Internally displaced person (although he does not want to be called so) Vladyslav from Luhansk has not been receiving his pension for two months. He has been living in Kyiv for more than two years, and has not yet received a certificate of an internally displaced person. He says that this is a right, not an obligation. Unfortunately, such a principled position also caused the 67-year-old displaced person to remain without means of subsistence.
"Why do I need a displaced person's certificate? I live with my son in Kyiv, he registered me in his private house, I do not need any help from the state. I just want to get my honestly earned pension - about $77. But after I did not receive my pension 2 months ago, I called the bank and I was told that the payment was suspended and that I need to apply to the Pension Fund Board. I applied there and was simply dumbfounded: they told me to go to the Social Security Administration and receive a displaced person's certificate. Only after that they would renew the pension payment. Of course, I refused. Now I am going to hire lawyers and seek justice", - the man told OstroV.
When Vladyslav began to deal with this problem, he saw that he was far from alone. A lot of displaced persons had similar issues.
This information was confirmed by the coordinator of the Donbass SOS organization Olha Hvozdiova. According to her, the problem is not new, but for some reason it has acquired a massive character in recent months. According to the Office of Labor and Social Protection of Population, only in Kyiv, 263 pensioners applied with a corresponding statement.
"This problem has appeared long ago, but recently it has acquired a mass character. Those displaced residents who change their residence permit, and refuse the previously received certificate of the internally displaced person, they actually lose pension payments", - she said.
And these are not the only surprises that residents of the occupied territories of the Crimea and the Donbass, who decided to move to the controlled part of Ukraine, may face.
Back in June 2016, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a scandalous Resolution No. 365, which considerably complicated obtaining social benefits for displaced persons. The most discriminating point is mandatory inspections every six months of the place of residence of such people for appointment, restoration and receipt of all payments.
Additional checks of the actual residence of the IDPs can also be carried out by representatives of the structural units for social protection of the population, as well as by working groups consisting of the employees of the territorial divisions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Security Service, the National Police, the State Financial Inspectorate, the State Audit Service and the Pension Fund of Ukraine.
Thus, the recipients of pensions were made hostages of their place of residence. They have to stay at home for days on end waiting for the commission's representatives, who do not warn about the exact date and time of the visit. After all, if the displaced residents are not found at home, their pensions can be suspended. The recovery procedure will take a lot of time and energy.
Those internally displaced persons who travel (or at least once traveled) to an uncontrolled territory are also in the "risk zone". The law suspends any social benefits if they stayed there for more than 60 days, but sometimes even those who have never visited the occupied territory get into this "blacklist".
"Indeed, one of the biggest problems of elderly IDPs is the issue of suspension of pension payments. In accordance with the Resolution of Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 365 of 08.06.2016, reasons for the termination of pension payments may be non-residency at the place of residence indicated in the IDP certificate, information on the non-residency in the controlled territory for more than 60 days and the inability to pass physical identification", - coordinator for legal assistance of the Right to Protection Foundation Yulia Tralo says.
Mistakes and inaccuracies in information about the place of stay in the controlled territory are quite common. For example, the lawyers of the Right to Protection Foundation have repeatedly been approached by pensioners who moved back in 2014 and since that time they have never entered uncontrolled territory, but they were on the lists of persons who stayed in an uncontrolled territory for more than 60 days (the so-called "SBU lists").
"Also, legal aid was provided to pensioners who were absent from home during the inspections, including those who were in the hospital, went to visit relatives, but did not receive any reports about the inspection and the need to contact the social protection authorities for physical identification", - Yulia Tralo says.
Displaced resident Iryna Semenyuk is one of such pensioners. From the beginning of 2017, her pension and resettlement assistance were suspended. It turned out that the State Border Service had transferred the information of the SBU that she allegedly stayed in uncontrolled territory for more than 60 days. Although the woman went there for three days to see her relatives and visit her husband’s grave.
"I quickly proved that I was right, even without trial, but the restoration of the pension lasted about two months. And all this time I had to survive without money. At some point I even wanted to go to Donetsk and get some assistance there, but I was afraid that the SBU would put me on the blacklist again. Now I get the pension without delays, but verification of my place of residence is very exhausting. I want to go home to Donetsk for a few days again, but I am afraid to be left without money", - the pensioner said.
According to OstroV, the Ministry of Social Policy is currently developing several alternative initiatives that can facilitate the procedure of identification. They want to allow servicemen and public servants not to pass a place of residence check. Secondly, an option is being developed to replace the inspections at home with the identification in Oschadbank. Unfortunately, these are only initiatives and developments so far.
