Mark Compain, RNZRSA Support Services Manager, said the ruling reflecting a sensible and benevolent interpretation of the law.
RNZRSA: Court ruling on veteran’s PTSI cover – sensible, benevolent, and recognises current clinical understanding
The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RNZRSA) welcomes the judgement in the District Court in Wellington on Wednesday relating to psychological wounding sustained during military service by an Afghanistan veteran.
The ruling granted the 56-year-old veteran access to cover and compensation from the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), overturning a previous decision made by ACC.
The man, given name suppression by the Court, served in Afghanistan in 2009. Both during his military tour and in a previous career as a police officer, he witnessed, and was involved in resolving, a significant number of traumatic situations.
The court ruled in the veteran’s favour, saying people who developed the disorder “for a work-related gradual process” could claim for cover, despite the wording of the law, which held the injury must be caused by a single event.
RNZRSA Support Services Manager Mark Compain said the ruling reflected a sensible and benevolent interpretation of the law’s intent. It appropriately recognises a legitimate injury suffered by the veteran during operational service for New Zealand, Mr Compain said.
The RSA is also concerned about the limited interpretation of the law – contrasting sharply with current clinical knowledge on PTSI – and will be seeking reassurances from stakeholders that the Court’s findings will result in changes to prevent such cases in the future.
“The RSA is very concerned on the impact on the veteran and his family by the toll this drawn out process has taken. Another major concern we have: what support was available to the returned serviceman and his family in the almost two-and-a-half-year period since the application was declined?”
Call for greater support and recognition for contemporary military service conditions
Those charged with the care of New Zealand’s wounded military personnel need to understand the complexities of psychological wounding in the contemporary operational environment, Mr Compain said.
“These injuries rarely present as 'neat' packages, at convenient times. Late onset symptoms further complicate diagnosis and rehabilitation,” he said.
As we approach Armistice Day on 11 November, this case offers a timely reminder: a century on from World War 1, we currently have 30,000 veterans of operational deployments from last 40 years since Vietnam still in our communities.
“Some, like this individual, have been affected no differently than our predecessors and will require our support now and most definitely into the foreseeable future,” Mr Compain said.
The RSA encourages all current or ex-service members (including members of the NZ Police returned from overseas operational deployments) to contact their local RSA, Veterans’ Affairs or No Duff NZ for advice and assistance.
RSA support is free and you do not have to be a member of the RSA to receive assistance. We have clear policies to help without the limitations of the interpretation of law that appears to have applied in this case. The RSA has poppy funds that may assist in treatment costs while government support is put in place, can assist in reviews and appeals and provide a confidential listening ear to work for the best outcome of all returned and service persons, young and old, ex-service or still serving.