Veteran petitions for government assistance

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

Military veteran Lloyd Gould, of the Tahakopa Valley, has launched a petition to have Veterans’ Affairs reach a decision on what constitutes a veteran, and who can receive government assistance.

He wants the Veterans’ Support Act 2014 to be brought into line with the findings of Prof Ron Paterson’s Warrant of Fitness review from 2017.

Mr Gould has been in correspondence with a number of government officials, at the local, national, and even international level over the past year, asking to be heard.

“I followed the chain of command, from the local representatives, all the way up to the Queen,” Mr Gould said.

Mr Gould spent nine years and eight months with the British army, before joining the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) in 2001. There, he served a further nine years and four months, achieving the rank of corporal.

His own grievance first involved a motorcycle injury he received while training in Paraparaumu in 2001, which was later diagnosed to have caused his arthritis.

“I’ve been told by Veterans’ Affairs that I don’t qualify for assistance because my injury didn’t happen during deployment. I was still doing army training. If it didn’t happen during deployment, they just don’t care.”

Later in 2001, he became part of an NZDF weapons disposal unit in Bougainville.

Mr Gould has spasms of pain in his hands which make it difficult to write or do work that requires his hands. He puts this down to more than arthritis.

Last year, he went to have his own MRI, paid for by the Gore RSA.

“I’ve been told by radiologists that they didn’t order the MRI so they can’t give a diagnosis. But what they did say is that some of my symptoms are attributable to the type of harmful chemicals I was exposed to in Bougainville. So that was during deployment.”

Mr Gould lives at the remote end of the Tahakopa Valley, in an area outside the reach of cellphone coverage, and lives without the internet.

Living off plants from his garden, along with eggs and meat from the animals on his property, he travels into Owaka periodically to check and send emails.

He said time was running out for him to get some kind of financial help from Veterans’ Affairs.

“I’ll have to cut off the phone line soon, I just can’t afford it. I’m keeping power use to a minimum .. but there are other veterans in similar situations. I’m not just worried about fixing my own situation.”

A spokesman for Minister of Defence Ron Mark said a task force had been assigned to action the findings from the 2017 Warrant of Fitness, and had produced a report.

He said the minister was currently considering the report, which was given to the Veterans’ Advisory Board earlier this year.

He could not comment on the contents of the report until it had been submitted to the Cabinet, which would be some time later this year, possibly in October.

Mr Gould’s petition can be found at https://www.toko.org.nz/petitions/veterans-act-2014-reform-vote.