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RSA concerned deploying NZDF personnel could be left without support

BJ Clark
SUPPORT | VETERANS | 2022-04-13

The RSA’s National President BJ Clark, says he is seeking assurance from the Chief of Defence Force that the NZDF is doing everything it can to support the welfare of those deploying in support of the Ukraine, both now and in the future. 

“I have written to the Chief of Defence Force to confirm that he is making the appropriate recommendations to the Minister for Veterans to ensure these personnel will be able to get the support they need, not just while they are in service, but for the rest of their lives. 

Unless the Minister for Veterans deems the deployment to be Qualifying Operational Service, those deploying will not be able to access support from Veterans’ Affairs in the future. Regardless of what they are exposed to during their deployment.” 

“This is where our legislation lets us down,” says Mr Clark. “It creates two classes of veterans and means many of our service people are exposed to significant trauma in the course of their duties but remain ineligible for support from the Government. It is a national shame. 

“Take New Zealand’s current deployment in support of Ukraine as an example. While those deploying today are heading to relatively benign roles, there are also nine intelligence personnel from the NZDF who are already deployed to the UK and Belgium.  

The information that these intelligence operators could be being asked to process, and the decisions they might be being asked to make, could result in long term mental health issues including Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries (PTSI) and moral injuries. They may not be sitting in a war zone, but they could well be being exposed daily to imagery, video footage and information detailing significant atrocities. 

If the deployment is not deemed Qualifying Operational Service, these men and women will have no more ability to access support once they leave the service, than anyone else - despite the injuries they may have received in service of their country. 

The RSA wants to ensure everything is being done to protect the long-term health and well-being of those who serve New Zealand.” 

The RSA’s Poppy Appeal runs throughout the month of April, and a large part of the funds raised are used to support service personnel who are ineligible for support from Veterans’ Affairs. 

This year the RSA hopes to start changing the way New Zealand views its veterans and raise awareness of the younger generation of veterans that need support. 

New Zealand has created over 30,000 veterans under the age of 50 since 1990. Serving in areas such as Bosnia, Timor Leste and Afghanistan. These veterans come with different and often more complex support needs, and there is far less understanding in society of how their service might have affected them. 

The RSA supports not only veterans, but all current and former serving members of New Zealand’s Armed Forces and their families. 

There are many serving military personnel who will never deploy overseas on an operation, and therefore won’t qualify for assistance from Veterans’ Affairs. But these service men and women may still have been exposed to significantly traumatic events, such as providing support in the aftermath of the Christchurch Earthquakes and the eruption on Whakaari/White Island. 

The RSA is here to ensure all service personnel have access to the support they might require as a result of their service. 

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