VANZ General Manager Jacki Couchman Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand’s (VANZ) new General Manager wants to widen the understanding of who veterans are and to ensure they feel appreciated for their service.
Jacki Couchman has been with VANZ since May 2014. She is responsible for implementing new legislation which will modernise the War Pensions Act 1954 to make it more relevant for today’s veterans who include serving personnel. It is the implementation of that new legislation which has prompted the organisation to challenge the way New Zealanders, including members of the NZDF, think of veterans.
“It surprises people to learn that New Zealand veterans can be aged from 19 to more than a hundred years old. That you can be currently serving and be a veteran and you can be working as a civilian and be a veteran.,”
It is important, she says, that younger veterans and serving personnel are aware of VANZ and what it does because, while they may feel it is irrelevant to them now, that situation could change at any time. From conflict in Bosnia to Bougainville, Afghanistan to Sudan, the past two decades have been the busiest in the NZDF’s history. An operational tempo as high as it has been brings with it a slew of veterans, many of whom are still serving and a good number of whom are now civilians.
The new Veterans’ Support Act will see the introduction of new types of entitlements and support for veterans. It will give VANZ the ability to introduce more health, social and vocational rehabilitation for current and former servicemen and women.
“In the future we will be able to support veterans to train for another career if that’s in their best interests. This recognises that it is not all about just the health of the veteran but about their career, their family and their general well-being. VANZ will work with other groups within the NZDF and in the wider community which support the health and wellbeing of service people and their families.”
Ms Couchman is meeting as many veterans as she can, to spread the message.
“My priorities for VANZ are that we appreciate and thank our veterans for their service. That we ensure veterans and their families get the right support. And that we recognise and understand the way our population of veterans is changing.”
Ms Couchman says she has been impressed with the care and support the VANZ team provides to veterans.
“They are devoted to what they do, and do their very best for our veterans and their families, and that’s inspiring. This job is all about recognising and supporting extraordinary New Zealanders and their families. I’m really enjoying the new role and being part of the NZDF.”
Jacki Couchman is a former lawyer with an MBA and extensive experience with change and modernisation in government agencies.
Her sister and brother-in-law served with the Australian Army. Her six-year-old son has wanted to join the Army (like his uncle), since the age of three.