Source: New Zealand Government
The Veterans’ Support Amendment Bill (No 2) passed its third reading today and will become law, announced Minister for Veterans Ron Mark.
This amends the Veterans’ Support Act 2014 in response to recommendations from the 2018 review of the operation of the Act by Professor Ron Paterson.
“Veterans have been waiting a long time to see some of the Paterson recommendations put into law,” said Ron Mark.
“This bill is the first step in doing so.”
The new provisions that are now part of the Act will increase fairness and make it easier to access support and services. There is a greater focus on the needs of veterans’ families, a greater recognition of psychological illness, and more flexibility for decision-making.
Veterans’ Affairs can continue to provide treatment and rehabilitation services to veterans who are imprisoned; and if a family member is receiving entitlements when a veteran is imprisoned, they would not lose these. The new provisions also make it easier for family members to access support when a veteran dies.
“This bill was intended to fix issues that are relatively easy to fix ¬ and that will make life easier for veterans and their families,” said Ron Mark.
“They will now be better supported when they need support.
“Some of the Paterson recommendations were more complex and require more policy development work and consultation.
“I anticipate that another more substantial amendment to the Veterans’ Support Act will be needed during the next term of Parliament to address these bigger issues,” said Ron Mark.
How will legislation change now that the bill has been passed?
The changes that have been made will:
- enable Veterans’ Affairs to fund mental health services for veterans with acute needs before eligibility has been established;
- enable treatment and rehabilitation services being provided by Veterans’ Affairs to continue when a veteran is imprisoned until they have been transferred to the Corrections system;
- extend some services to families, for example counselling, where this is necessary for the veteran’s well-being;
- modernise definitions in the Act (such as “child”) to reflect the make-up of modern families, and to align with definitions used elsewhere in Government;
- extend the Children’s Bursary to cover situations where the veteran and child live overseas; and to extend the definition of recognised tertiary institutions;
- abolish the five-year restriction on childcare assistance;
- enable Veterans’ Independence Programme household support services to continue for 12 months when a veteran goes into care, to assist their spouse or partner;
- make it easier for surviving spouses or partners to arrange pensions and be reimbursed for funeral costs when a veteran dies;
- standardise a grace period of 28 days following the death of a veteran, to minimise chances of debt building up if payment of an entitlement is not immediately stopped;
- better recognise psychological illness conditions that are attributed to, or aggravated by a veteran’s service;
- give Veterans’ Affairs discretion to recognise injuries, illness, or death should they have occurred, for example, when a veteran was briefly absent without leave, or committing a minor offence;
- increase flexibility for decision-making timeframes; and
- provide the responsible Minister with discretion, for security or operational reasons, to declare operations to be qualifying operational service without the requirement for those operations to be gazetted.
When will these changes come into effect?
1 October 2020
Are these the first Paterson Report recommendations to have been actioned?
Some of the Paterson recommendations have already been put into effect by Veterans’ Affairs through changes to policy or practice.
A full list of the Paterson recommendations and the progress towards addressing them is on the Veterans’ Affairs website: https://www.veteransaffairs.mil.nz