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Thousands of military veterans have been thrown a lifeline with a possible R1.5 billion likely to be allocated for socio-economic support by the government.
The Department of Military Veterans has asked the National Treasury to allocate these funds in a roll-out of benefits for veterans over the next three years.
This will see eligible military veterans being provided with benefits including medical care, housing and financial support for the education of their dependants.
The Military Veterans Act says military veterans include those who served in the statutory and non-statutory armed forces.
This will include former members of the SA Defence Force (SADF) and those from the former liberation movements including Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (Apla).
Military Veterans director-general Tsepe Motumi said the roll-out of these support services would be biased towards those who were historically disadvantaged. But it would also provide enough support for those from the former SADF.
“Those who were in the SADF used to receive salaries and benefits, while combatants from liberation movements did not enjoy the same benefits.
“But these services are meant for all them, with the aim of alleviating the suffering of many military veterans who fought to ensure our country is where it is today,” said Motumi.
Support for the military veterans was an urgent matter as many of them were living under severe conditions without basic services like medical care, he said.
“Many combatants were not integrated into the SANDF after 1994 for various reasons, including physical suitability.
“For many of them, life has been challenging because of unemployment and the lack of sufficient support for them.
“This will be urgently attended to and we hope that they can come forward and declare themselves to be able to access these benefits,” said Motumi.
The department has already established a database with the names of 57 000 military veterans who are eligible to access the support.
On Monday, the department will start the second phase of the process of updating its database.
It has called on military veterans and their families to come forward to be registered on the database.
This will enable the veterans to receive, among other things, medical care from military hospitals or centres in the areas where they live.
The department is also in discussions with the Department of Housing about the provision of housing for the veterans. But Motumi also admitted that the roll-out was not without its challenges.
As a relatively new department, the issue of capacity was a major hurdle, he said.
There were still many vacancies, especially senior posts, which still need to be filled at the department for it to be fully operational.
“We are capacitated, but not enough.
“We have been using the resources of the defence force for most of the work that has been done.
“But we believe by the end of this financial year (in 2013), we will be fully operational and sufficiently capacitated. It could also be sooner.
“We will need more money but the R1.5 billion that we have requested from the Treasury is specifically for the roll-out of benefits to the military veterans.
“It does not include departmental requirements,” he said.
The department does not have its own building. Motumi said they were expecting the Department of Public Works to provide them with premises.
“That impacts on the extent to which we are accessible to military veterans and how effective we become, but we are hoping that will be sorted out.
“We appeal to those military veterans out there who have not yet come forward to do so.
“This will improve their lives because it creates access to services that they were not able to get before.
“The compilation of this database is vital to this process because if we do not know about them, we cannot assist them,” said Motumi.
Further details regarding the process can be found on the department’s website.