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Planned overhaul of government rehab of wounded vets halted in budget fight

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Plans to reform the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Department to provide better care for wounded veterans came to a halt this week as political rivals Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz fought over the source of funding for the NIS 350 million ($108 million) proposal.

Earlier this month, the Defense Ministry unveiled its plans to improve the treatment for wounded veterans, dubbed “One Soul,” which would entail internal changes of its protocols, as well as require government approvals and some new legislation.

The cabinet was due to discuss the proposal last week, but this was postponed due to a fight within the government over the illegal appointment of a justice minister. It was rescheduled to Sunday, but this was also delayed as the cabinet canceled its meeting out of respect for the 45 people who were killed in the Mount Meron disaster last week.

According to Gantz, his ministry had been meeting with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Finance Ministry and the Justice Ministry over the past few weeks and had reached a number of agreements on how the plan would proceed, when suddenly Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz “reneged on their agreements… and refused to bring the proposal for a hearing in the government” on Monday.

Gantz’s office says he has therefore submitted the plan with the cabinet secretary for discussion himself and calls for Netanyahu and Katz to approve the measure.

The Prime Minister’s Office blames the holdup on the Defense Ministry, saying it should be responsible for providing at least NIS 75 million ($23 million) of the funding for 2021 and NIS 150 million ($46 million) for 2022 from its existing budget.

The One Soul plan calls for a significant increase in the number of staff working for the Rehabilitation Department as well as a major overhaul of the mechanisms for recognizing injuries caused by military service and funding their treatment, especially for post-traumatic stress disorder.

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