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Determining a claim under section 14 or
section 15(4) of the Veterans’ Support Act 2014

We are obliged to make decisions on claims according to the steps outlined in sections 14 and 15 of the Veterans’ Support Act 2014. Most decisions will be made through section 14.

Read the Veterans' Support Act 2014(external link)

After receiving a claim for support, we will gather and examine the materials supporting your claim. If we can build a hypothesis relating a condition to your service, we will then check whether there’s a Statement of Principle (SOP) that is related to your claim. 

Statement of Principles explained

The SOPs are up-to-date with the latest scientific research into health conditions caused by military service and list the factors known to cause a disease or illness. There are over 400 SOPs covering most conditions related to military service.

If there is a risk factor in the SOP that is consistent with a hypothesis, we will accept the claim (unless there are reasonable grounds for believing that your injury or illness was not service-related).

While it is sometimes helpful, veterans don’t need to identify a SOP in their application. We will find the SOP relating to your claim.

If a claim can't be resolved through section 14, it can be considered through section 15

If we have been unable to find an SOP or if the claim can’t be resolved through section 14, we will use section 15 of the act to consider the claim. For a claim to be successful under section 15(4), the evidence to support a hypothesis must be scientifically based and robust.

More information about how to claim under section 15 and the evidence that will be required for a successful claim

If we decline your claim, you can apply for a review or re-apply

If the claim can’t be resolved through section 14 or section 15 of the act, we will decline the claim. You can apply for a review of the decision or re-apply with additional evidence of a causal link between your condition and service. This review or new application would then be examined again, considering all the available material.

Review or appeal a decision

How to claim under section 15(4)

In order to resolve a claim under section 15, we need to establish a reasonable hypothesis. This is a theory about how your condition is related to your qualifying service. We will build a hypothesis from the available facts and check it against the criteria for a reasonable hypothesis in section 15 of the act. If the hypothesis is reasonable, then we must accept your claim (unless there are reasonable grounds for believing that your injury or illness was not service-related).

To be reasonable, a hypothesis must show:

  • that it is more than a possibility that some exposure during their qualifying service caused their condition
  • that it is consistent with the known facts, and
  • that it is consistent with the scientific facts about the known causes of a disease or illness.

Scientific evidence

To help us make good decisions in these claims, you can provide us with scientific information in support of your claim.

The risk factors in the SOPs represent the known or proven scientific facts about the causes of a disease or illness at the time they were written. It is possible that the science could have evolved since they were written. You may also be making a claim where there isn’t a SOP. You can help us by providing us with as much information as possible. We have provided an example of what we think would be the ideal way of claiming for a condition under section 15.

If you are applying for a review of our decision and you want us to consider something that you believe caused your condition, but it is not included in the SOP we used in the original decision, while you don’t have to provide scientific information in support of your claim, if you don’t, it will be extremely difficult for a Review Officer to reverse the decision. 

Reasonable hypothesis

Reasonable hypothesis is a description of how a health condition came about due to qualifying service backed-up with scientific evidence.

A reasonable hypothesis is made of three things:

  • your situation during your service
  • relevant facts from that situation, and
  • medical and scientific facts.

Here is a fictional example, told by a veteran of the former Yugoslavia:

  • Step 1 Situation during service

    I may have contracted Parkinson’s Disease through exposure to a herbicide used in and around the areas I lived in while deployed to the former Yugoslavia between May and August 1998.

  • Step 2 Relevant situational facts

    • I spent 14 weeks in the former Yugoslavia, living in four different camps.
    • At each camp, XYZ was sprayed once per week around the perimeter of the camp and, to a lesser extent, inside the camp.
    • I returned to New Zealand in 1998 and haven’t lived or worked in any other country since.
    • The use of XYZ was banned in New Zealand in 1985, and I wasn’t aware of any exposure to XYZ prior to my deployment.
  • Step 3 Medical and scientific facts

    The causation of Parkinson’s Disease by XYZ has been shown by: 

    • Author name, (Date). "Title of relevant peer-reviewed science"
    • Author name, (Date). "Title of relevant peer-reviewed science"
    • Author name, (Date). "Title of relevant peer-reviewed science"
  • Step 4 Reasonable hypothesis

    These three parts of the story come together to form a reasonable hypothesis

Factual information to support a reasonable hypothesis

Standard of medical or scientific evidence

The standard of evidence for a section 15(4) claim must be consistent with proven or known scientific facts. It must:

  • be specific to the reasonable hypothesis
  • be from peer-reviewed journals
  • reflect a causal relationship, not just a correlation
  • reflect a scientific consensus, meaning it is not an isolated finding — there needs to be more than one article.

Sources of evidence

Sources of evidence may include:

  • a veteran’s medical records
  • a veteran’s service record
  • medical and clinical filings
  • medical specialist opinions
  • New Zealand case law
  • overseas case law
  • previous decisions of Veterans’ Affairs.

Legal evidence

Legal evidence from New Zealand and overseas may help demonstrate a factual connection between the circumstances specific to your service, the claimed condition, and a connection to qualifying service.

Reliable sources of medical or scientific evidence

We can consider:

  • systematic reviews — for example, the Cochrane Database of Reviews
  • critically appraised topics that are current and offer factual and relevant evidence.

We cannot consider:

  • animal studies
  • isolated genetic studies
  • other articles without references.