Self-immolated army vet emerges for first time since hospitalization

The condition of a former soldier with PTSD hospitalized since April after setting himself on fire in an act of protest has improved, according to reports on Monday.

Itzik Saidyan’s condition improved significantly and for the first time he left his hospital room in a wheelchair and went outside, Hebrew media reported.

Saidyan is being treated at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv.

In October, his condition deteriorated, after a period of improvement as his family and others reported that he had started communicating. At the time, he was in serious condition and feared he would be infected from his wounds.

Saidyan came out of his coma in September and had started breathing on his own months before.

Saidyan set himself on fire outside the Petah Tikva offices of the Department of Rehabilitation for Disabled Soldiers, after years of struggling to receive the treatment he sought for post-traumatic stress disorder, which he said arose out of his service in the Israeli army.

His self-immolation has placed the Department of Defense’s treatment of injured veterans under close scrutiny.

According to the IDF Veterans Association, Saidyan was frustrated with the treatment he received from the authorities. He was recognized by the Defense Department as having 25 percent disability due to his post-traumatic stress disorder, but had requested 50% recognition. The ministry refused, saying at least part of his condition was due to childhood trauma, not his military service.

Saidyan served in the Golani Infantry Brigade during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. He participated in the fighting in Shejaiya, an area of ​​Gaza City that has seen some of the fiercest clashes in the conflict.

Veterans and their advocates have long decried the rehabilitation service as providing woefully insufficient care and subjecting applicants to such a convoluted and tortuous bureaucracy that many have had to hire expensive lawyers to help them navigate the system.

After Saidyan’s self-immolation and the outcry that accompanied it, the defense ministry sought to implement the reforms it had been considering for years, but lacked the political will to carry them out. Oh good.

In May, the government announced that it had reached a compromise on a Defense Ministry plan to reform the treatment of injured veterans.

Earlier this month, an injured veteran who struggled to get authorities to admit his mental health issues were service-related committed suicide.

Itzik Chen, 48, was injured in a parachuting accident in 1992 and was recognized as physically disabled by the Department of Defense, but he was unable to get help with mental health issues.

His requests for help and recognition of the mental illness he suffered in the years following his service have been repeatedly rejected, both by the ministry and by the courts, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

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