Sick NZ Vietnam vets to get $40,000 payments in $30m package

Vietnam veterans, with prescribed medical conditions, are to get an ex-gratia payment of $40,000 while the spouses of veterans who have died will get $25,000 under a $30 million package of measures announced by the Government today. Children of Vietnam veterans suffering from certain conditions will get $30,000, as will families who have lost children whose health was affected by their parents’ exposure to toxic environments while serving in Vietnam.

The compensation package, announced today by Defence Minister Phil Goff and Veterans Affairs Minister Rick Barker, also includes a formal, public apology to Vietnam veterans and their families.

The ministers said the $40,000 ex-gratia payment would go to veterans suffering a “prescribed condition”.

These were those listed by the United States Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine which were considered to be a result of exposure to Agent Orange – chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, soft tissue sarcoma, non-hodgkin’s lymphona, hodgkin’s disease and chloracne.

The ex-gratia payments to children would go to those who suffered from any of five accepted conditions. These were: spina bifida, cleft lip, cleft palate, acute myeloid leukaemia and adrenal gland cancer.

The ministers said the package was targeted at key concerns of veterans and their families.

“These include personal health, the health of children and grandchildren, the hurt that has remained with them for decades over the way their exposure to toxic environments has been denied and handled and the manner in which they were treated on their return to New Zealand.”

Also in the package:

An acknowledgement that the 1999 Reeves and 2001 McLeod reports were based on flawed assumptions and did not inform current government policy or decisions;

New Zealand Defence Force to host a parade and welcome home ceremony for veterans. There would also be a Defence Force acknowledging the veterans’ role, the treatment they received when they returned to New Zealand, and the sacrifice made by those killed in Vietnam;

An oral history programme on the experiences of Vietnam veterans;

A new South Vietnamese gallantry award;

All veterans, of any conflict, diagnosed with a terminal illness as a result of operational service to receive a pension equal to 160 per cent of the current War Disablement Pension.

About 3400 New Zealanders served in the Vietnam War.

Returned Services Association president John Campbell said the package in many respects went beyond what Vietnam veterans from the United States and Australia had got.

But it was disappointed that the Government did not accept a recommendation from the association and the joint working group that looked at the issue for Vietnam veterans to be paid back the tax they paid during their active service.

However, Mr Campbell said the Government had on the whole responded in a way that addressed the major health and welfare issues raised by Vietnam veterans and their families.

Date-stamp: 2006, Dec, 7  | Time-stamp: 12:33 PM | By: NZPA | NZ Herald Article Link: nzherald.co.nzNZ Herald Article Title: Sick Vietnam vets to get $40,000 payments in $30m package

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