This is a story about how the system works and works well.
Many soldiers, especially lone soldiers accumulate debt to Israeli social security (Bituach Leumi). for most people, social security is paid monthly, and come out straight from your salary by the employer. how can a soldier, employed by the IDF have an outstanding debt to social security?
Until the age of 18, a minor’s parents pay for his or her social security.
Most soldiers get drafted between the age of 18 to 19 (right after high school). Many of these high schoolers work for a living (sometimes as minors), and as employees, their employer pays for Social Security.
If one is drafted until the age of 19 – there’s an automatic waiver of any debt to social security. this is the case for most.
However, for Lone Soldiers, who may or may not be New immigrants (“Olim Chadshim”), or for draftees who’s service has been deferred by the IDF – for a medical reason, for academic education, attending Yeshiva, or because of leaving Israel for a diplomatic or immigration – the recruitment date could be well over 19.
If someone is drafted before the age of 21 – there will be no debt. if you are drafted when you are 21 + one day – you owe, retroactively, all the social security back pay from the age of 18. that could be a few thousand shekels.
Many soldiers and lone soldiers are completely unaware of any debt existing because usually, as the notice about the debt is sent to the last known address. if you haven’t updated your address, or you have been living in soldier housing or Couchsurfing you are likely to miss it.
One soldier, a Charedi youth, was expelled from his home and his community due to his decision to enlist to the IDF. mail arrived – probably – to his parents’ house, but they were not on speaking terms, and they never passed it on. he found out about debt to social security only after his ATM card was revoked.
You see, After notice is sent, the social security collection branch is likely to start procedures including freezing funds from a bank account. and when you are a soldier, a lone soldier especially, and you have funds frozen, it could create complications. most soldiers live on a tight budget and are not able to absorb such events.
In many cases, a single event of freezing funds, even for a few hundred shekels (little own thousands), could lead to a financial snowball resulting in bounced checks, defaulting on loans, or credit card payment.
After one too many cases like this, we in NADAN called the office of the CEO of Social Security. within the hour, we were on the phone with one of his chief advisors. after one day, we had a meeting, on the books, with the national collection agents.
Two weeks later, during the meeting, we explained how soldiers are unlikely to receive mail and not be able to take care of their affairs. and even if they do, they can’t take care of it on time, due to the demanding nature of the IDF service.
They agreed with us immediately and implemented a change in policy after which a letter would no longer be enough to start collection procedures, and they will make a special effort for IDF soldiers to reach them via phone.
Also, a policy change was made so that soldier who gets drafted will be eligible for their debt being cleared until they are 22 (and not 21) if they can prove they were drafted later due to the IDF decision. see this form here.
It was a pleasure to see the system work so well, so fast, which is to say a lot about a government branch that usually credited for being difficult.