Families face battle years later

VVAWA president Richard Williams, advisor Peter Heeney Legatee and Benjamin Oates, son of Vietnam vet Trevor. d424728
VVAWA president Richard Williams, advisor Peter Heeney Legatee and Benjamin Oates, son of Vietnam vet Trevor. d424728

‘Forty-eight years after Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, families are still dealing and helping with the physical and mental health issues of veterans, and one of the issues of most concern is the health issues now being suffered by subsequent generations,’ Vietnam Veterans Association of WA president Richard Williams said.

Lobbying for veterans from the South East Asian conflict during 1962-1972 whose youngest survivors would now be in their late-60s, the association currently represents at least two family members with missing vertebrae linked to their fathers’ exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange during the war.

‘The blokes are still suffering from physical and mental health issues, and this is going to be the same for the guys coming out of the Iraq War who have been exposed to depleted uranium, but we are certainly available to them and those coming out of Afghanistan,’ Mr Williams said.

Significant money is funding World War I’s centenary and commemorating the dead compared to the struggles of living veterans.

‘There’s probably some mixed feelings in the veterans community about it, and while I certainly recognise the need to recognise the Gallipoli landings and Anzac, there is also the opportunity not to forget there are still World War II veterans, and those from Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Cambodia, Iraq and Afghanistan who will be with us, with their families, for another 50 years,’ Mr Williams said.

WA Veterans Council chairman Max Ball said the Federal Budget proposed saving $65 million by changing the indexation of war veterans’ disability pensions, meaning they would increase at a lower rate.

Mr Ball said other issues included that some Coalition MPs indicated they considered the payments to be social welfare and some ministers proposing Department of Veterans Affairs staff cuts.

‘Vietnam veterans learnt they needed to be constantly aware of potential changes in government policies that affected veterans,’ he said.

‘They could not assume that policy changes would necessarily be for the benefit of veterans and that there was a need to constantly remind MPs of the difficulties faced by many veterans after war service, and there was a need to do so consistently, and at times, forcefully.’