Report on Ron Paterson VSA meeting attended by Barry Dreyer and Greg Thwaite

Report On Consultation In The Review Under S. 282 Of The Veterans’ Support Act 2014
Manurewa RSA
9 August 2017

Barry Dreyer and Greg Thwaite participated in the Consultation conducted by Prof. Ron Paterson.   About 40 veterans attended.

Based on our observation of the meeting and our assessment of Prof. Paterson, we encourage Gunners to make a statement to him about their views on veterans’ affairs.  

The Veterans’ Support Act 2014 requires a review of the Act’s operation after 2 years.   Prof. Paterson is conducting that review.  Submissions can be sent to him at, or mailed to him at Private Bag 39997, Wellington MC 5045.  The deadline is 15 September.

His review period runs to December, when he will deliver a report to the Chief of Defence.  He emphasised his independence.   The results of his review will be presented to Parliament.  

Prof. Paterson is a lawyer by profession.  (He and Greg Thwaite were in the same class at the Auckland Law School).   He is a Professor of Law at the University of Auckland.   He has been an Ombudsman, and served for 10 years as the Health & Disability Commissioner, where he was charged with investigating complaints against hospitals, rest homes, doctors, and pharmacies.   

Prof. Paterson was open, candid, respectful, and attentive.  He explained that the meeting in Manurewa was the first of a road show, and he was in the initial phase of finding out what veterans think.   He summarised what each veteran said to him, so as to assist in keeping a record of what was said, and to show that he had genuinely heard what had been said.

The veterans were blunt in their comments.   A number described the experiences of others.

Important topics raised by veterans included:
• the occurrence of PTSD, particularly among recent veterans e.g. from Afghanistan
• the unnecessary complexity of Government documentation
• the pettiness of the bureaucracy
• the frustration of veterans in dealing with VANZ
• the delay in acceptance of claims
• suicide
• the need for speed when a veteran seeks help
• the need for 24 hour availability of counselling and material assistance for veterans in need
• the effect of a criminal conviction, which might cancel benefits for the veteran’s children
• VANZ’s inadequate communication, which needs to be improved by face-to-face contact
• the importance of a holistic approach when dealing with a veteran’s individual injuries
• the definition of veteran, and of operational service, particularly for soldiers who served overseas but not in a combat zone
• the exposure of sailors to French  nuclear testing
• the impact on women in the families of veterans.

Barry Dreyer     Greg Thwaite