NZ Vietnam vets missing out on $40,000 defoliant payouts

Few New Zealand soldiers suffering from exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic defoliants in the Vietnam War are qualifying for lump sum payments.

Of more than 1000 veterans who have registered with Veterans Affairs, just 34 have been accepted for one-off $40,000 payments to date – fuelling the ire of some veterans who have branded the compensation package “pathetic“.

The package approved by the Government last November restricted lump sum payments to a narrow range of cancers and a skin condition. At the time, Veterans Affairs Minister Rick Barker said he expected the numbers qualifying to be “in the double, rather than triple, figures”.

A spokesman for Mr Barker says the needs of most affected veterans and their children will be met from a $7 million interest-earning trust fund which will provide assistance over 30 years.

It is believed about 2500 of the 3200 New Zealand soldiers who saw active service in Vietnam are still alive. Around 1300 of them are receiving a war disability pension.

About 20 per cent of the veterans now live in Australia, which marks their participation today with Vietnam Veterans Day.

New Zealand has no such official anniversary, although the Government plans a “welcome home” tribute next Queen’s Birthday weekend.

The Vietnam Veterans Action Group, which plans court action to seek improved compensation, says the Government’s treatment of the veterans continues to be “parsimonious, miserable and shabby”.

Published: 2007, Aug, 18. | Time-stamp: 5:00 AM Saturday | By: Geoff Cumming | Article Link: nzherald.co.nz | Article Title: NZ Vietnam vets missing out on $40,000 defoliant payouts.

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