Minister for Veterans, the Hon Meka Whaitiri announced today that two new conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure have been added to the Prescribed Conditions List.
Under the 2006 Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Crown and representatives of Vietnam veterans and the Royal New Zealand RSA. Vietnam veterans in New Zealand who have these conditions are eligible for an ex gratia payment of $40,000.
Prescribed Conditions are those for which the United States National Academy of Sciences considers there is scientific evidence of association with exposure to Agent Orange. The two new conditions on the list are monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) and hypertension.
Cabinet has confirmed that funding will be available to pay out the ex gratia entitlements. It has also agreed that work should be done with the veteran groups who were party to the MOU to develop a process to manage adding any possible new Prescribed Conditions to the ex gratia list in the future.
The changes will mean more Vietnam veterans qualify for an ex gratia payment.
The Government takes seriously its commitments to the veterans who served in Vietnam. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2006 after the then Labour Government accepted that the exposure of service personnel to dioxin contaminated herbicides and other chemicals was a major contributor to the ongoing suffering of veterans and their families.
In 2008 the Crown offered a formal apology to the New Zealand Vietnam veterans and their families. The Crown placed on record the recognition of the service of those personnel who had been in Vietnam and acknowledged the many consequences of that service, including ongoing physical and mental health issues.
“This support from the Government shows the commitment we have to our veterans and I have asked Veterans’ Affairs to ensure that those entitled to these payments receive them as soon as this can be done. The initial work is getting way under way this week”.
President of the New Zealand Vietnam Veterans’ Association, Andrew (Andy) Peters has issued a statement on behalf of the Association welcoming today’s announcement. His Association looks forward to working with Minister Whaitiri and officials in the future.
President of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association, BJ Clark, said “the RSA welcomes this announcement acknowledging ongoing health issues faced by our Vietnam veterans. We are greatly encouraged by the proposed working group on the list of prescribed conditions and we look forward to collaborating on this important work. Vietnam veterans endured years of struggle and it’s important to acknowledge today’s announcement, but also to recognise that we will continue working with government to ensure all veterans don’t have to go down the same path”.
New Zealand Vietnam Veterans are encouraged to contact Veterans Affairs on Freephone 0800 483 8372 if in New Zealand, 1 800 483 837 if in Australia or 64 4 495 2070 if elsewhere in the world.
You can also email Veterans Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org