“In my opinion, there is no one who has served as a combatant and been in difficult situations who has not experienced trauma at one level or another. The question is at what level and how it affected them from then onwards,” begins Attorney Shachar Hameiri.
Attorney and notary Shachar Hameiri is very knowledgeable and experienced in the entire subject of post trauma and other injuries caused as a consequence of military service. Together with his wife, attorney and mediator Merav Radian Hameiri, the two head a boutique family law firm, Hameiri & Co., one of Israel’s leading firms for dealing with soldiers and members of the defense forces who were injured during their service. The firm also specializes in representation and filing suits against the Ministry of Defense in proceedings according to the People with Disabilities Law and the Bereaved Families Law, among other matters due to phenomena of post trauma, disability and negligence, and representation in medical committees.
Moral and ethical contribution and values
Attorney Hameiri served as a combatant and as a commander in the Combat Engineering Corps, including in Gaza, in Judea and Samaria and also in the helicopter disaster in the Second Lebanon War. During his service many of his comrades were injured. Today he serves as chair of the Remunerations Officer Committee in the Northern District Bar Association and as a lecturer in his field of specialization.
His wife, Attorney Radian Hameiri, served in Unit 8200 of the Intelligence Corps. She specializes in topics connected to social rights of people with disabilities, traffic accidents, national insurance and accessibility, and aims to help disadvantaged populations including the elderly.
The two lawyers have chosen to specialize in such a sensitive area for a reason. “The field is very important to us ethically. As lawyers, we are able to help injured people and their families significantly,” says Hameiri. “It’s not just about handling the legal matter, with dealing with the case. There are many issues apart from just the legal matter. We bring in a value aspect and important effort, which also has a contribution that is moral and ethical, not necessarily financial.”
The firm’s daily work is carried out with the help of psychiatrists, orthopedic doctors and in conjunction with mental health officers, during the very complex legal battles that Attorney Hameiri conducts.
All of the State of Israel’s laws that relate to soldiers date from the 1950s and 1960s. The laws, to which a number of amendments have been added over the years, are not up to date. According to Attorney Hameiri, comprehensive legislation is needed today to update the laws and bring them in line with the legal, medical and scientific developments of the past 60 years. The Disabilities Law, for example is from 1959; the amendment to the Disabilities Regulations (section 34a), which relates to post trauma, was introduced only in 2000. Things have changed and been updated since then, however the law has difficulty keeping up with the developments in the world and in medical treatment.
Apart from the outdated laws, the claims procedure against the Ministry of Defense is often long, exhausting and cumbersome. However, Hameiri has a positive surprise in the field. “We now have a case, in which five weeks after it was presented the client appeared before a medical committee and her claim ended within two months,” says Hameiri, and admits that this is an exceptional and atypical case. “There are claims that take seven or ten years,” he adds.
In claims against the Ministry of Defense, Hameiri & Co. offer a long series of services, including dealing with and accompanying bereaved families, cases in which disabled people have died because of their disability, or died during their service.
In addition, the firm handles claims of people serving in the standing army for damages and negligence, cases in which people were injured, including disease or any kind of injury, during service, in which the claim is against the National Insurance Institute. Attorney Hameiri explains: “Due to Amendment 29 to the Disabilities Law, people serving in the standing army, police, prison warders and people in the Prime Minister’s Office can present a claim to the NII in the event of injury at work or disease, which did not occur in operational activity. If the injury was caused due to negligence on the part of the system, they can also sue for damages and receive very significant compensation. Negligence can include even a hole in the ground in an army base that was not repaired, disregard by managers, failure to keep to safety instructions or even cases of sexual harassment or sexual assault.”
“There are many soldiers who have been sexually harassed”
In the past 50 years a dramatic change has taken place in the entire subject of sexual harassment in the IDF, and the army today is better prepared to cope with the subject, but Hameiri says that his hands are full with work today too. “I recently saw a publication according to which there has been a rise in sexual harassment and also in the number of reports and complaints made of sexual harassment and assault in the IDF. And there are many soldiers who have been sexually harassed. Sexual harassment can cause post trauma including the outbreak of illnesses such as fibromyalgia.”
There are more and more cases in which the firm is contacted by women soldiers who want to be represented vis-à-vis the Ministry of Defense; not necessarily on subjects of sexual harassment, but due to the increase in the number of women serving in mixed combat units, such as the Caracal Battalion, the Kfir Brigade, Hummer drivers and combatants in the navy. These are demanding physical jobs, which sometimes cause injuries.
It’s difficult not to relate to the case of Officer T., an intelligence officer who according to the IDF’s version committed suicide in a military prison. Publication of the details of the case is still prohibited, and Attorney Hameiri is unfamiliar with it. However, his extensive experience in representing soldiers with post trauma or other emotional phenomena as a consequence of military activity, enables him to shed light on a world that few are exposed to: “It’s clear that when someone commits suicide in prison, in any prison, it’s problematic, something that mustn’t happen. Without relating to the specific subject, people who serve in intelligence units are exposed to very classified information, which can affect them mentally. This is something that we encounter among clients who served in units of this type and others, and of course are not allowed to talk about their service. They were not mentally prepared to see what they saw. I can only imagine what sights they see and hear,” says Hameiri. “It can cause fear, particularly when you have no one to share it with.”
It is logical that as a lawyer who deals with claims against the Ministry of Defense, Hameiri also encounters people who want to cheat the system. Therefore, Hameiri conducts the initial filtering himself, and at this stage, too, he sets a bar between exaggeration and fabricating evidence and inventing fictitious facts. “Our policy in the firm is not to handle any case where there is doubt about the truth of the information presented to us,” says Hameiri. “We will not present a claim if we know that the facts are incorrect and the claims are incorrect and someone is attempting to receive rights they are not entitled to. But that's us. There are definitely people who come and invent stories. Like in everything. There is a difference between someone who come and exaggerates complaints in order to create additional gain – they say that they are in greater pain than they really are, or are slightly more disabled, something that the doctors know how to discern – and someone who tells an imaginary story. I think that these are rare cases. I check and read and investigate any information that I am given and do not present the claim before things are clear.”
“From injury to recognition”: Supporting soldiers and members of the security forces
The law in Israel permits any lawyer to represent clients towards the Ministry of Defense. According to Attorney Hameiri, this situation often causes unsuitable and unfitting representation by lawyers who are not proficient in the details of the law, the fine print and the appropriate form of representation towards the Ministry of Defense. “The problem in such cases is deeper,” he said, “and it is of causing actual damage to the client. People contact our firm who were represented by lawyers who did not know what to do, or who presented a claim to the wrong place, or who did not present it at all, or came to the court and did not know what they were talking about. If you want to conclude a real estate deal, go to a lawyer who specializes in that field. If you want a criminal prosecution, hire to a criminal lawyer. This is the logical way in practice. It’s like that with the Ministry of Defense.”
In addition to their ongoing work, Hameiri & Co. law firm for the rights of soldiers and members of the security forces has established a Facebook group “From injury to recognition,” which is intended to provide information on the rights of soldiers and members of the security forces and to serve as a support group for soldiers, police and members of the security forces who were injured during their service and are lost in the maze of bureaucracy. Lawyers, experts on the rights of soldiers and members of the security forces, former medical personnel in the IDF and welfare officers are members of the group, as well as people who served and their families who have undergone the process with the army, the Ministry of Defense and the NII and are prepared to share their experience. Click here to join.