NZ Veteran Wins VA Case

A Royal New Zealand Navy veteran has won a years-long battle for compensation after connecting his Parkinson’s disease with chemical exposure during his military service.

In a potentially-landmark case, Veterans Affairs’ has provided the ex-serviceman, who wishes to remain anonymous, with an entitlement to disability compensation for Parkinson’s, a condition attributed to his operational service on a Royal New Zealand Navy ship during the 1948-1960 Malayan Emergency.

During his naval career, he was exposed to toxic chemical solvents, including trichloroethylene (TCE), while degreasing and cleaning electronics. TCE, which is now classified as a carcinogen, is linked to a number of adverse health effects including the debilitating Parkinson’s.

Now, after living with the debilitating condition for years and fighting Veterans’ Affairs for recognition with support by the Returned and Services’ Association (RSA), the veteran is receiving compensation. “We are very pleased that [the veteran] and his family received this entitlement from Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand.

There are likely to be many more people living with Parkinson’s in [the veteran]’s situation, who are not aware of the link between this solvent TCE and Parkinson’s,” said Parkinson’s New Zealand chief executive Deirdre O’Sullivan. The veteran’s decision was made on appeal to the independent War Pensions Appeal Board – now replaced by the Veterans’ Entitlements Appeal Board – which considered appeals against decisions made under the War Pensions Act 1954.

Since 2014, the Veterans’ Support Act has specified how Veterans’ Affairs makes decisions about whether a veteran’s condition may have been caused by factors associated with their service. It involves the use of Statements of Principles, which are instruments developed by the Repatriation Medical Authority of Australia and state what factors must exist in order to establish a causal connection between particular diseases, injuries or death, and service based on the best current synthesis of research published on the RMA website.

A Veterans Affairs spokesman said there was a range of possible entitlements available based on the level of impairment of any individual veteran. It could include payment of a pension, and also the cost of treatment and support services to assist the veteran to remain independent. “Veterans’ Affairs encouraged all veterans who may qualify for entitlements under the Veterans’ Support Act to get in touch,” he said.

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