IDF lone soldiers still facing failing IDF services - analysis

In recent months, lone soldiers have been in the news after the deaths of two soldiers highlighted the failings of the IDF in supporting troops during their service.

By
July 1, 2019 11:33
IDF lone soldiers still facing failing IDF services - analysis

IDF soldiers cool off in a pool at the annual 'Fun Day' . (photo credit: CLICK PHOTOGRAPHY)

Thousands of lone soldiers gathered last week at the Shefayim Water Park outside of Tel Aviv, for a “Yom Kef,” or Fun Day, a chance for the soldiers to take a break from the stress and pressures of military life

In recent months, lone soldiers have been prominent in the news, after the death of two soldiers highlighted the failings of the IDF to support troops during their service.

Services provided to soldiers, such as health services, are described as “terrible,” St.-Sgt. G. told The Jerusalem Post in May.

Soldiers suffer long waiting times for appointments, as well as doctors who misdiagnose symptoms or fail to provide adequate care and recuperation times for injured soldiers.

Pvt. M., a soldier currently serving in the IDF's Nahal Brigade, told the Post that he suffered long waiting times just to visit the emergency room because the army doctor “didn’t want to give the authorization for me to go to hospital,” he said.

After being diagnosed with two herniated disks and symptoms of a neurological disorder, Pvt. M. says that he is still fighting for sick leave – which was recommended by the hospital doctors, but rejected by the army doctor on his base.

Sgt. S., who is from the U.S. and served as a lone soldier, also in Nachal, experienced similar problems. "I fractured my L4 and L3 vertebra," he said in a phone call with The Jerusalem Post. "I was in excruciating pain, and nobody knew what was wrong with my back because  my fractures didn't show on the x-ray."

When his sick days provided by the hospital ran out "my commander told me: too bad, you have to come back," Sgt. S. said. Sgt. S. then spent 4 weeks on a training base without a doctor.

"My Mem Mem (Company Commander) wouldn't let me go to the hospital, and told me over and over "we're trying to get you a doctor." There was no doctor on the base, my only option was to wait until the training course ended so I could see the doctor on Nachal's base."

Sgt. S. was injured during a krav maga training exercise and says that the initial x-ray left him begging his commanders to return to the hospital. After finally visiting the hospital and receiving his diagnosis he was given a few weeks leave.

During that time, "the hovesh (medic) didn't even send the information to my doctor, so when I got to him after a few weeks he didn't even know what was wrong," Sgt. S. explained. "I don't understand why the hospital doesn't have any communication with the army," Sgt. S. said. "I just had to hope and pray that it [the information] would get to the right people."

Sgt. S. was told that he would need to pick up the referral for a specialist "physically, in person." "I needed to take multiple buses with a fractured spine," he said.

After visiting the specialist Sgt. S. was still mid-training "we switched bases, we switched commanders, we switched Company Commanders, we switched everything and now the doctor was new too," Sgt. S. said.

Sgt. S. says he didn't receive the physical therapy because the new command structure around him "didn't know how bad the injury was." 

Bureaucracy and a lack of communication mean that the IDF doesn't have a way to pass a soldier's information when they move bases or commanders.

"In the end, I was left with no other choice," Sgt. S. said. "I came back to America, I've seen a doctor I feel great now."

Other services in the IDF can leave soldiers in a bad position, with some claiming that bureaucracy can occasionally cause soldiers to be paid late or incorrectly.

Last year, a report by the state comptroller found that the IDF was not addressing the needs of lone soldiers adequately enough. While the report acknowledged that the IDF and the Defense Ministry have already begun to correct some of the failings raised in the report, stories of soldiers fighting a bureaucratic system which fails vulnerable lone soldiers remains a common occurrence.

The relevant IDF Spokesperson's Unit department could not provide comment at the time of publication.


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