Report Recommends Assistance For Children Of War Veterans

The children of veterans who believe their health has suffered because of their parents’ possible exposure to Agent Orange or radiation deserve access to free medical care and counselling, the Government has been told.

The committee charged with inquiring into the health of children of Vietnam and Operation Grapple veterans today released its report.

Chairman Sir Paul Reeves said there was no clear evidence of a link between exposure of service personnel to Agent
Orange or radiation and the health of their children.

Some veterans’ children remained convinced they had been harmed by their parents’ service and the Government had an obligation to address those concerns, Sir Paul said.

The committee recommended that they be eligible for medical treatment and social care similar to the non-means-tested provisions of the War Pensions Act 1954.

The inquiry was launched in July last year after long-standing claims by Vietnam War veterans who believed they and their children had suffered because of exposure to Agent Orange, and from navy personnel who supported British atmospheric nuclear tests near Christmas and Malden Islands in 1957-58.

Sir Paul said the committee had surveyed more than 4000 service personnel and looked at the safety systems in place during their service. It had also consulted scientific and medical experts and reviewed epidemiological evidence and assessments in New Zealand and overseas.

“Using these various approaches and different forms of analysis, our investigations do not convincingly demonstrate any causal connection between exposures to service personnel and health effects in their children.

“This will be reassuring for the children, and especially for those who have hesitated to start their own families,” Sir Paul said.

Sir Paul said the committee had recommended a package of medical and social care for veterans’ children because the Government had a duty to look after its military personnel, and because scientific analysis could not give a categorical assurance to dispel the long held belief among children that they have been harmed by their parents’ service.

The committee endorsed the Government’s recent decision to establish an Office of Veterans’ Affairs and said it should be responsible for:

Case-managing veterans’ children with problems; Managing the medical and social care assistance; Developing a register of all Vietnam and Operation Grapple veterans’ children; Sponsoring research into the health of veterans’ children; and Providing information and training for health professionals and others who work with veterans’ children.

The committee members were:

  • Sir Paul Reeves
  • Margaret Faulkner, War Pensions, Department of Social Welfare
  • Pat Helm, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Dr Colin Feek, Ministry of Health
  • Lt General A.L. Birks, Chief of Defence Force
Published: 1999, June 08. | By: Jenny Shipley | Title: Report Recommends Assistance For Children Of War Veterans | Source: beehive.govt.nz

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