Disabled Vets: We Face Foot-Dragging

YERUSHALAYIM -

Just one day after the Israeli government’s first annual memorial service for the fallen soldiers of Operation Protective Edge, a Knesset committee heard reports and testimony from soldiers disabled in last year’s Gaza war about how hard a time they are having obtaining medical care and compensation.

Of the 322 soldiers qualifying for assistance due to various disabilities stemming from military operations, 83% say they are still being processed, 86% claimed that the rehabilitation branch of the Defense Ministry didn’t notify them of their rights, 69% of the wounded complained that their families had suffered economically due to their injuries, and only 3% of them said the army had compensated them. When asked if they were able to return to their normal routines after the war, 65% of respondents answered no.

Several wounded veterans gave testimony at the Knesset’s Work and Welfare Committee on Tuesday, in a review initiated by Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelach.

One soldier told of his frustration in obtaining a hearing device because of critical hearing loss suffered in the fighting, but has yet to receive it. “The doctor determined that my ear is not functioning and recommended a hearing aid. The Defense Ministry said that they are unable to supply the aid until the final medical committee.” A year later, he is still waiting.

Another told the committee: “I am a reservist who was drafted for Protective Edge and now I can’t return to my work. I still didn’t receive even a temporary disability; the whole time I never received any financial support from the Defense Ministry.”

Overall, 177 were declared as having more than 20% disability. Out of those, 8 where listed as having 100% disability. 72 soldiers where recognized as having between 10-19% and 73 where given up to 9% disability.

MK Shelach said that, “The figures prove that the rehabilitation branch in the Defense Ministry is collapsing, and those who deserve more than anyone else are paying the price – those who just a year ago where sent into battle to defend the communities of the south. The situation of these wounded veterans is horrifying, they are not treated as they should be, and the situation is a stain on the face of society and the Defense Ministry.”

However, the Defense Ministry denied the charges, saying that the facts showed that wounded veterans were duly being taken care of.

A statement from the Defense Ministry that was issued in response said: “There are claims still being processed, some are new, and others are due to illnesses with a long treatment process. All the soldiers who where injured as a result of war were immediately integrated in the ‘green plan’ with full cooperation from them and their families, as well as military officials in order to allow for continuity in their medical treatment.”

The Defense Ministry asserted that the statistics presented to the committee were inaccurate, and that over 80% of the wounded have finished the entire process and earned recognition as disabled soldiers.

“According to the Rehabilitation branch figures, out of 421 soldiers who where sent to medical committees, 347 have already finished treatment and have received their compensation figures. Every soldier who files a claim gets immediate medical treatment and additional rights until the end of the process.”