Most IDF vets dismayed by Defense Ministry rehab center, comptroller finds

Survey finds 73% of wounded ex-soldier applicants for care reported humiliation, distrust; several previous recommendations not implemented

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli veterans and disabled former soldiers attend a protest for better financial and medical aid and support, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli veterans and disabled former soldiers attend a protest for better financial and medical aid and support, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli veterans are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the way they are treated by the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Department, according to a state comptroller report released Wednesday.

The State Comptroller’s Office found 73 percent of wounded veteran applicants seeking treatment were not satisfied with the way the department’s committees functioned. The main reasons cited in a survey conducted by the comptroller were lack of care, humiliation, and distrust of applicants.

The report found that applicants suffering mental health issues were generally more dissatisfied than those with physical disabilities.

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

After a former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder set himself on fire outside the department last year, sparking an outcry, the Defense Ministry sought to implement reforms that it had been considering for years.

Still, State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman said he found several of his previous recommendations had been implemented inadequately or not at all, including boosting medical personnel at the department to match the growing number of veterans. Since the 1990s the department has had just 21 doctors, rising to 22 last year, after the previous comptroller report.

Israeli State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman speaks at a conference in Jerusalem, February 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On a positive note, he said the time it took for a case to be initially processed was slightly shorter, and veterans suffering mental health issues were now eligible for more services, as he had previously recommended. Many of those suffering mental health issues are listed at a certain level of disability that did not enable certain services. The limitations on those services have now been lifted.

“It is the duty of Israel and the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Department to be the backbone of wounded veterans. They are the ones who contributed their souls and bodies to the defense of the country,” Englman said.

“It is recommended that the Rehabilitation Department conduct significant self-examination regarding the behavior of medical committee doctors toward those eligible, [specifically regarding] their familiarity with the medical file and their willingness to allow the [veteran] to present their material to the committee in full,” he said.

Responding to the report, the Defense Ministry said it was continuing work on its plan released last year, dubbed One Soul, which is meant to be a major overhaul of the system, greatly increasing the number of staff in the department, making the process of being recognized as a wounded veteran easier and faster, and specifically improving the treatment for former soldiers with PTSD.

“At the same time, the Defense Ministry is working to improve service at the medical committees, and to move some of the committees to hospitals, as well as place special emphasis on training and workshops for the committee doctors,” the ministry said.

It added that it was preparing to recruit additional doctors for the department, subject to agreement with the Finance Ministry.

The Defense Ministry also said it was in talks with veteran advocate groups to reach agreements on a new tender for the employment of professionals to assist the wounded veterans during rehabilitation.

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