Labour would fund veterans' funerals

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 14:49 31/07/2014

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The Government is short-changing veterans by refusing to help fund their funeral expenses, Labour veterans affairs spokesman Phil Goff says.

The cost of $7.4 million a year - declining by $500,000 a year as the ranks of veterans thinned - would be quickly legislated for under Labour, Goff said.

"The National Party's decision, supported by the Maori Party and Peter Dunne, to reject the Law Commission's recommendation is mean-spirited and penny pinching," he said.

Twenty-eight per cent of veterans would have passed away over the next five years, he said.

"As veterans have said to me 'they'll give it to us when we are all bloody dead'," Goff said.

"Those who have benefited from the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents' generation can surely acknowledge our debt to them by making this small gesture."

The payment was recommended by the Law Commission and supported by the Royal Returned and Services Association, but was left out of the Veterans' Support Bill that passed its final reading last night.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael Woodhouse said the package for veterans was generous.

"The Veterans' Support Bill forms the central part of a $60 million package to reform the veterans support framework, following a 2010 Law Commission review.'

"It is disingenuous for Labour to cry foul over not extending funeral payments," he said.

Goff had argued to increase lump-sum payments paid to veterans on their death, while Labour planned to increase the age for entitlement to the Veteran's Pension from 65 to 67, "which would remove support for thousands of ageing veterans".

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