Gov’t reimbursements held back from Shoah survivors
Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors runs out of funds for fiscal year; Welfare Ministry to provide emergency funding, ‘Post’ learns.
By RUTH EGLASH
Thousands of elderly Holocaust survivors have been waiting for six months or more to receive government reimbursements on essential medical equipment such as eye glasses, hearing aids and dental work, The Jerusalem Post learned Tuesday.The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, the official place for needy survivors to turn to in order to receive financial aid for such equipment, has run out of funds for this fiscal year, according to the non-profit elderly rights organization Ken Lazaken. Even those who qualify for the benefits will not receive reimbursements for the equipment until next year’s budget kicks in.“There are no boundaries to the terrible treatment of Holocaust survivors in this country,” Ken Lazaken director, Natan Levon, told the Post. “The State of Israel apologizes and everyone forgives them, but then something else happens and the help [Holocaust survivors] are supposed to get does not come because they say there is no money."“We are not talking about something new here, we are talking about financial help that was promised to them by the government, it is written in all the literature and the survivors have a right to it,” he added.Levon estimated that as many as 40,000 survivors are now paying out of pocket after laying out money for medical equipment on the belief that the foundation would reimburse them.“Many people have turned to us for help,” he said. “They simply don’t know what to do – they were promised the money and have already laid out for it.”In response, a spokesman for the foundation explained that the nonprofit organization was set up in order to help survivors and that it was reliant on donations from various sources, not only from the government.Last year the foundation’s budget amounted to some NIS 400 million, with NIS 150m. coming from the government and NIS 240m. from the Claims Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. It also receives donations from Israel and abroad, according to the spokesman.“The foundation’s budget has its limits,” he said. “Allocation of this budget is based on professional considerations made by the head of the foundation and Holocaust survivors themselves.”The spokesman added that during 2009, the foundation provided 41,000 survivors with financial grants to purchase essential medical equipment, a total sum of NIS 106m., and an additional 20,000 survivors were provided with subsidies for Health Ministry-approved caregivers, totaling NIS 270m.“The decision was made in 2010 to reduce the number of individual grants to cover the cost of equipment, and instead we increased the number of subsidies for caregivers,” said the spokesman, in response to why the funds have dried up.“We are aware that the various needs of survivors is continually growing and that is why the foundation is being forced to prioritize certain issues,” he added.A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, which provides the foundation with some of its official government funding, said that an additional NIS 16m. had been approved in September and would be transferred in the coming days.
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