Army vet who self-immolated goes outdoors for first time since hospitalization

Itzik Saidyan leaves hospital treatment room in wheelchair; PTSD-afflicted ex-soldier set himself on fire in April to protest alleged neglect by state

IDF veteran Itzik Saidyan, who set himself alight outside a Defense Ministry office on April 12, 2021. (screenshot: Channel 12)
IDF veteran Itzik Saidyan, who set himself alight outside a Defense Ministry office on April 12, 2021. (screenshot: Channel 12)

The condition of a former soldier with PTSD who has been hospitalized since April after self-immolating in an act of protest has improved.

Itzik Saidyan’s condition has changed significantly for the better, and for the first time, he left his hospital room in a wheelchair and went outdoors, Hebrew media reported.

Saidyan is being treated at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv.

In October, his condition deteriorated, after a period of improvement, with his family and others reporting that he had begun communicating. At the time, he was in serious condition with concerns of potential infection from his wounds.

Saidyan was brought out of his coma in September and had begun breathing on his own months before.

Saidyan set himself on fire outside the Petah Tikva offices of the Rehabilitation Department for disabled soldiers, after years of struggling to receive the care he requested for post-traumatic stress disorder, which he said stemmed from his service in the Israeli military.

His self-immolation has brought the Defense Ministry’s treatment of wounded veterans under intense scrutiny.

According to the IDF Veteran’s Association, Saidyan was frustrated over his treatment by authorities. He was recognized by the Defense Ministry as having 25-percent disability from his post-traumatic stress disorder, but had requested 50% recognition. The ministry had refused, saying at least a portion of his condition was due to childhood trauma, not his military service.

Saidyan served in the Golani Infantry Brigade during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. He participated in fighting in Shejaiya, a neighborhood in Gaza City that saw some of the fiercest clashes in the conflict.

Veterans and their advocates have long maligned the rehabilitation department as providing woefully insufficient care and subjecting applicants to a bureaucracy so convoluted and tortuous that many were required to hire expensive lawyers to help them navigate the system.

After Saidyan’s self-immolation and the accompanying outcry, the Defense Ministry sought to implement reforms that it had for years been considering, but lacked the political will to carry out.

In May, the government announced that it had reached a compromise on a Defense Ministry plan to reform treatment for wounded veterans.

Earlier this month, an injured veteran who struggled to get officials to recognize that his mental health issues were related to his service died by suicide.

Itzik Chen, 48, was injured in a parachuting accident in 1992, and was recognized as having physical disabilities by the Defense Ministry, but he was unable to get assistance for mental health issues.

His applications for aid and recognition of the mental illness he suffered in the years following his service were rejected on multiple occasions, both by the ministry and the courts, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

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