RSL defines ‘veteran’
As anyone who has served in a uniform
AUGUST 08, 2015 10:00PM
WHEN is a veteran not a war veteran?
For decades that question has generated heated arguments in RSL clubs, pubs and lounge rooms across the nation.
Finally the Returned and Services League (RSL) appears to have drawn a line in the sand and decided that anyone who has served in a military uniform can be referred to as a “veteran”.
Given that the full term is actually “war veteran” some who served in harm’s way overseas are offended that even those who have never left Australian shores can adopt the hallowed moniker.
The law as defined by the 1986 Veterans Entitlement Act is quite clear and divides service categories into “defence”, “war” or “warlike.”
Ask many veterans who have seen action against the enemy and they will say that the term “veteran” should be reserved for them and their ilk.
Others don’t care and are happy to march alongside other “veterans” on Anzac Day who served exclusively in Australia or on relatively benign deployments such as Kashmir or the Sinai.
According to the South Australia, Queensland and Victorian State Branches of the RSL the following is the official line:
“The definition favoured at the moment is that anyone who has served in any of the services at any time is a Veteran — this is to ensure that no one is excluded from membership of the RSL or from receiving entitlements assistance through DVA.
Entitlements are a completely different matter and being called a ‘Veteran’ does not immediately transfer entitlements to the individual.
The RSL has not wanted to discriminate between service members because it is important to us that we engage with everyone who has served regardless of where, when and for how long.”
RSL National President Ken Doolan told News Corp that the term “veteran” had meaning under the Act, but many younger veterans don’t like it because it makes them sound old.
Under the Act there is no specific definition, but only those who have “warlike” service can apply for certain entitlements.
For example those who have had operational “warlike” service can apply for a Veterans Gold Card at age 70 when those who hadn’t deployed could not.
“We don’t want to get hung up on words and we want to be as inclusive as possible,” Admiral Doolan said.
“No one size fits all and really people can call themselves what they want.”
Iraq War Veteran Aaron Gray, who served seven months as a gunner on a light armoured vehicle in 2006-07 said he has always believed the “veteran” term applied only to those who had deployed on operations.
“I have always felt a bit odd when people who have not deployed overseas have referred to themselves as a veteran,” Mr Gray said.
“For me it a term reserved for someone who has served their country in conflict.”
President of the Queensland Branch of the Vietnam Veterans Federation Malcolm Wheat supported the RSL position.
“During the 1970s and 1980s there was a long period when there were no overseas deployments. Should those people have their service to the country reduced? I don’t think so,” he said.
“Anybody who serves deserves recognition.”
Mr Wheat said it was time to breakdown the “them and us” attitudes in the veteran community.