No Minister

STILL HERE … FINE BUT BUSY

with 8 comments

I was rung up by a friend a few days ago wanting to know if I were ok because I hadn’t been posting much on No Minister recently (probably of a concern to Rossco and Andrei too as my absence as their favourite National Party supporter to attack has left them with little to butt their heads against … I digress).

Truth be known the last little while has been incredibly busy. Late last year I was approached by a colleague veteran in some distress. He suffers from a range of service related disabilities (accepted conditions) including ischemic heart disease, prostate cancer, hearing loss, tinnitus, cervical spondylosis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He is separated and lives alone in rented accommodation. His only income is NZ superannuation, his war disablement pension and the decorations allowance (he is he holder of a Military Cross for bravery). Veterans Affairs New Zealand (VANZ) had reassessed his wdp and reduced it by $2,370 p.a. and, in doing so, he also lost his entitlement to the Veterans Travel Concession paid to severely disabled veterans.

The Veterans Support Act mandates in s10 that anyone exercising authority under the legislation MUST exercise ‘benevolence’ in their decision making. This is unique to the VSA and is not seen in either the Social Security Act nor the legislation governing the ACC.

VANZ’s decision struck me as hugely wrong. There is no way that decision can be seen as exercising benevolence especially as, by any measure, he is a vulnerable person. With the help of Chris Penk MP, ex RNZN and RAN and lawyer, we challenged the decision appealing it to the Veterans Entitlement Appeal Board (military equivalent to the Social Security Appeal Authority). We were greatly assisted by Wayne Mapp (that should get Rossco going) who accessed for us the House of Lords judgement Homes-Moorhouse vs LB Richmond on Thames (2009)  UKHL 7 in which Lord Neuberger discussed what constituted a benevolent approach. He said ‘Accordingly, a benevolent approach should be adopted to the interpretation of  review decisions. The court should not take too technical view of the language used, or search for inconsistencies, or adopt a nit-picking approach, when confronted with an appeal against a review decision.’

Pretty straight forward and you need to be aware that House of Lords judgements have standing in our own courts. Short story … the VEAB dismissed the appeal and, in doing so, did not discuss or comment on the Neuberger decision.

The VSA provides for decisions of the VEAB to be appealed to the High Court on a matter of law only. We received legal advice that the interpretation and application of benevolence was a matter that certainly warranted testing in a superior court. However that is an expensive exercise and well beyond our ability to fund. We would be taking on VANZ (the Crown) where money is no object per courtesy of you, the taxpayer. Fortunately RNZRSA has come to the party and underwritten the cost provisionally assessed to be in the order of $60k. They too were concerned that, in recent times, VANZ appears to have hardened their stance on the exercise of benevolence. Counsel has been instructed and the appeal documents were filed in the High Court last Thursday. Lead counsel for the appellant is Jack Hodder QC who has considerable experience in like matters. He is an ex member of the Law Commission.

I am being relegated to the rear passenger seat working behind the scenes as is right and proper. My understanding is that RNZRSA will be looking to crowd-fund the appeal focusing on the wider veteran community and I certainly will be giving that my full support.

As I said, I’ve been rather busy given I’m still working in a couple of other jurisdictions.

Written by The Veteran

November 28, 2021 at 7:26 pm

8 Responses

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  1. Savings are required to fund the Mongrel mob. Feckin outrageous. Power to you Sir and I hope it goes well

    Phil S

    November 28, 2021 at 7:38 pm

  2. Very interesting, Vet. Good on you for doing this. At first I thought you were describing me but I then read a bit further! We certainly suffer as we get older. Whoever this is, the powers have certainly not been benevolent, which just confirms my very low opinion of VANZ which couldn’t organise a party in a brewery. How dare they do this. I’ll certainly contribute to the fund.

    Cassandra

    November 28, 2021 at 7:44 pm

  3. For interest, and correct me if I am wrong here, but current members of the VEAB are listed as follows:

    Raewyn Anderson, Barrister & Chairperson,
    Dr Deborah Read, Public health physician
    Christopher Griggs, Barrister
    Dr Christopher Holdaway, RNZRSA nominee.

    https://www.veteransaffairs.mil.nz/about-veterans-affairs/our-partners-and-the-veteran-sector/boards-and-panels/veterans-entitlement-appeal-board/veterans-entitlement-appeal-board-members/

    Marc Williams

    November 28, 2021 at 8:26 pm

    • Marc … confirmed. Those were the four names on the decision document.

      The Veteran

      November 28, 2021 at 9:12 pm

  4. Pretty scummy treatment. I can’t fathom the thought processes. Were it me I’d give the benefit of the doubt across the board in these situations: we do so in a hell of a lot of other human cases, many of which are a damn site less deserving.

    Lets us know if there’s a funding campaign or something and I’ll pitch in (not GoFundMe; they’re assholes).

    Tom Hunter

    November 28, 2021 at 9:21 pm

  5. Good on you Veteran, I salute you

    Uncoffined

    November 28, 2021 at 9:30 pm

  6. Well done. May God give you strength to vanquish you enemies.

    In passing, how does a bloke acquire cervical spondylitis?

    adolffinkensen

    November 28, 2021 at 10:06 pm

  7. The cervical spine consists of 7 vertebrae starting at the base of the skull. Spondylitis is inflammation of the spine. You are being an ignoramus.

    Cassandra

    November 29, 2021 at 6:41 am


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