Assistance for Vietnam Veterans Children Becomes a Political Football

Media Release - 30 November 2000

The National President of the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia, Mr Brian McKenzie said today, “The children of Vietnam Veterans are being denied life saving assistance while legislation is being tossed back and forth between the Senate and the House of Representatives!”

The legislation contains the Government response to the needs of veterans and their families identified in the Vietnam Veterans Health Study and provides much-needed assistance to veterans’ children. The Bill specifically addresses the needs of those children suffering from spina bifida, cleft lip and palate and the much broader issue of assistance arising from the fact that Vietnam veterans’ children have a rate of suicide three times that of the general community.

Mr McKenzie said that the urgently needed assistance to the children and partners of Vietnam veterans was at risk because of Government reaction to amendments to the Bill introduced by the Opposition and Democrats to give Vietnam Surgical Team Nurses coverage under the Veterans Entitlement Act.

'In the meantime, while the nurses are covered under Comcare and veterans under the Veterans Entitlement Act, our children and partners have no entitlements, despite the findings of these studies.” Mr McKenzie said.

The Vietnam Veterans Association supports the nurses in their endeavours to seek their entitlements but will not countenance further delays to support for children. If one part of this legislation places this assistance at risk, then it should be dealt with as a separate issue. The greatest fear of the VVAA members is that unless the legislation is passed it will simply be too late for some who otherwise could have been prevented from taking their own lives.

Mr McKenzie said that it is critical that the Bill to implement these services and programs is passed as a matter of urgency. “It’s taken thirty years to get this far – how much longer will it take? Politicians, stop the game-playing and get on with it!”


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