Budget runs out for Holocaust survivors' expenses

Funds meant to reimburse survivors for medical bills are suspended due to an overflow of requests, budget shortfalls.

Elderly woman looks out of window [illustrative] (photo credit: Ivan Alvarado / Reuters)
Elderly woman looks out of window [illustrative]
(photo credit: Ivan Alvarado / Reuters)
A foundation supporting Holocaust victims in Israel suspended the financial benefits survivors can receive for medical needs for the 2012 year on Thursday due to an overflow of requests and a shortage in the allocated budget.
The sum, which is about NIS 4,000, is meant to retroactively reimburse survivors for the medical bills they had to pay during the year. The coverage includes dental treatment, medical equipment, travel for oncological and dialysis treatments, eyeglasses and cardio-beeper services.
Eligible survivors, whose monthly income must not exceed NIS 8,158 (including benefits from abroad), are required to collect medical expenses receipts in order to receive the refund from The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel.
The NGO Aviv for Holocaust Survivors called for government authorities to intervene this week in order to “prevent further injury to survivors’ benefits” and “act to make sure similar situations do not occur in the future.”
“This sudden announcement of the closure of grants for 2012 is a direct hit to the thousands of Holocaust survivors who really need, rely and depend on this assistance,” Aviva Silverman, the organization’s director, said in a statement yesterday.
According to Silverman, only about half of Holocaust survivors living in Israel today are aware of their rights and fully make use of them.
Another organization, Ken Lazaken, which assists senior citizens in Israel, strongly criticized the government on Thursday calling the lack of assistance to survivors “A usual act”: “Yet again thousands of survivors are left without help. There are no limits to the chutzpah, lack of compassion and harassment of Holocaust survivors.”
He continued in a statement, “There is enough money in the government for the 34 ministers, who have no conscience, to get luxury cars and whatnot. Only for survivors, there is no money. Let’s not get confused, the Foundation for the Benefits of Holocaust Survivors is an extension of the Ministry of Finance and does what the ministry says.”
According to the Treasury, however, the amounts transferred to the Foundation have grown considerably in recent years: In 2009 the fund was allocated a sum of NIS 159 million and in 2010, it had a sum of NIS 170m. available to it.
In 2011 the budget diminished, after a system was installed where Holocaust survivors can be reimbursed on medication purchases directly at the pharmacy, taking the responsibility off the Foundation.
The Finance Ministry wrote in a statement: “The ministry financially supports various public institutions which provide assistance for Holocaust Survivors socially, economically and medically. The Foundation, like others, is however independent in terms of how it distributes its money. It needs to plan its operations by considering the amount of the support and providing assistance to all those entitled to it.”
“This is not the first time it happens,” a source within the ministry told The Jerusalem Post, “It got better though, because previously, they used to run out of money by April, this years it’s November. The bottom line is they really need to know how to manage their budget.”
On its website, the foundation explained earlier this week that survivors who did not submit their yearly application for financial assistance by Thursday, will only be able to send their request in 2013, which means they will not receive benefits this year.