MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) speaks during a recent protest calling for an increase in disability benefits. .
(photo credit: ANAT VARDIMON)
While the visually impaired appear to have made progress Wednesday in their battle for better benefits, the disabled are still waiting for their already approved increases to kick in.
Alarmed at the lack of progress in implementing an approved NIS 4.2 billion increase in disability benefits, MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) inquired about the status of a signed agreement at Tuesday’s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee meeting.
“As of today, October 31, 2017, no memorandum of law has even been published.
We only have about two months to complete the legislative process as agreed upon with the Israeli government. I am afraid that when the government finally wakes up it will be too late,” Gilon said, addressing committee chairman Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) Gilon was referring to an agreement reached September 29 between Histadrut labor federation chairman Avi Nissenkorn, coalition chairman David Bitan, Gilon and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
Resulting from months of organized road-blocking demonstrations across the country by groups representing people with disabilities to draw attention to the lack of sufficient funding for the disabled, the agreement provides for an increase of the existing disability pension in proportion to the severity of the disability; those with the most debilitating disabilities are to receive NIS 4,500 per month.
“The main point of this agreement is that the money will be in the bank as of January 1, 2018, and, right now, nothing has changed since the agreement was signed,” said Gilon.
In response, Alalouf issued a public statement explaining: “We are promoting a number of parallel bills to raise disability pensions that will be ready immediately after we reach agreements with all disabled organizations. We are doing all we can to reach these agreements soon in cooperation with the government and the disabled groups.”
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This led to further unrest among disabled groups who are threatening to increase their efforts in the ongoing struggle, including some that were in favor of the agreement.
“We continue to support the groups that are still struggling toward the goal to raise the monthly allowance to the current minimum wage,” said Hanan Tal, CEO of the group “Disabled is not a half person,” which has not continued in the protests.
“I understand that this is not the ideal, but for now we will take what we can get.
But if they [Labor, Welfare and Health Committee] ignore us, we will join forces and continue the struggle,” Tal told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
There are some 60 active groups representing the disabled, 23 of which are dissatisfied with the agreement and demand to meet with government officials to change the current agreement because it does not raise their monthly allowance to the NIS 5,300 minimum wage.
In their second week since establishing a “protest tent” outside of the Knesset, several members of the groups blocked roads leading to Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday and Wednesday, and are threatening to further block roads and even industrial sites.
On Wednesday, an agreement was raised to increase the minimum monthly transportation stipend for the visually impaired.
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