Pension battle a victory for veterans

OVERDUE: Ron van Setten, of Ballina, is pleased the pension will be raised in line with the higher cost of living.
OVERDUE: Ron van Setten, of Ballina, is pleased the pension will be raised in line with the higher cost of living. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

LOCAL veterans are breathing a sigh of relief over the changes to veteran pensions the Coalition has announced it will introduce to Federal Parliament this week.

But the changes have been a long time coming.

Lennox Head veteran Ron van Setten, as the Page electorate's representative in the Alliance of Defence Services Organisations, has been pushing the indexation issue for more than two decades.

A retired RAAF Squadron Leader who served for 25 years, Mr van Setten explained that the CPI index used to calculate rises in the veterans' pension did not keep pace with the cost of living.

A graph shows that military pensions have risen by 75% cumulatively in 20 years, whereas the aged pension - which moved to the higher Average Weekly Earnings index in 1989 - has increased by 125% over the same period.

The more time without an indexation change, the worse it gets for veterans.

"Politicians' pay and aged pensions have been rising hand in hand, while military pensions have been declining," Mr van Setten said.

Mr van Setten said people struggled to live on the veterans' benefit scheme.

"The CPI just doesn't cover the cost of living - the aged pensioners recognised this years ago and lobbied the government," he said.

Many veterans get less than $20,000 a year as their sole source of income, compared to the age pension, which is closer to $30,000.

While veterans can work to supplement their income, Mr van Setten said the legislation promised by the government was a "huge step forward" and would benefit 57,000 veterans.

"While we welcome it, there is so much more to go," he said.

The ADSO will now lobby to have the indexing changes - which will only benefit over-55s - applied to veterans of all ages.

Mr van Setten said he particularly felt for those who had left at a lower rank than him and had less years in the service who struggled with the below cost-of-living payout.

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