Gafni: Deliver delayed medical benefits to Shoa survivors

“We need to sort out this bureaucratic and legal hold-up," head of the Knesset’s Finance Committee says.

April 15, 2010 03:00
2 minute read.
MK Moshe Gafni

MK Moshe Gafni 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ), head of the Knesset’s Finance Committee, on Wednesday called on the government to stop stalling on the distribution of already approved health benefits to thousands of Holocaust survivors.

“We need to sort out this bureaucratic and legal hold-up concerning medication for Holocaust survivors as soon as possible,” Gafni said in a statement following Wednesday’s committee meeting. “The Jewish nation must take on the responsibility of helping these survivors, because today we are not doing all that we can to ensure they receive their rights.”

Gafni was referring to a cabinet decision taken more than two years ago to provide survivors with essential medical subsidies, above and beyond what is offered by the health funds. However, bureaucratic wrangling between the ministries involved have meant many survivors have yet to see any of the benefits.

“There are so many bodies involved in working with Holocaust survivors and so much bureaucracy and the important issues, that the steps that will actually help them, are just falling through the cracks,” said Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled, whose father died in Auschwitz.

A representative of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry told the committee that just over a week ago, agreement was reached with the Health and Finance ministries on the final points of a NIS 50 million a year benefits package that will provide about 80,000 survivors with up to a 90-percent subsidy on essential health and medical supplies. That package is expected to go into effect immediately, he said.

In his conclusion to the meeting, Gafni said he would follow up on the matter within two weeks.

“Every day another survivor passes away and it’s simply shameful, this entire process must be complete within the next two weeks,” he said.

According to a study conducted by the American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Meyers Brookdale Institute in 2009, many Holocaust survivors suffer from cardio-vascular disorders and chronic emotional grief related to their experiences. Many of the medicines needed to treat these conditions are not adequately covered by the health funds.

This time last year, official figures estimated that roughly 270,000 Holocaust survivors were living in Israel. Out of that number, non-profit organizations working with the survivors suggest that a third live below the poverty line, struggling to survive on state pensions and with very little additional assistance or benefits.

Even though there have been concerted efforts by the Welfare and Pensioners Affairs ministries to distribute additional benefits, a government report published last year shows that fewer than half of the survivors claim the financial and other benefits they are entitled to.

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