Tina Grant, New Zealand Army liaison officer for families
of the fallen, holds a memorial cross brooch acknowledging
the death of her husband, Corporal Doug Grant, in
Afghanistan. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Social isolation facing war veterans and an anomaly that
denies war pension support to a partly dependent parent after a
soldier dies in action were among issues highlighted at a
Dunedin conference on veterans' health yesterday.
During a discussion at the conference, Tina Grant, New
Zealand Army liaison officer for families of the fallen,
commented on an issue she had encountered in which when
single soldiers were killed in action, their dependent parent
was ineligible for war pension support.
Ms Grant (42) said that if fallen soldiers had a spouse or
partner, they would be entitled to war pension support, but
the dependent mother or father of a single fallen soldier was
''If I had a magic wand, I'd wave it and make sure it's fair
across the board,'' she said in an interview.
Ms Grant's husband, Corporal Doug Grant (41), was fatally
shot in Afghanistan while serving with the New Zealand SAS in
Kabul, the Afghan capital, in August 2011.
In her subsequent liaison role with the army, based at the
Papakura Military Camp, she could do ''something positive''
to ensure the families of fallen soldiers were not forgotten.
She had not considered this situation fully until her husband
''He would be supporting me 100% [with her current
Ten New Zealand soldiers had died in Afghanistan, seven of
them after her husband.
Most of those fallen soldiers did not have a spouse or
partner and it was important single soldiers were not
''disadvantaged because they're not married''.
Appropriate pension support needed to be given to other
people, such as mothers or fathers who had depended on their
child for family support.
She was aware of a mother who did not enjoy good health and
had limited funds.
Her son had been helping in various ways, including with
extensive renovations of her house, but these had been left
unfinished after he was killed in action.
When New Zealand soldiers were sent abroad, there was a moral
obligation to ensure their families were properly supported,
When a soldier died, a memorial cross brooch was presented to
the soldier's wife and mother, but that mother often needed
other support too.
A major update of the country's war pension law is being
undertaken and Ms Grant said it was necessary.
New Zealand families were more varied and complex than
previously, and individual ''family dynamics'' needed to be
fully taken into account.
More than 40 people have been attending the two-day
conference, organised in association with a University of
Otago research theme focusing on the health of veterans,
serving personnel and their families.
In a talk on the first day of the conference, Margaret Snow,
advocacy and support manager at the Royal New Zealand
Returned and Services' Association, Wellington, highlighted
isolation issues facing returning veterans.
Mrs Snow understood New Zealand war pensions had provided
support for a dependent parent some years ago, and she would
raise the support concerns with senior RSA managers.