Who are the veterans?
There is no one definition of the term "veteran", and the word is often used broadly—sometimes to refer to any person with a long tenure in any profession. Even in the defence-related context, the meaning can vary. It might be used to describe those who have served in the forces overseas—or sometimes to cover anyone who has served in any uniformed capacity, in navy, army or air force. The definition in the Veterans' Support Act is narrower. It refers to those who have had any service in the New Zealand armed forces before 1 April 1974, and those with qualifying operational service after that date. These are the people who Veterans' Affairs is able to provide services and support to.
The definition of qualifying operational service covers service for New Zealand in the armed forces at a time of war, or in deployments overseas where a ministerial declaration has confirmed that those taking part could have been at significant risk of harm. If these people have been injured, or become ill because of their service, Veterans’ Affairs supports them to improve their health and quality of life. We estimate that around 30,000 veterans in New Zealand could be eligible for our services. Not all will seek or need rehabilitation support, but many will at some point in their lives.
How people see a “veteran” depends on a lot of factors, historical, cultural, and social as well as individual. A common stereotype is that of an elderly person, usually male, someone who saw combat many years ago, perhaps in the Second World War, Korea, Malaya, Borneo, or Vietnam, and perhaps as part of a conscript force. The reality is that an increasing number of veterans have served in the New Zealand Defence Force after 1974. Their experiences are probably very different from those of their veteran parents or grandparents. These younger veterans may have had multiple deployments in many different parts of the world. They may have been combatants, or faced the challenges of peacekeeping in a war zone. They are often young and highly trained, and have come out of service with their lives ahead of them. Some are reservists; and many more women are now amongst those who have served.
Service-related illnesses and injuries are not all the same
Physical injuries may be visible and easy to identify. But not all injuries or illnesses are physical. International literature suggests that up to one-sixth of those who go on deployments could have some form of long-term mental illness because of their experiences. Mental illnesses or injuries that are related to service include post-traumatic stress disorder or injury, anxiety, depression, alcohol or substance use disorders, emotional disconnection, or other adjustment disorders. These problems can occur singly or in combination, and could have both psychological and physical symptoms.
This strategy recognises the variety of injuries our veterans may have, and how these show up. It aims to provide opportunities for all those affected through their service to rebuild their lives, perhaps return to work, and to use their skills and experience to benefit themselves, their families, and the wider community.
Rehabilitation can be many different things
For a person with a physical injury, rehabilitation could be help from a health practitioner, such as a physiotherapist, to regain lost function, or lessen permanent impairment. Those who are dealing with psychological or mental health issues might find that counselling or medical treatment, or a combination of the two, might help them to get their lives back on an even keel. For a person wanting to be as independent as possible, or to return to employment, or find different employment, the focus may be on social or vocational rehabilitation.
The Veteran Rehabilitation Strategy covers all of these areas. It provides a pathway along which veterans who need rehabilitation services will be guided. There are gateways or access points at all stages, leading them to the most appropriate services from a variety of agencies and organisations.
For some veterans, their first point of contact will be Veterans’ Affairs, and from there they can be directed to whatever services would suit them best. Others might access services for the first time in other ways. They could come to the pathway through their GPs. They might be referred through veteran advocate groups, like the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association, or the No Duff Charitable Trust.
The strategy aims to make sure that multiple access points are available, that they work, and that—once on the pathway—veterans can find the support that they need.
Those taking the pathway will, in the main, be younger men and women, but it caters equally well for older veterans. Those who served in the Second World War, Korea, Malaya, or Vietnam, might have illnesses or injuries that were not immediately apparent, or might have coped with them for many years. They might have come to a stage in their life where they now need support to deal with these problems.
This strategy takes a whole-of-life approach. It can deliver services at whichever point in the life cycle they are needed.
When it is done well, rehabilitation can transform lives. Working with someone to overcome the effects of an injury or illness is only one part of this. The strategy also recognises the importance of whole-person all-of-life rehabilitation. It takes account of a person’s family and whānau; it makes possible community participation and inclusion; and it promotes a return, where this is appropriate, to sustainable work.
Achieving these aims requires a change in approach from what has gone before.
This rehabilitation strategy is
|More about||Less about|
|The veteran and the support groups they are part of
when both are involved, an outcome can be stronger and more sustainable
|The veteran alone
as the only person considered part of the rehabilitation process
making sure veterans in need can navigate the support and services available
encouraging reliance on an organisation for support
the ability to adapt to changing environments and situations
aiding a “sick” veteran
whether it be financial or other services
to compensate for impairment
focusing on the capacity to reach the best possible state
focusing on injuries, illnesses and conditions
|Contribution and belonging
in the home, community and society
to support everyday living activities
|Career options empowering veterans to gain vocational independence, and improve their quality of life
||Vocational Rehabilitation to help with keeping or returning to employment