The way I see it, Social Security is a wonderful institution.
Now, I would be the first to admit that prior to my becoming intimately involved with the workings of the renowned institution, I used to give them people some WUD!
I mean, for the life of me, I could not understand why these people were taking out ‘so much money,’ out of my hard earned salary—and for what??
As God would design, I later had the opportunity o apply at the institution for employment and I prepared myself well. I read about all aspects, as to the workings of the ‘SCHEME.’
By the way, I have said it in many forums that they need to eliminate that word SCHEME. You know SCHEME always has a negative connotation, but all over the world, they insist on referring to it as a SCHEME.
Well, so versed was I during the interview, that the interviewers were thoroughly impressed and I was hired.
I started as an Inspector and later went into the Public Relations Department on a big scale, as I was able to bring on stream, two key programs which are still ongoing:
‘Social Security Five’ (radio) and ‘Social Security and You’ (television).
So much so, that I was sometimes referred to as ‘the face and voice of Social Security.’ That is my legacy with the institution.
So, I think that I can speak on certain matters as I have heard certain things branded about which may not be entirely accurate.
Two of the pensions offered by the institution are: Age pension and Assistance pension.
The Age pension is given to an individual who has made at least 500 contributions to the fund during his/ her working life and will be given to the individual for the remainder of his/ her life, based on a set criterion which involves his/her three best years of salary etc.
By the way, even now, a person can check at the nearest Social Security office and the good folks there will be able to give you an idea of what your age pension would look like, in advance of your first cheque, so that you can plan your retirement years properly.
The assistance pension on the other hand, is a charity affair: Someone and in most cases, persons who never even contributed to the fund or maybe contributed and did not get to the 500 contribution mark and thus only received a GRANT, may be deemed to be in NEED and after the proper investigations are conducted and the persons qualify, they would receive a charitable amount, for as long as the need lasts.
I mean, maybe the persons may inherit some wealth later—who knows?
So, a lot of the persons getting the assistance pension, are persons who have contributed significantly to the welfare of our beautiful federation and worked really hard.
However, they never got the opportunity to contribute to the fund, because their work life effectively ended before the Social Security fund started, in 1978.
So, if they are deemed to be in need, they are given this token charity of about $250.00 per month.
What a lot of persons do not realize however, is that it is a PRIVILEGE and not a RIGHT!
I remember investigating one such case of ‘need’ and when I started to ask the lady certain questions, she exclaimed: ‘All ah dat! I thought once I applied, you all would just give me the cheque!’
The more questions I asked in my effort to establish NEED, the more frustrated she became.
When I asked her if she had a bank account and she responded in the affirmative, I further asked her how much was on the account. She told me she had $80,000.00 on the account. I asked her why she was applying for an Assistance pension, when she had so much money on an account.
Her response was instructive: ‘That is to bury me!’
Well I newa!
Of course that application was denied.
However, there are persons who are in genuine need and the institution helps them in a big way, for as long as the need lasts.
However, what some persons are not aware of is that one of the polices of the Social Security Board (whether considered fair or unfair) , is that once an individual is getting the charitable pension and then someone places them in an institution like a Seniors’ home, the Social Security Board will withdraw the pension.
Is like, you have a girlfriend and you are looking after her and then you hear that she has another man, won’t you stop your charitable giving too?
Well, maybe that is a poor example but it is something like that.
I also remember a case when a certain individual was looking after an old lady (true story) and she apparently willed him the house and land. He applied for the assistance pension on her behalf and life was rosy.
She took ill and he felt burdened and went and put her in one of the Seniors’ homes on the island, without alerting the Social Security Board.
When the Social Security Board was informed, he was called in and notified that he had to pay back every cent, from the time he placed the lady in the home.
You know what the man told me and Mr. Vernel Powell (Asst. Director in Nevis)?
‘I thought the woman was going to die, so I placed her in the home, but since she gone in there, she getting better and she will not die!”
He was so aggrieved that the woman did not die quickly!
Well I newa!
So folks, there is a big difference between the Age pension, to which you contributed and the Assistance pension, to which you probably did not even contribute towards.
As I close, my admonition is for us to constantly look out for each other. There are people all round us who are worse off than us—- no matter how bad our situation is. However, God wants us to be our ‘brother’s keeper.’
That’s the way I see it. How do you see it?