Kiwi Vietnam veterans urged to re-apply for government support

Kiwi Vietnam veterans are urging others to put past rejections for claims and their pride aside and reach out for financial entitlements from the Government.

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The Vietnam War left many Kiwi veterans battling illness after exposure to the chemical agent orange. Source: 1 NEWS

Around 3500 New Zealanders served in Vietnam between 1963 and 1975 but for decades after received little support or acknowledgement for their service.

The veterans were exposed to defoliant chemicals including Agent Orange during the war, which can cause cancer, peripheral neuropathy, musculoskeletal pain, diabetes and skin conditions.

“It’s in our DNA so therefore it’s in our children’s DNA and it’s going to be in their childrens’ DNA,” Vietnam veteran Ian Barnes said.

“If we don’t get it on file that we are affected by our service in Vietnam then our children will not be treated.”

Financial and personal support increased for veterans, their partners and children, after a Memorandum of Understanding in 2006 in which the Crown acknowledged the health impacts of exposure to Agent Orange and apologised for failing to address these concerns raised by veterans, and for subsequent delays in treatment or lack of treatment.

An information expo held in Lower Hutt today was the third organised by the Defence Force’s Veterans’ Affairs this year to boost awareness of available services and compensation.

More than 300 veterans and family members from the Lower North Island region attended.

“We got to wake up as veterans and say, ‘Hey, we’re at that age now where...just putting up with it, it’s not good enough,’” New Zealand Vietnam Veterans Association President Andrew Peters said.

Mr Peters welcomed the expo initiative but said more need to be held in smaller regions like the Far North and Gisborne to reach more veterans.

Veterans’ Affairs' Sharon Cavanagh said between 1700 and 1750 veterans receive support services and the location of around 200 veterans is unknown.

“The others, we’re always wanting to engage with them,” she said.

Ms Cavanagh said Veterans’ Affairs doesn’t have information on how many Vietnam veterans have related conditions.