600-700 NZ Vietnam Veterans not accessing services available to them

By Piripi Taylor

A large number of Vietnam War veterans are still not accessing the various services available to them through Veterans Affairs. A health and well-being expo for Vietnam War veterans was held in Auckland today with the hope of changing that.

Over 200 veterans and their families from Auckland and Waikato attended the expo in Manukau today organised by Veterans' Affairs New Zealand in partnership with the Ranfurly Veterans' Trust, who operates a facility in Three Kings for Veterans and their dependents who require hospital or residential care on an ongoing basis.

The expo follows the success of a similar event held for the first time in Christchurch in February to offer veterans the opportunity to meet Veterans' Affairs staff and local service providers, attend seminars, and receive brief assessments to support them in independent daily living.

It's been a long time coming for our Vietnam Vets to have better access to much needed services.

President of the NZ Vietnam Veterans Association and Vietnam Vet Andrew Peters remarked on how long overdue this is.

"Just the other week we observed the 50th anniversary of our entry into Vietnam and they've only just started doing this."

Fellow veteran, Bunny Tumai of Tainui says "here we finally have benefits to make life for us who are ageing a lot easier."

Veterans' Affairs believes bringing together Vietnam veterans and affiliated organisations is a great way for the veterans to get information face to face.

Veterans' Services Manager of Veterans Affairs, Sharon Cavanagh says "we're offering a one stop shop opportunity for Vietnam veterans and their whānau to connect with other veterans but also with the opportunity to access a range of advocacy groups and support organisations and providers."         

John McGuire of the Ranfurly Veterans' Trust says "we target mainly looking after the veterans in our hospital care unit at Ranfurly and also we've got an income stream from ground rents which enables us to support various veteran charitable organisations."

There are around 3,500 NZ Vietnam veterans, however not all of them are accessing the services that are now available to them. Around 600-700 veterans are still missing out, many of whom are Māori

Tainui and Ngāti Maniapoto veteran Te One Simmonds says "issues that are not being serviced by, this is the day that they need to tell them."

"That's why it's important that the soldiers come along to this hui because it's no good moaning behind the scenes if you've got an opportunity like this, this is the time to do it and speak out."

Peters added that "the Vietnam Veterans Association and Veterans Affairs cannot connect or assist those if they do not engage and talk with us."

Following a memorandum of Understanding in 2006 between the Crown and relevant veterans support organisations, funding has been steadily available to support Vietnam Veterans. Support that both Veterans Affairs and veterans hope will be taken full advantage of by all who need it.