Military veterans budget increases

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The Department of Military Veterans will be getting more money over the next three years to carry out its mandate of supporting military veterans and their dependents. This will see houses built, bursaries awarded and memorials erected.

The Department of Military Veterans has been allocated R701 million in 2020/21 and R743 million in 2021/22, up from R662 million for 2019/20, according to February’s Estimates of National Expenditure (ENEs). Over the medium term, the Department of Military Veterans will focus on providing housing, health care and education, training and skills development programmes to veterans and their dependants.

According to the ENEs, the department plans to provide 1 000 houses to military veterans in 2018/19, 400 in 2019/20, 500 the following year and 600 the year after. This compares to just 130 houses in 2015/16. “Although the department has significantly underperformed in the past, there are ongoing engagements between the Department of Military Veterans and the Department of Human Settlements to expedite the delivery of housing to military veterans. Targets over the medium term have been reduced to align with historical performance and available budget,” the ENE stated.

Through the Socioeconomic Support programme, the department expects to deliver 1 500 houses at a projected cost of R111 million over the MTEF (three year Medium Term Expenditure Framework) period. The provincial departments of human settlements will construct the houses on behalf of the department, as per the terms of the department’s housing delivery model.

The department fully subsidises eligible military veterans’ health care through the South African Military Health Service. Over the period ahead, the department plans to increase the number of military veterans accessing health care services, from 17 000 in 2018/19 to 20 000 in 2021/22. Due to the planned increase in veterans accessing health care services, spending in the subprogramme is expected to increase at an average annual rate of 6%, from R80.9 million in 2018/19 to R96.4 million in 2021/22.

In comparison, 17 000 veterans were to be provided with access to healthcare in 2018/19, up from 16 673 the year before and 8 264 in 2015/16.

The department plans to provide 7 466 education and training bursaries to military veterans and their dependants each year over the medium term. For this purpose, R465 million is allocated over the period in the Socioeconomic Support programme, and a memorandum of understanding between the department, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and the Department of Basic Education is being implemented. As per the memorandum of understanding, support to military veterans and their dependants is given in the form of a departmental bursary using funds transferred to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. Similar arrangements have been made with the Department of Basic Education to enable eligible military veterans’ dependants to access primary and secondary schooling in public schools, especially for quintiles 4 to 5.

In 2015/16 the Department provided 5 482 bursaries and 7 146 the following year. This increased to 7 702 in 2017/18 and 10 700 in 2018/19.

A projected 18 000 veterans and their dependants are expected to benefit from training and skills development programmes over the medium term. These programmes are offered through accredited service providers at a projected cost of R224 million over the period, the ENEs stated.

Military veterans are also being honoured with the erection of memorial sites. Two memorials were erected in 2015/16; two the following year but none in 2017/18 mainly due to lack of capacity within the Heritage, Memorials, Burials and Honours subprogramme, according to the ENEs. Three memorials are planned to be erected each year over the next four years.