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The New Zealand Government, Social Services Select Committee In the matter of Veterans Support Act Amendment Bill (No2)

This is a submission by the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RNZRSA). The following wish to be heard by the select committee. Mrs. Karen Rolleston, Chief Executive, and Mr. Richard Terrill, Chief Advocate. 
We are grateful that Parliament has brought this bill forward in these most difficult times. We welcome and support most of the amendments which address issues raised in the Patterson report.  
We believe Clause 6 adjusting Section 8 allows for the continued discrimination between the pre and post service date of 1 April 1974 (when ACC was implemented), when adopting the Veterans Support Act 2014. All service impacted veterans and their families should obtain the same level of support independent of when they served, where they served, or which entity is responsible for providing or contributing to each legislated service level provision. The date, therefore, is arbitrary and has no validity to the outcomes the Veterans Support Act should embody. The Act therefore should not be in two schemes unless the government openly wishes to continue to support a backdated discriminated lowering of support to veterans and their families. We also asked for the definition of a Veteran to be changed to align with our partners in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and the United States which would help resolve any potential discrimination.  
Clause 9 is requiring a ‘timely manner’ and should be replaced with a SMART goal against which VANZ can report to the Minister and clients can have some assurance of service or opportunity for complaint eg 60 or 90 days.   Clause 12 currently reads as a potential consequential punishment on veterans and their families. It should be redrafted in line with the Social Security Act Section 76: Forfeiture of benefit during detention in a prison, noting the provisions of 76(3) and that this is a forfeiture only during the period of imprisonment not cancelation of entitlement. Clauses which place a period of eligibility limitation (usually 12 months) for families of veterans on entering long term care or death of a veteran should be altered to reflect a review for recipient need after 12 months, as the need for such services and support may continue. Eg mental health support for families of PTSD or sudden death victims.  
Clause 17 is an example of the many places where it states that VANZ is responsible for paying or contributing towards a service level. There is no guarantee that the full cost of the service must be met nor any indication that the client needs to contribute to these services to make up the gap which can appear between ACC and VANZ contributions. There should be a ‘must’ statement relating to VANZ responsibility for payment or to complete payment after contribution by ACC or other government entities to achieve the full amount required to deliver the service, otherwise provide a schedule of cost and payment rate expectations. 
Clause 18, Section 108(2) should be amended to state either comprehensive health services or complementary treatment options in addition to generally available health services eg equine therapy  
Section 28 of the Act remains largely untouched and puts the onus on the veteran to prove that either their service was the only cause of the condition or that normal service or post-service life choices of the time did not contribute to the condition with VANZ making the judgement. This is an unfair balance as it would be difficult for a veteran to prove that a small common service injury eg lower limb trauma from boots, or knee wear and tear at sea would or would not have resulted in the later crippling conditions they suffer or that self-medication for low-level mental health issues caused by service experiences did or did not contribute to later larger mental health issues. We suggest that 28 (1)d and (2) be reworded to reflect 
VANZ may submit for exemption of responsibility for fulfilling entitlements where there are clear grounds the injury, illness, or death was not due in any part by the experiences of the veteran during qualifying service.  
We were parties to the Paterson consultation process and heard many oral submissions which, due to the constraints of the terms of reference Professor Paterson could not report on. We are grateful to Professor Paterson for permitting our Chief Advocate to be present at all but three meetings. Many of the oral submissions reflected our own views, that the Act is rewritten as one easy to read and interpret a piece of legislation. This is not a rewrite to achieve this goal.  
There was a fairly formidable list, some of which we would like to explain in more depth at the committee hearings. 
The Veterans Support Act Amendment Bill is a positive step for vets, their families, and VANZ. It is however an increment step and we urge haste in addressing the remaining recommendations from the Paterson Report.