Israel's cabinet on Sunday approved a set of reforms intended to overhaul government services for disabled army veterans, following weeks of protests by former servicemen claiming that the current system had failed them.
The reforms took shape during extensive discussions between the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization non-profit and representatives of the defense and finance ministries. They reforms include the allocation of 300 million shekels ($92 million) for the immediate treatment and rehabilitation of veterans of the Israel Defense Forces and defense agencies, “with an emphasis on post-trauma victims.”
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"Today's decision is gigantic news. I thank you and the Handicapped IDF Veterans Organization for the great effort to reach this day. This is the start of a major reform,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told IDF Veterans Organization Chairman Idan Kleiman in a statement.
"Handicapped IDF veterans are important and dear to us. The reform will ensure the assistance you deserve. We are committed to our heroic soldiers and fighters and will continue to act on your behalf and be with you however we can,” Netanyahu added.
According to the Government Press Office, $92 million "will be transferred immediately to the [defense ministry’s] Rehabilitation Division with emphasis on treatment for those suffering from PTSD” while Defense Minister Benny Gantz will "advance the relevant legislative changes that will assist handicapped IDF veterans.”
The funding will help pay for new psychological rehabilitation facilities, psychological assistance for family members, professional training courses, support groups, assistance with service dogs and a dedicated call center. Moreover, the Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation agency will be bolstered with 60 new staffers, with some assigned to the IDF to facilitate coordination and information sharing, the defense and finance ministries said in a joint statement last week.
Other aspects of the reforms are intended to streamline what is commonly seen as bureaucracy by easing of requirements for treatment, such as income tests, and providing legal assistance for veterans applying for recognition of disabilities.
The plan, known as One Heart, was first presented by the Defense Ministry two weeks ago in response to widespread outrage in the wake of the self-immolation of Itzik Saidian, a 26-year-old veteran of the 2014 Gaza War with post-traumatic stress disorder, on April 12.
Saidian set himself on fire outside the offices of the Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation clinic to protest what he had previously described as insufficient treatment for his disability by the authorities.