Labour has accused the Government of "penny pinching" on the eve of World War I centenary events by refusing to provide a payment for funeral expenses in its reforms of veterans' allowances.
The Veterans' Support Act passed into law last night, including setting up a separate scheme for veterans of modern deployment to be consistent with the ACC scheme. It also recognises psychological and environmental harm as well as physical.
It implements many of the recommendations in a 2010 Law Commission review of veterans' support and is part of a wider programme to which National has committed $60 million. That included increasing War Disablement and Surviving Spouses pensions by five per cent on top of inflation, increased eligibility for home help, such as cleaning and lawn mowing to an extra 3,000 veterans and 1,100 spouses, and set up specialist advisory and medical advisory groups to advise ministers.
However, Labour's veterans spokesman Phil Goff said National's refusal to implement a recommendation for a payment for funeral expenses was "mean spirited and penny pinching." He said the cost was small - estimated to be about $7.4 million a year, but reducing by $1 million every two years as the veterans' ranks thinned.
"Those who have benefited from the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents' generations can surely acknowledge our debt to them by making this small gesture." He said Labour would legislate quickly to introduce such a payment.
Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael Woodhouse said the changes the Government had made would benefit thousands of veterans in increased care, support and recognition. Next week marks the 100th anniversary of the start of New Zealand's involvement in World War I, kicking off a programme of commemorations of battles troops fought in.