Labour pledges to scrap requirement for veterans' pension

David Cunliffe at today's speech. Photo / Brendan Manning
David Cunliffe at today's speech. Photo / Brendan Manning

Labour says it will scrap a requirement for war veterans to be disabled before they receive a special pension if it gains power, a move already rejected by the Government because it would cost too much.

All war veterans would be eligible for the Veteran's Pension under a Labour government, leader David Cunliffe said in his announcement at the Avondale RSA in Auckland today.

"Veterans are only eligible for the pension if they are considered 'significantly' disabled, or more specifically, have a 52 per cent or higher impairment," Mr Cunliffe said.

"They have asked for this requirement to be dropped and a review by the Law Commission ... agreed. However, National has cynically refused, saying the change should 'not progress at this point in time'," he said.

"Now is the time. Time is something the veterans of World War 2, as well as the Korean, Malayan and Vietnam wars don't have on their side. Age means their numbers are rapidly declining.

Labour will scrap the disability requirement so all veterans can receive the pension. This will send the important message that the service of all veterans is valued."

The pension, which is not asset-tested, gives war veterans the same weekly payment as national super includes a Community Services card, the ability to keep the pension while in hospital and an entitlement to a lump sum towards funeral costs.

Making the pension available to all veterans at age 65 was one of 170 recommendations made by the Law Commission for a rewrite of the War Pensions Act 1954.

At the second reading of the Veterans' Support Bill in Parliament earlier this month the proposal was rejected, with acting Veterans' Affairs Minister Nathan Guy saying it would cost more than $40 million over the first four years alone.

Labour's policy has the backing of the Returned and Services Association.

"It would be a real indication that the proud and dedicated service of our veterans, potentially with their lives having been put in harm's way, is recognised as warranting special acknowledgement beyond that provided to New Zealand citizens generally by way of superannuation," RSA national president Don McIver said.

The fact that the proposal failed at the bill's second reading was disappointing to veterans who had served their country with loyalty and with honour, Mr McIver said.

Labour's veterans' affairs spokesman Phil Goff said the change would cost only $11 million this year and would reduce to $8 million in three years' time as veterans' ranks thinned.

The number of veterans of pensionable age was forecast to decline by 28 per cent over the next five years, he said.

It would be around another 30 years before veterans of conflicts in East Timor, Solomon Islands, Afghanistan and Bosnia were of eligible age, Mr Goff said.

The Government has adopted 132 of the 170 recommendations reported by the Law Commission as part of a $60 million package of changes to the outdated War Pensions Act.

- APNZ

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