Thursday, July 18, 2024

Veterans left ‘scrambling for support’ after programme suspension

The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RNZRSA) says a decision by the Government not to review the suspension of the Veterans Independence Programme (VIP) is “incredibly disappointing” for New Zealand ex-servicemen and women.

RSA General Manager Support Services, Andrew Brown said news of the programme’s suspension last week has left veterans scrambling for support.

The RSA wrote to the Minister seeking an urgent review of the decision. The Minister met with the leadership of the RSA yesterday and made it clear that while he would not order a review, the RSA was invited to submit options for how they could support Veterans’ Affairs with service delivery, Mr Brown explained.

“We knew when the announcement was made that we would be inundated with calls from veterans, some of whom had been waiting for up to two years, for support that has now evaporated,” he said.

“Over the last couple of years as we watched the wait times increasing, we made a number of offers to Veterans’ Affairs to assist them with service delivery. It’s frustrating that they are citing workforce issues as the reason for suspending VIP services, when that is exactly the kind of service we could already have been assisting them with.

“There are many options available to Veterans’ Affairs to reduce the wait times for processing applications that don’t require simply cutting the services available to veterans. For example, the application process for any veteran seeking support is overly bureaucratic and their case management model is cumbersome and inefficient – improvements in both these areas will have far greater impact on wait times, while ensuring our veterans continue to receive the support they are entitled to,” said Mr Brown.

The RNZRSA believes that simply reallocating the small workforce that previously dealt with VIP services to process the significant backlog of other applications “is no plan, and it’s time for the Government to adequately resource Veterans’ Affairs so it can deliver the services the legislation requires it to”.

“More work is needed to resolve the problem, but we welcome the opportunity raised by the Minister for the RNZRSA to work more closely with Veterans’ Affairs.

“We want to be part of the solution that sees New Zealand’s veterans more easily accessing the support they are entitled to – without having to wait years for their claims to be considered. But it’s clear that there needs to be significant organizational change within Veterans’ Affairs if there is any hope of improving the support available to veterans in the long term,” Mr Brown said.

The RNZRSA is preparing a range of options to submit to the Minister for services they can assist with under a contracted arrangement.

In the meantime, their support network has already moved to ensure it can navigate veterans through to other agencies to access the support they need, Mr Brown said.

RNZRSA is made up of 182 local RSAs around the country, each an entity in their own right, with over 102,000 members.

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