Disabled Vets to Be Repaid NIS 165m in Docked Stipends

More than 50,000 disabled veterans will be repaid NIS 165 million unlawfully docked from their stipends over the past five years.

The High Court of Justice ordered the repayment and brokered a compromise between the defense and finance ministries and the organization representing disabled Israel Defense Forces veterans, regarding the repayment schedule. The moneys, including interest and cost-of-living increases, will be repaid in four installments over two years. The Disabled IDF Veterans Association says it agreed to the plan out of consideration for the state's security needs, particularly at this time.

In the petition filed a year ago, the organization said it discovered accidentally in May 2006 that the Defense Ministry was illegally cutting stipends by about NIS 100 a month. The association asked the ministry to cease the practice, to no avail.

"I think the money really was originally withheld accidentally. But even after we noted the practice, we were ignored. Later, some funds were returned and there were promises regarding the remainder, but those funds were never returned. That's how we ended up in court," outgoing Disabled Vets chair Moshe Matalon said yesterday.

In 2002, civil servants all received NIS 1,500 after a 2001 salary freeze. Disabled veterans also received the repayment, even though they were not state employees. The state demanded the veterans return the payment, and it was decided NIS 100 per month would be cut from stipends.

However, even after the funds had been repaid, the Defense Ministry continued to dock stipends by NIS 100 per month. Supreme Court justices Ayala Procaccia, Edna Arbel and Hanan Melcer criticized the handling of the matter and ordered the state to repay all the moneys illegally docked from veterans' stipends. The organization has calculated sums as high as NIS 9,000 for veterans considered 100 percent disabled.

"This is a significant achievement," acting Disabled Veterans chair Haim Bar said. "Particularly in these difficult times, we see great importance in the ruling for the veterans, who paid with their health for the state."

This is the fourth petition the Disabled IDF Veterans Association has filed with the High Court of Justice in the past four years, after failing to reach an agreement with the state on several matters.