Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) Kebby Maphatsoe, whose priority is the veterans part of the defence portfolio, at the weekend said funds have had to be reprioritised and the department’s basic education support trimmed.
This he ascribed to an increase in the demand for military veterans’ benefits combined with budget cuts.
“For new applications for the 2018 academic year, the maximum benefit will be R20 000 per learner per annum. This is to ensure in spite of budgetary constraints, all military veterans and their beneficiaries who qualify are provided with this important benefit,” he is reported as having said by SAnews.
For continuing learners, the threshold remains at R42 500 in 2018. In 2019 the maximum amount for all learners in basic education will be capped at R20 000.
In 2017 the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) provided education support to 7 712 military veterans and their dependants.
“For the 2018 academic year the number of applicants increased to 11 600, with about 4 000 new applicants. This increase saw the DMV take immediate steps to ensure available resources are spread among all qualifying and deserving applicants,” the Deputy Minister said.
In addition to ta spike in new applications, Maphatsoe said the increase in benefits and National Treasury budget cuts meant the DMV had to tighten its belt.
“The increase in demand for benefits resulted in a serious budget shortfall for DMV from the previous financial year. Further budget cuts announced by National Treasury in December, five percent in the case of the DMV, further increased this shortfall,” he said.
A total of 11 benefits are listed in the Military Veterans Act, all of which have to be funded by a limited budget. These include burial support, housing, healthcare, pension, public transport subsidy, employment placement, education and skills training, memorialisation of fallen veterans, counselling and compensation for disabled veterans.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Deputy Minister Maphatsoe met with the SA National Military Veterans Association (SANMVA) and its affiliate associations earlier in January to explain the financial pressures facing the DMV and solicit support for its proposals.
Acting Director General, Max Ozinsky, said the department is open to engagement on solutions and models on how to better roll out benefits to military veterans.
The DMV is also mandated to continue funding military veterans and dependants studying at higher education institutions. This is subject to beneficiaries meeting the DMV qualifying criteria.
“In line with the statement of the President Jacob Zuma on December 16 as regards provision of free education to poor and working class students, the DMV will engage the Department of Higher Education and Training and National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
“This is to ensure continuing students studying in public higher education institutions who meet the criteria will be provided with education support benefit through NSFAS,” according to the DMV.