, has just announced that the Government has agreed to pay Bill a special annuity equivalent to the Veterans Pension effective immediately. This is in addition to his War Disablement Pension.
This is a win for the veteran community and especially for Bill. It's a one-off. I acknowledge the willingness of Minister Guy to recognise the special circumstances of the case, engage with his colleagues and argue for for what might be considered an 'elegant solution' obiviating the need for legislative change.
Footnote .... the Veteran's Pension is available to all veterans with qualifying operational service and who receive a War Disablement Pension at the 70% level or higher. It is paid at the same rate as NZ Superannuation and subject to the same residential qualifications as apply to NZ Superannuation. There are some important add-ons. Unlike NZ Superannuation, the VP continues unabbated if the recipient goes into long term hospital care. On the death of a recipient of the VP the estate receives a funeral grant while the surviving spouse/partner is entited to a special pension in addition to any other pension he/she may be entitled to (the Surviving Spouse Pension). If the spouse/partner of a recipient of the Veterans Pension dies their estate is also entitled to a funeral grant.