Soldiers Injured in Artsakh War Receive Funds from New Foundation


Varoujan Avedikian

By Alin K. Gregorian

Mirror-Spectator Staff

YEREVAN — The death toll of soldiers killed in the line of duty while defending Artsakh sadly to seems continue unabated a quarter of a century after Armenians there sought independence from Azeri rule.

Now, the government of Armenia has created a program to pay the families of soldiers injured or killed by Azerbaijan. The new entity, Insurance Foundation for Servicemen, went into effect on January 1, 2017.

A bill which lay the groundwork for this entity’s foundation was adopted in parliament last year.

The soldiers and families who are being helped currently are those that have been injured or killed in 2017, according to Varoujan Avedikian, the CEO of the foundation, as well as the head of the legal department of the Central Bank of Armenia.

Avedikian stressed that one of the factors setting this initiative apart from many others conducted by the government was its transparency. In fact, the fund’s website lists donations as well as expenditures in real time.

Avedikian explained that the amounts handed out vary for rank as well as death versus severity of injury, but are figures designed to allow survivors to lead comfortable lives, giving families about $120,0000 to $160,000.

“Our challenge is to make it as transparent our daily operations, who our donors are, who is compensated,” he said. “We open an account ourselves for each beneficiary.” Beneficiaries are parents, children and spouses. However, in some cases, siblings who are underage or have disabilities, however, can receive payment.

Currently the fund has a total of $5.7 million and has disbursed $436,000 to 20 families.

Generally, a lump sum of about $20,000 is given and the rest of the money is disbursed in monthly payments of $400-$600 for 20 years, which are deposited in special accounts.

“Each donation is shown on the website in real time. We also publish the cases of those getting compensation,” he said.

There is a very short time lag from the time the injury or death occurs to the family receiving funds. Generally, after the information is verified, he said, it takes three days for the opening of an account.

“This scheme was long overdue and was mainly in response to the 2016 April war,” Avedikian said.

Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan is the head of the foundation. On the group’s website, he states, in part, “I assure you that the Foundation operates responsibly, is fully accountable to the public and operates on the principle of transparency. It is evident, that there is no possible way to comfort a family that has lost a son, however with this Foundation we can and will do the very least: provide monetary aid and a stable financial source for these families. We are ready to take care of the families of those heroes, who gave their lives for the defense of their Homeland. This is our — the State’s and the public’s — sacred duty. The Foundation will also make it possible for wounded soldiers to be sure that throughout their recuperation the will concentrate only on their health and on making plans for the future, while the State and the public provide constant and thorough support.”

The work for managing the fund is done gratis by Avedikian and his team, comprising accountants, planners and lawyers all on the payroll of the Central Bank of Armenia.

“In the next five years, the Central Bank will manage the fund free of charge. The Central Bank established a board that has nine members, three from the bank, three appointed from the government, three from non-governmental organizations working with veterans and soldiers’ families, as well as a representative of the government opposition, from the Tsarukyan faction,” Avedikian explained.

Money for the fund is collected two ways: from a mandatory tax of 1,000 drams per month from every employed person as well as voluntary donations.

Avedikian said the monthly donations come from the “ideology that every Armenian gets the same protection from our soldiers. They pay an equal amount like a life insurance scheme. Everyone is in this national scheme.”

He added, “donations [from volunteers] are increasing every month. And almost 70 percent come from Armenia.”

“This is our small thanks to those men, who are no longer able to fight for the wellbeing of their families, because they died or were injured while fighting for us. By taking this step we acknowledge that our nation and our nation’s defense is the greatest purpose and each of us is a means of fulfilling that purpose,” Avedikian added.

The vast majority of donations come from Armenia, he stressed.

“I was one of the initiators of this reform, and currently am the CEO of the Foundation. I thought this is a necessity for our country,” Avedikian said. That way, he said, the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice will be ok.

Avedikian said the fund will soon issue a book for the families in order to help guide them with the money, as most have had little experience with money management.

Avedikian noted that the organization is trying to register a higher profile on social media and expand the group’s efforts in the diaspora.

If the fund has enough resources, Avedikian said, the fund will move to pay out to families of soldiers who were killed or severely injured before 2017. While making the fund big enough to help the families of soldiers killed or severely injured from years past, he said nothing would make him happier than seeing the need for the fund to disappear.

Avedikian, who has headed the Central Bank’s legal department since 2006, has ties to the Boston area. He received a master’s degree from Boston University’s School of Law in financial and banking law, as well as a master’s degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

More about the foundation can be found on the group’s website (www.1000plus.am), which is available in four languages and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/1000-302935753436828/).