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Agreement reached for budget to reform rehabilitation for IDF veterans

CM 06/05/2021

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After an outcry by IDF veterans, the Prime Minister’s Office, Defense Ministry, and Finance Ministry in conjunction with the IDF Disabled Veterans organization came to an agreement regarding the budget for reforming the Rehabilitation Division on Thursday.
According to the Defense Ministry, the new reforms will be brought before the cabinet in the coming days where it is expected to receive the necessary approvals.
“We are committed to our soldiers and heroic fighters and will continue to work for them, assisting and accompanying in every way possible. I will enter the government as soon as possible to approve the reform and implement it as promised,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.
Gantz thanked Finance Minister Israel Katz as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister Michael Biton, Defense Ministry Director-General Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amir Eshel and Ziv Shilon for working “day and night” to complete the reforms.
“I have approved thousands of operations, attack plans and reforms in the IDF and defense establishment and yet this is one of the most important and most moral efforts I have led, and I will continue to lead the implementation of this reform and provide the proper care for IDF veterans,” he said, adding that he prays for Itzik Saidan’s recovery.
The promised reforms for the rights of disabled veterans, dubbed One Soul, had been stalled as the Finance Ministry and Defense Ministry fought over the budget needed for the reforms. The announcement of the delay led to a series of protests by veterans, including in front of the Knesset.
A compromise was reached on Thursday with the funding for the reforms scaled back from NIS 350 million to NIS 300 million.

The budget will be allocated to provide an immediate response to the needs of the treatment and rehabilitation of IDF veterans, with an emphasis on those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 
The Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Division will be immediately reinforced with 60 additional staffers, and coordination of the transfer of information between the IDF and the rehabilitation division and those needing the services will be improved.
The budget will also be used to establish a mechanism that will assist those with PTSD by providing psychological assistance for family members and partners, professional training courses, operating support groups, assistance with service dogs, as well as alternative treatments, operating a professional and dedicated call center.
The extensive decision-making proposal that will be submitted to the government for approval will also include elements of the reform required for legislation and additional processes that will be carried out over the coming months.  
Following the incident in April where IDF veteran Saidian set himself on fire in front of the Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation division, Gantz reviewed Israel’s rehabilitation services.
Saidan, a 26-year-old veteran of the Golani Brigade, arrived at the offices of the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Division in Petah Tikva and set himself on fire. He remains in critical condition in hospital, fighting for his life.
Saidian served in the battle of Shaja’iya during Operation Protective Edge, in which 13 soldiers, including Oron Shaul whose body is still being held by Hamas in Gaza, were killed.
The tragedy resulted in public outcry and protests, with activists and families of soldiers demanding reforms and better support in the state’s rehabilitation facilities for disabled IDF veterans.
The ministry has said that every disabled veteran in the department is accompanied by a multidisciplinary team of specialists as well as a social worker throughout the rehabilitation process “in order to provide him with a comprehensive medical, social, employment and profit-related response.”
But, the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Department has long been criticized for being excessively complicated for veterans to be recognized as having been injured during their military service. Until a veteran is recognized, a process which in some cases took years, they are not eligible for assistance. 
In 2019, the State Comptroller’s Report found that there was an insufficient amount of medical care available for disabled IDF soldiers, a population that with time is getting older. With the new reforms, the elderly- who make up 60% disabled veterans- will get treatments geared specifically for them.
The reforms will also include providing legal assistance, the establishment of a complaints commission, the “immediate” easing of bureaucratic processes to be recognized as disabled, the establishment of a research unit and more.Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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