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War Surgery and Medicine



The lack of any audiometer examination of the recruits made it inevitable that many cases of otosclerosis should be overlooked and men be accepted for service with no note of any impairment. This in turn has led to the granting of pensions to many of these cases, as under the law any disability arising or increasing during service is held attributable to service. Some therefore contend that pensions of a permanent nature are being paid for what is a constitutional disease in no way caused, though in some cases possibly aggravated, by service in the forces. The sum paid is a large one amounting to about £40,000 yearly. On the other hand, it is held that the majority of these men performed full service overseas and applied for pension when the increasing deafness became noticeable after their return to New Zealand. This is borne out by the Pensions Department figures, which show that only 130 had applied for pensions at the end of March 1944, but that 687 had applied by 1950. Audiometer examination could have eliminated most of these cases and pensions payments been reduced accordingly. As against this the forces would have lost the service given by those men, which for the want of contrary evidence must be assumed to have been satisfactory.

page 457

The introduction of the Pulheems system and more efficient examination of recruits will not provide a solution to the problem, which turns almost entirely on the pensions legislation. If a pension was not paid unless the condition was actually caused by service, and the men with slight constitutional disability were accepted for service on that understanding, the men would be able to give valuable service to their country without the question of pensions payments arising. The more marked cases of deafness would, of course, not be accepted for service.

Applications for War Pensions at 31 March 1951
Overseas NZ Total
Suppurative diseases 1158 241 1399
Deafness, catarrhal and otosclerosis 688 162 850
Deafness, concussion 1046 34 1080
2892 437 3329
NASAL: Sinusitis 1579 354 1933