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Israel: Court Recognizes Disability Status for a Soldier Suffering from PTSD

(Apr. 29, 2013) On April 4, 2013, the Tel Aviv District Court, sitting as a court of civil appeals, accepted an appeal against a Defense Ministry appeals board’s decision to reject a request submitted by a former enlisted soldier to be recognized as disabled for the purpose of eligibility for care and benefits. (File No. 45284-01-12 (Tel Aviv-Yafo) Anonymous v. Benefits Officer- Ministry of Defense- Rehabilitation Unit (in Hebrew, rendered Apr. 4, 2013), TAKDIN Legal Database (by subscription).)

The appellant was drafted to the Israel Defense Forces, evaluated at the highest level on his medical profile (a score of 97), and served in an elite unit in Judea and Samaria, on the West Bank, during the first Intifada (Palestinian uprising) from 1991 to 1993. In 1998, his medical profile was lowered to 21, and he was released from mandatory reserve service based on his drug use. After an initial improvement, his psychiatric condition deteriorated again with the start of the second Intifada in late 2000. In 2003, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD). (Id.)

Based on evidence submitted in the case, Judge Itshak Inbar held that the soldier’s experiences during his service were unusually violent. Such experiences “could cause significant distress to almost any person, not the least to a young nineteen-year old man.” (Id. ¶34.) Moreover, “[n]ot only were the events experienced by the appellant during his military service capable of causing post- trauma, but the appellant’s distress due to these experiences greatly exceeded [the level of] “moral distress” [as the respondent argued] and was manifested by a feeling of helplessness, emotional detachment, apathy, excessive sleep, depression, etc.” (Id. ¶37.)

Judge Inbar rejected the claim that the Statute of Limitation precluded recognition of the appellant’s request for recognition of his disability as PTSD. He expressed disapproval of the “unusual efforts invested by the respondent to contradict the testimony of the appellant.” (Id. ¶27.) He also rejected the board’s reliance on medical opinions that had been prepared on behalf of the military for use in the trial, instead of on the medical opinions that had been prepared by the appellant’s own physicians for the purpose of providing him treatment. Considering these circumstances, Inbar ordered the military to reimburse the appellant for trial expenses and for legal fees that were incurred in the lengthy legal process that had lasted over ten years. (Id. ¶56.)