Military Veterans Department Provides Feedback on Hearings

Department of Military Veterans

The military veterans department has provided responses to recent public hearings on the Military Veterans Bill to the defence and military veterans committee in Parliament.

The hearings took place on 29-31 March 2011.

The bill was tabled in Parliament in January 2011.

It focuses primarily on:

• Conditions of military veterans
• The provision of legislative protection to veterans
• The determination of benefits such as housing, health care, education, business opportunities, pension and transport subsidies
• The recognition of the military veterans association in law

A notable development is a new definition of a military veteran.

A military veteran is any South African citizen “who rendered service to any of the military organisations, statutory and non-statutory, which were involved on all sides of South Africa’s liberation war from 1960 to 1994; or served in the Union Defence Force before 1961; or became members of the new SANDF after 1994; and has completed his or her military training and no longer performs military service, and has not been dishonourable discharged from that military organisation”.

According to the department, 14 groups made submissions.

Other departments such as transport, health, human settlements and social development also made submissions outlining how the bill would be implemented within their respective operational and strategic plans.

The department noted that all parties making submissions appeared to support the policy objectives of the bill.

Some of the key responses include:

• Bill deals exclusively with military veterans-other groups such as auxiliary services personnel must be dealt with in other pieces of legislation
• Bill will establish appeal board-this body will deal with issues such as complaints relating to dishonourable discharge.  The appeal board will review each discharge on a case-by-case basis.
• In terms of determining legality of dependent, the regulations will insist on documentary proof.
• Definition of “completed training” to be revised-to include people who could not complete training for reasons beyond their control
• Definition of military veteran-military veteran status is conferred by virtue of military participation in conflict/struggle for freedom. “SADF members who integrated and then exited SANDF after 1994 are considered as military veterans”. Individuals will qualify as military veterans even if they are no longer members of former forces.
• The bill’s interpretation clause is meant to help readers of the bill understand that holding the status of a military veteran does not automatically entitle one to benefits. All veterans and their dependents are to be subjected to a means test to determine eligibility.
• In terms of benefits listed in section five, not all benefits will accrue to both veterans and their dependents. Likewise, some benefits will accrue to all veterans such as honouring while others will depend on the needs of each military veteran.
• Military veterans will be able to receive benefits in addition to a military pension based on a means test.
• Eligibility will be based solely on the means test-age will not be a factor.

In general, the department emphasised that the scope of the bill should not be expanded to include the needs of non-military activists and members of society. It must remain confined to military veterans.

The department also stressed that the bill must clearly state that the socio-economic rights contained in the bill are to be provided based on the availability of resources.

Sabinet Cape Town Office

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