Social security is the most common cause of complaints filed with the Ombudsman. Each year, the Department of Social Security handles about 1,500 complaints related to pensions and benefits.
Every year, we deal with approximately 500 complaints related to pensions. Disability pension is the most common subject of complaints, followed by retirement pension. We also deal with survivors’ pensions (widow’s/widower’s/orphan’s pension) and miner’s pensions. People usually disagree with the amount of pension granted, they complain that not all periods of insurance have been taken into account in the calculation or that an incorrect disability onset date was used, among other reasons. Pensions are one of our most successful areas. If we find errors on the part of authorities, we are almost always able to achieve a remedy. This ensures that people receive pensions in correctly calculated amounts, often also with high back payments.
The case of Tomáš’s disability pension
Tomáš is still in his thirties, but since his youth, he has been suffering from a mental illness. He approached us because he had been granted 3rd degree disability pension, but only in the amount of CZK 5,500. Such a low amount was not sufficient to cover his living expenses. We requested the file and found several discrepancies. Firstly, one year that Tomáš had spent studying at a secondary vocational school was not counted towards his entitlement, but more importantly, the medical assessor applied an incorrect procedure in determining disability onset date. It followed from medical reports that Tomáš had been treated at a psychiatric facility for much longer than was acknowledged by the medical assessor. The Czech Social Security Administration recognised the mistake and, following a new assessment, the onset date of Tomáš’s disability was changed to several years earlier. His disability pension thus increased to CZK 11,500 and, in addition, he received over CZK 300,000 in back payments.
The case of Věra’s retirement pension
Věra had a problem with her retirement pension. She did not have any proof of employment for one of her jobs. Nevertheless, she was able to provide testimony of her co-workers from that job. The Czech Social Security Administration did not recognise her employment because the witnesses failed to provide accurate dates and were unable to document that they had worked for the same employer themselves. Apart from that, it also did not recognise the testimony of her husband, who had also worked for the employer, which is at variance with the case law of administrative courts. We convinced the authority that its procedure was incorrect. It could have verified the testimony by, e.g., determining whether the witnesses had the specified period of employment included in their own retirement pensions. In the end, the authority accepted the testimony and included the respective period of employment in Věra’s pension.
Most often, we deal with assistance in material need, State income-support benefits, benefits for people with disabilities, allowance for care, as well as maternity benefits.
A case of a low allowance for care
Martin (88 years old) was granted allowance for care in the amount of CZK 880 per month. In addition to serious hip joints problems, lung and vascular diseases, he also suffered from mild dementia and had problems with short-term memory. Martin’s son moved him to his home so that he and his family could take care of him. They appealed against the Labour Office’s decision on the allowance for care, but did not succeed even after appealing to the Ministry. We found serious shortcomings in the decision on the allowance for care. The medical assessors did not fully ascertain either Martin’s medical condition, nor the impact of the condition on his ability to manage his individual everyday needs. The Ministry’s assessment commission did not take into account the fact that when it comes to dementia, it is crucial for an individual not just to be able to manage a certain need, but rather to realise that such a need even exists. Following our request, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs annulled the original decision and the Ministry newly granted Martin an allowance for care in the amount of CZK 12,800.
A case of a contribution towards housing
Zdeňka applied to the Labour Office for a contribution towards housing. The Office granted the contribution and subsequently requested that she come to the Office and prove that she also met the conditions for receiving the contribution towards housing in the following time periods. However, at that time, Zdeňka was in hospital, so she did not collect the document at the post office. The Office withdrew the contribution on grounds that Zdeňka had not responded to requests and failed to inform the Office of her hospitalisation. We found that while Zdeňka should have informed the Labour Office of the respective facts, she later submitted documents proving that she had been in hospital, which had prevented her from collecting her mail. We explained to the Office that in that case, it should have considered the requests undelivered, rather than unanswered by Zdeňka. In the end, the Labour Office paid the contribution towards housing to Zdeňka.