A wounded IDF veteran attempted to torch an office of the Rehabilitation Division of the Defense Ministry on Monday.
The veteran had filed a claim on the grounds of mental illness in 2015 that was rejected, according to the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization. The veteran arrived at the office in Tiberias and poured kerosene on the front door of the office. The security guards sprayed him with a fire extinguisher and transported him to Baruch Padeh Medical Center, Poriya to be examined by a doctor.
"We are sad and anxious, but we are not surprised," said the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization on Monday. "In the last two years since the 'One Soul' reform was announced, we have warned that only the full implementation of the reform will bring relief to the sad situation of the wounded IDF veterans. This is a wake-up call to elected officials and government officials. Announce the implementation of the reform immediately! Before we see the next Itzik Saidian before our eyes."
The Defense Ministry stated that a preliminary investigation found that the individual was not recognized as a disabled veteran and had a request for recognition rejected in 2012. It is unclear if he would be eligible under the new policies passed under the One Soul reform.
'One Soul' reform progressing slowly
In 2021, the government began working on the "One Soul" reform after disabled IDF veteran Itzik Saidian immolated himself in front of a Rehabilitation Division office before Remembrance Day. Saidian was diagnosed with PTSD after serving in Operation Protective Edge in 2014. He had received only partial recognition as a disabled veteran before the immolation.
Last year, the Defense Ministry began implementing the reform, including adding dedicated treatments to prevent suicide and self-harm to the treatments offered by the Rehabilitation Division, an intervention system for emergencies, training in terms of service improvement, improving the response of the division's hotline and reducing bureaucracy with digital tools.
Kobi Zakai, a lawyer who advocates for veterans with PTSD, told Army Radio that, up until the case of Saidian, the Defense Ministry often would try and attribute mental health issues to all sorts of factors from outside the individual's military service in order to avoid having to give them the full benefits provided to disabled veterans.
Zakai added that hundreds of disabled veterans who were rejected in the past, but are now eligible for benefits have not been informed that they are eligible for those rights.
The Defense Ministry stressed to Army Radio that it receives thousands of requests for disability recognition per year and has "noticeably" improved its response to these requests. "Sadly, due to the load, we are unable at the moment to locate and contact all those with PTSD who were partially recognized in past years. This issue will be considered in the future."
Zakai claimed that, due to the new policy of the Defense Ministry which does not consider external events as a reason to not fully recognize mental health claims of soldiers, all that needs to be done by the Defense Ministry is to administratively cancel the decisions made in these cases in the past.
Idan Kleiman, the chairman of the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization, told Army Radio that despite the fact that two years have passed since the One Soul reform was approved by the government, but legislation necessary for the reform still hasn't been passed.
Kleiman added that he has contacted Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and demanded that the government decide by the end of next week to give the defense minister responsibility to implement the One Soul reform.
Last year, the State Comptroller reported that despite the Defense Ministry’s work over the past year, 73% of disabled veterans were still dissatisfied with the services they received, saying they experienced humiliation, lack of trust, and lack of care by those providing services.
Established in 1990, the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Department had 21 physicians in 2020, despite a 14% increase in the number of disabled IDF veterans and an increase in the number of services required by an aging population.
The follow-up audit found that only one more physician was hired in 2021 because, despite an agreement between the Finance Ministry and the department for additional funds and grants for new doctors, the department has yet to fill all necessary positions. The audit recommended that five more doctors be hired.