It is necessary to mention pensioners who leave from territory of the occupied Crimea. They are strongly recommended to take the pension documents with them. Otherwise, the Pension Fund of Ukraine will have to make a request through Moscow to send those documents to Kyiv. This may take several months, during which the displaced person will not be paid.
"I wanted to move from Sevastopol to Kyiv six months ago. My daughter began to search information on how to get a pension in Ukraine, because it turned out that Crimea has the status of an occupied peninsula, and a pension that I did not receive in Ukraine all this time, would not be given me back. Although the residents of Donbass get the compensation. In addition, I will have to take my pension papers here and get registered only to get a miserable pension. It seems humiliating. More worse, if I did not bring the documents myself, they would have been transferred through Moscow. Our Pension Fund recognizes the occupation of the Crimea? It is a shame for the state bodies", - he said.
Indeed, according to the Law of Ukraine "On the Protection of Citizens' Rights and Freedoms in the Temporarily Occupied Territory of Ukraine" and the Government Order for the Payment of Pensions and the Provision of Social Services to Ukrainian Citizens Who Live on the Territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, payments are resumed only after the local administration of the Pension Fund gets the necessary documents and when payment at the place of the previous receipt of the pension is terminated.
We should not forget that all social payments for the IDPs are paid only by Oschadbank, there is no alternative. Public organizations also consider this as a violation of rights and discrimination of internally displaced persons.
No status - no pension
Vladyslav heard about all the "ordeals" of the IDP’s pensions, so he asked his son to register him at his house in order to receive a pension on general grounds. It was not easy, the Pension Fund tried to persuade him to get a certificate of an internally displaced person and get a pension. But the man stood his ground, and the Pension Fund had to gave in.
"While I was easily receiving a pension in PrivatBank, I watched in terror as other IDPs stood in terrible queues at Oschadbank and waited for their place of residence check. I heard a lot of stories, how they were deprived of pensions, resettlement payments, how these people restore the payments. Nothing has changed in three years. But I am not going to give up, and I will solve the matter in a court case. I am sure that I will achieve success and I advise everyone who comes across such a thing to do the same", - he said.
As OstroV found out, in early August, the Pension Fund sent letters to its local offices, where it was said that such a practice must be stopped for displaced persons who had no relevant certificate and no paper pension file (that is, they were paid pensions according to electronic files).
The fact is that pensions are now appointed and paid according to electronic and paper files. If a person comes to the Pension Fund with a paper file (regardless of whether he/she is a displaced person or not), he/she will be transferred to the electronic form and will be paid pensions without problems. Unfortunately, files in paper form remained in the uncontrolled territory and have no access, so the displaced persons are assigned the so-called "migratory pensions" - this requires a corresponding status and certificate. Sometimes absurd things happen, and the Pension Fund sends people to the uncontrolled territory to take the file and bring it here. Such advice was given to our hero Vladyslav.
"It is said in the Pension Fund that they will pay only when people will get an IDP certificate again. They reason it by the fact that paper file is in the uncontrolled territory, and they can pay only to displaced persons with a corresponding status according to electronic file. But there are people who changed the registration in 2015, abandoned the certificate, they continued to be paid the pension on the usual terms, but now they were told that this practice is terminated, they are denied payment of pensions until they return to the displaced person's certificate", - Olha Hvozdiova explains.
The Pension Fund officials say in personal communications that changes in legislation are needed to avoid suspension of payments.
"When we tried to find out which changes are worth accepting, they state that it is necessary to get a status of persons who abandoned a status of displaced person. We believe and insist that explanation from the Ministry of Social Policy will be enough, but nothing has happened so far", - coordinator of Donbass SOS says.
Along with that, more and more displaced persons abandon this status. According to O.Hvozdiova, people abandon a displaced person certificate because they faced strict control procedures, they do not need scanty payments, they just want to receive their pensions, but they are forced to get this certificate again.
"We were told in the Pension Fund: just imagine, if we now allow the displaced persons to register, to abandon a certificate and to receive a pension under general conditions, we will have people who will leave the uncontrolled territory, change residence permit and receive a pension under general conditions. When we ask what the difference is, since these people have the right to receive a pension, the Pension Fund simply pretends that it has nothing to do with it, that this decision is from above", - is noted in Donbass SOS.
