MERCURY SERIES: MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Doug Rymer's name is familiar because of the dozens of letters to the editor he has written to the Illawarra Mercury.
His letters have covered many subjects but one issue is more important than any other to the 88-year-old Dapto resident.
During the past 30 years, Mr Rymer has helped hundreds of war widows and returned services personnel access entitlements such as totally and permanently incapacitated (TPI) benefits, war widows' pensions and the gold card.
His mission started when he became honorary secretary of Dapto RSL sub-branch. Now he serves as a pension officer.
His goal has always been to help veterans and widows of veterans access government benefits to which they are entitled.
‘‘I don’t give up’’ he said. ‘‘And I keep doing it because they [the Department of Veterans
Affairs] keep sending people to me. I am not going to knock anyone back. I am a World War II veteran myself on a TPI which I got myself in 1983. My wife is automatically covered because I am a TPI.’’
Mr Rymer was a transport driver for the Army and first saw active duty in the Torres Strait in 1943 before taking part in the Borneo landings.
During his service he sustained a back injury and still suffers the effects of Buerger’s disease (inflamed blood vessels) in his feet.
Mr Rymer said serving Australian armed forces personnel should join an RSL sub-branch to ensure they or their partners can access benefits if they are injured or killed during their service.
He said one of the first people he helped was a cousin of Sir Donald Bradman.
Doris Buckley’s husband Albert Buckley survived gas attacks and suffered shrapnel wounds to his head and back and a severe case of trench foot when he fought in Europe in World War I.
Mr Buckley was only 17 when he signed up and was awarded a Belgian medal for valour and two French bravery awards. However, when he died in 1993, Mrs Buckley was denied a war widow’s pension.
Mr Rymer came to her aid when she was almost 91 and secured her a pension.
He still spends many hours a day writing letters and making telephone calls and each year receives a growing number of Christmas cards and phone calls from grateful families.
He has lost count of how many people he has helped.
RSL sub-branches constantly refer people to him because he has the experience to know who to speak to and what doors to knock on.
He said Department of Veterans Affairs always helped veterans and their families but often did not know of people who were in need.
Mr Rymer said he often only found out about veterans who had died from war-caused injuries when he conducted RSL funeral services.
He recently helped a Wollongong woman whose husband died 12 months previously.
“It is fantastic when you succeed,’’ he said. ‘‘It is a great feeling. People will sit there and say what do we owe you? I say ‘a smile ... that is all I want’.’’
Mr Rymer said helping other people had helped him stay busy since he retired at 55.
Mr Rymer has been awarded an OAM for his service to war veterans and is trying to find out when widows were first advised they could apply for a pension.