A bill to abolish the income test for disabled IDF veterans passed its first reading on Monday, as part of the “One Soul” reform program initiated after veteran Itzik Saidian set himself on fire in front of the Petah Tikva offices of the Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation division in April.
The bill aims to reduce the dependency between a disabled person's income and the benefits he receives and is entitled to receive. The new bill stipulates that non-work income, including benefits from the National Insurance, pensions and other sources of income, will not be taken into account when examining their eligibility for benefits.
"The amendment to the law will lead to a revolutionary change in income tests and will significantly facilitate the ability of IDF disabled people to receive benefits, enter the labor market and improve their rehabilitation, while reducing bureaucracy," said Defense Minister Benny Gantz in the Knesset plenum on Monday.
"At the same time, out of a rehabilitative concept that miraculously encourages and integrates IDF disabled people into Israeli society and the labor market, we will allow IDF disabled people to go out and work and still receive living allowances up to the average wage in the economy," added Gantz.
In April, Saidian, a 26-year-old veteran of the Golani Brigade, set himself on fire in front of an office of the Defense Ministry's rehabilitation division, after he experienced difficulty getting aid from the ministry.
Saidian served in the battle of Shaja’iya during Operation Protective Edge, in which 13 soldiers, including Oron Shaul - whose body is still being held by Hamas in Gaza, were killed.
Israel’s cabinet in May approved a set of reforms intended to overhaul government services for disabled veterans including the allocation of NIS 300 million ($92m.) for the immediate treatment and rehabilitation of veterans, with an emphasis on victims of PTSD.
The Ben-Reuven report, published last year by a committee led by Eyal Ben-Reuven, called for far-reaching reforms after finding a deep crisis in terms of public trust in the Rehabilitation Division due to a series of issues. The report pointed to a lack of transparency toward disabled veterans and the long bureaucratic processes that make registering for and receiving services exceedingly difficult, among other issues.