Israel's system of bureaucracy is known for being a challenge, but wounded veterans of last year's Operation Protective Edge face perhaps a greater challenge than any, as revealed in statistics for a Work and Welfare Committee meeting on Tuesday that said 83% have yet to finish the medical committe process within the rehabilitation branch of the defense ministry.
Precisely 322 soldiers who were wounded in Gaza were recognized as disabled veterans last year but governmental shortcomings have left the wounded without a set a disability figure, inable to receive the full scope of necessary medical care.
The Work and Welfare Committee meeting, initiated by Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelach, reviewed the Rehabilitation Branch of the Defense Ministry's treatment of wounded Protective Edge veterans. Several wounded veterans took part and testified to the mounting bureaucratic challenges posed by the medical committee process.
One of the soldiers said that a specialist doctor determined that he needed a hearing device because of critical hearing loss suffered as a result of the war but due to the drawn out nature of the process he still has not received the aid. "The doctor determined that my ear is not functioning and recommended a hearing aid. The Defense Ministry said that they are unable to supply the aid until the final medical committee."
Statistics that were gathered show that many of the injured do not receive the financial stipends afforded to them due to an ongoing medical committee process. 69% of the wounded respondents answered that their families had suffered economically due to their injuries and only 3% of them said the army had compensated them. "I am a reservist who was drafted for Protective Edge and now I can't return to my work," one of them said. "I still didn’t receive even a temporary disability; the whole time I never received any financial support from the Defense Ministry."
Many of the injured stated that they don’t know their rights, and stated that they feel the need to prove their injury. 86% claimed that the rehabilitation branch in the Defense Ministry didn’t notify them of their rights, and 76% of the respondents said they didn’t know who to turn to on different matters.
Another injured veteran stated that the doctor who checked him in one of the committees said he is not trustworthy. According to him, hours after the incident he was rushed to the hospital under suspicion of a blood clot in his brain. When asked if they where able to return to their normal routines, 65% of the respondents answered "no."
MK Shelach said that, "The figures prove that the rehabilitation branch in the Defense Ministry is collapsing, and those who deserve more than anyone else are paying the price - those who just a year ago where sent into battle to defend the communities of the south. The situation of these wounded veterans is horrifying, they are not treated as they should be, and the situation is a stain on the face of society and the Defense Ministry."
Of the 322 soldiers who where recognized as having disabilities, 177 were declared as having more than 20% or more disability. Out of those 177- eight where recognized as having 100% disability. 72 soldiers where recognized as having between 10-19% and 73 where given up to 9% disability.
A statement from the Defense Ministry said that: "There are claims still being processed, some are new, and others are due to illnesses with long treatment process. All the soldiers who where injured as a result of war were immediately integrated in the "green plan" with full cooperation from them and their families, as well as military officials in order to allow for continuity in their medical treatment. "
The Defense Ministry also claimed that the statistics were incorrect and said that over 80% of the wounded had already finished the entire process and earned recognition as disabled soldiers.
"According to the Rehabilitation branch figures, out of 421 soldiers who where sent to medical committees, 347 have already finished treatment and have received their compensation figures. Every soldier who files a claim gets immediate medical treatment and additional rights until the end of the process."