Government to research Vietnam veteran’s concerns

The Government will research the use of herbicides in areas of Vietnam where New Zealand soldiers’ served, Veterans’ Affairs Minister George Hawkins says.

“This Government is determined to hear Vietnam veterans’ and to bring into the open all the information around this issue,” Mr Hawkins said.

Defence Minister, Mark Burton, had recently asked the Defence Force to research the use of herbicides in South Vietnam, to determine whether New Zealand units operated in areas subject to aerial herbicide spraying.

“It also seeks to establish if there on any occasions New Zealand personnel were directly sprayed,” Mr Hawkins said.

The research will be undertaken by examining Commander’s diaries, After Action reports and other archival material, including reports from New Zealand and other nations’ armed forces. The research findings will be made available to the Parliamentary Health Select Committee, which is also looking at the topic.

Material already examined indicated New Zealand units did operate in a defoliated area and that some of our personnel were exposed to spraying on at least one occasion, Mr Hawkins said.

The Labour-led Government had always recognised the importance of our veterans’ and their children’s health needs, Mr Hawkins said.

The recent McLeod Report, while not a definitive paper on the use of defoliants, was commissioned to examine the health needs of the children of Vietnam and Operation Grapple veterans.

“While the Report made some recommendations, the Government thought it important to do even more than recommended,” Mr Hawkins said.

It was also important to note that New Zealand was the only country to support the children of nuclear test veterans, while Vietnam veterans could claim for any disability they believed attributable to their service.

“In comparison, in Australia and the United States veterans can only claim for specified disabilities, and even then only at a specified rate of disability,” Mr Hawkins said.

Recently, the Government also extended War Pension cover to the 150-member New Zealand civilian surgical team who, between December 1963 and March 1975, served at Qui Nhon’s provincial state hospital in Vietnam.

Published: 2003, June, 12. | By: George Hawkins | Title: Government to research Vietnam veteran’s concerns | Source: beehive.govt.nz

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