IDF troops 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The State Comptroller's Report released Monday criticized the Defense Ministry's apparatus for determining the level of disability of IDF veterans - with some extreme cases lasting over three years before their disability was recognized by the ministry.
The report echoes complaints voiced by wounded soldiers following the Second Lebanon War, who said that the procedure for determining "percentage" of disability was unnecessarily long and complex, at times preventing them from receiving vital services or funding for months at a time. In the period after the war, news reports carried accounts of wounded soldiers forced to contend with masses of paperwork and a largely non-computerized system to gain recognition of their status.
According to the report, those horror stories are not as uncommon as one would hope. In 2006, only 41% of cases reviewed by the upper-level medical review boards and 64% of cases reviewed at the district level were concluded within three or fewer months. A total of 10% of cases in the district level and 22% at the highest level continued for seven or more months before the review boards determined the degree of disability.
"The amount of time it takes to determine the percentage of disability has direct repercussions on the time until people with disabilities can receive reimbursements and benefits offered to the disabled," wrote Lindenstrauss in the report.
Lindenstrauss found that the members of the review boards had not - in some cases - undergone any training sessions since 1999, and that the review boards do not - in around a third of their cases - adhere to even the most basic timetables allotted to them.
In 2006, approximately 10.5% of the files submitted to the upper review boards were not determined within 12 months of their submission. "Although this rate is not especially high, in each of these instances, there is a disabled person for whom delay of work on his case causes him injury," wrote Lindenstrauss.
The Defense Ministry responded to Lindenstrauss's findings, saying that "the department does everything in its ability to reduce the processes involved in the medical review boards and - as evidence - before the end of the review period, this subject was determined to be a priority subject as part of the multi-year plan compiled in 2006." They added that even as the report was being printed, the ministry was developing a computerized system that would back up all of the various levels of the review board process, including computerizing the personal case files of specific petitioners. By the end of 2008, they said, the entire system would be in place.
But the rehabilitational department was far from the only non-strategic branch of the Defense Ministry to face negative reviews from Lindenstrauss's office.
The report also cited Army Radio, criticizing the station for failing to address problems raised in a previous comptroller's report, including formatting a standing order detailing the purpose of the unit issued by the chief of General Staff.
It also blasted the societal-security wing, which is responsible, among other things, for all topics of education, society and youth, including strengthening the desire for "meaningful military service" among "special sectors" of Israeli society including Beduin, Druse and haredi youths. To Lindenstrauss's dismay, the researchers found that the division had conducted no internal studies to determine the level of efficacy of any of its programs, ranging from service year options to pre-military academies or the Gadna program for overseas and Israeli high school students.
In a more general sense, Lindenstrauss questioned whether such programs including preparing at-risk youth for military service should even fall under the auspices of the Defense Ministry when "other government ministries and institutions already exist" for directing youth towards "national projects" and improving education.
The Defense Ministry responded that the entire formula of the division was in the "final stages" of being revamped and emphasized that the division had partnered with the behavioral sciences division of the IDF in an attempt to better understand the division's activities "in the field" as well as measuring their impact.
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