Figures supplied by Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Kebby Maphatsoe indicate there is an improvement in services for veterans including areas such as healthcare, housing and the use of public transport.
He told the National Assembly during the defence budget vote it was important to provide access to healthcare for the country’s military veterans because the majority of them were now “in their middle age or elderly and infirm”.
In the 2014/15 financial year access to various medical facilities was provided for 13 923 military veterans and in 2015/16 this increased by 743 Maphatsoe said adding the health and wellness support sector of the military veterans budget has been allocated for R50 million for the current financial year.
He told MPs housing was a challenge for the Department of Military Veterans because “we established the DMV cannot build houses itself, but must co-operate with other departments and other spheres of government to attain this task. We are happy and welcome that the Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, has made a commitment and set targets the DMV accepts”.
The allocation for housing in the DMV budget is R138 million.
According to Maphatsoe it should not be too long before registered military veterans can make use of public transport at a reduced fee. The DMV is finalising a memorandum of understanding and service level agreement with the Department of Transport.
“The signing will open an opportunity for subsidised transport costs for military veterans,” he said.
Work done by the DMV had found 1 854 military veterans who are what he termed “worse off” and they will be receiving a social relief or distress grant to assist them. They are military veterans who do not qualify for any form of special pension of government grant and do not have any income at all.
The DMV budget for 2016/17 totals R597,6 million, an increase of three percent over the previous financial year.
Shahid Esau, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow deputy minister of defence and military veterans, had a somewhat different set of figures for MPs.
According to him in the 2014/15 financial year, out of 58 000 military veterans 693 received social security support; 6 795 received healthcare support; 2 450 received training and skills; 645 received bursaries; 1 696 accessed job opportunities; 134 were approved for houses; 160 veteran families received burial support, 41 houses were built for veterans and nine veterans’ houses were “rescued” from repossession.
Esau also pointed out that the national military veterans database was only 37% verified which denies 63% of veterans from receiving any benefits.
“Now the DMV wants to amend the legislation and regulations to make dependents beneficiaries of burial support and healthcare while the majority of veterans are excluded. How can that be just and fair given the limited resources for military veterans?” he asked.