So, there are several solutions for those who have faced such a problem. Firstly, you can take the path of least resistance and get a displaced person certificate, but at the same time, be ready for inspections of commissions and trips to Oschadbank. Secondly, if there is an opportunity, bring a paper pension file to the Pension Fund. Thirdly, bring a case before the court. There are successful cases on this topic. For example, in May 2017, Podolsky District Court of Kyiv "recognized the inactivity of the Central Joint Board of the Pension Fund of Ukraine in Kyiv, which consists in non-payment of pensions from November 2016", and delivered a judgement to resume payments. At the present time, dozens of such cases are in the work of lawyers of Donbass SOS, so do not be afraid to take legal action.
"If the pensioner-IDP was stopped paying a pension, the following plan of action should be used to protect his/her violated right. First of all, it is necessary to find out the reason for termination of the pension payment in the territorial body of the Pension Fund of Ukraine at the place of actual residence. In order to do this, he/she should send a written request on explaining the reason for payments termination to the Pension Fund body by insured letter with notification of the delivery or personally submit a written request to the Chancery/Reception Office of the PFU (with getting of indication of acceptance on the second copy). After that, it is necessary to wait for a written response from the PFU administration and, depending on the content of such a response, to file a suit", - Yulia Tralo, legal aid coordinator of Right to Protection charity fund, says.
As of today, judicial practice in the affairs of displaced persons-pensioners is quite broad, moreover, it is positive for internally displaced persons in the overwhelming majority, - she assures.
In order to bring a case before the court, copies of a passport, a physical person-taxpayer card (identification code), a certificate of IDP, a pension certificate, responses to appeals to the territorial body of the Pension Fund of Ukraine, a statement of account for which a pension is being acquired (if available), an original receipt for payment of court fees should be prepared. Lawyers of non-governmental organizations will help to make the case.
Pension reform is not for everyone
On July 13, the Verkhovna Rada passed a bill "On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine on increase of pensions" (the so-called pension reform). OstroV wrote about this reform, which has already made a lot of noise in expert circles, in detail. It is curious that there is not a single word about the special aspects of accounting and payment of pensions to internally displaced persons and residents of the occupied territories.
"The Ministry of Social Policy did not include the issues of pensions' payment to displaced persons and residents of the occupied territories in the pension reform despite the fact that there is such a need, because there are problems with obtaining pension payments, they need to be resolved. We offered our own solution. If the Ministry of Social Policy sees other possible options, it can offer them. But up to the present day, it has not had some suggestion or initiative", - Olha Hvozdiova, coordinator of Donbass SOS, says.
And this is despite the fact that the president personally initiated the development of a separate bill that would settle all these issues. At least, this was repeatedly stated by his representative in the Verkhovna Rada Iryna Lutsenko.
"The President offered to develop a framework law separately, which would answer how pensions will be calculated for people who are in certain districts of the Luhansk and the Donetsk oblasts, how pensions will be calculated and paid for people who are in the occupied Crimea, how will the experience, which is needed to retire and receive corresponding pension support, will be calculated for them. This group has already been created in the Cabinet of Ministers on the basis of the Ministry of Social Policy", - the people's deputy said.
There was a decision of the National Council of Reforms of the President of Ukraine to include the issue of displaced persons and citizens living in the uncontrolled territories in pension reform with a separate bill. According to OstroV, there was even an official request (instruction) to the Cabinet of Ministers.
"We were confirmed at the Ministry of Social Policy that it really was, they were instructed to draft a separate bill. They did not disclose the details of what exactly would be written there, but promised to involve the public in its development, but we have no information up to the present day. As far as we know, there is no work in this direction", - Donbass SOS states.
However, pension reform has already been voted in the first reading without these proposals, which, as it turned out, are not even being developed.
In turn, non-governmental organizations and certain people's deputies decided to take the initiative and drafted bill No 6692 "on the right to receive pensions for certain categories of citizens", which offers to:
- simplify the procedure for proving the right for pension payment and its size by cancellation of the obligation to provide paper documents for persons entitled to pensions and forced to leave their place of residence as a result of or in order to avoid the negative consequences of armed conflict, temporary occupation, widespread expressions of violence, violations of human rights and emergency situations of natural or man-caused nature;
- cancel the restrictions on possibility of receiving an unclaimed pension only for three years for this category of persons;
- lay the basis for a special regime and procedure for obtaining pensions for pensioners who stayed living in the territories where governmental authorities temporarily do not fulfill their powers.
According to Olha Hvozdiova, this bill could be the missing link in pension reform, which would settle the points at issue. As of today, it has already been registered in the Verkhovna Rada and was supported by representatives of several factions. However, it is unknown whether it will be possible to pass this bill by the beginning of pension reform.
Vladyslav Bulatchyk, OstroV