Monday, January 18, 2016

Government has existing assistance programs for pensioners

Countering criticisms alleging the administration lacks compassion to senior citizens for vetoing the Social Security System (SSS) pension hike, Undersecretary Manolo Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) said the Aquino government is actually carrying out a number of measures that uplift the lives of the pensioners.

Usec Quezon III said the administration has many programs for senior citizens for the past five and a half years.

For instance, the government imposed mandatory PhilHealth coverage for all senior citizens in June last year with more than 4.8 million senior citizens being enlisted under the healthcare program.

This is done by amending the 2010 Expanded Senior Citizens Act signed by President Aquino in 2014.

Another form of assistance is for indigent senior citizens who received "augmented social pension," Quezon said.

"Ang naging batayan nito ay ang 2010 Expanded Senior Citizens Act na pinirmahan noong Pebrero 2010," he noted.

"Kasama sa batas na ito ang isang probisyon na dagdagan ang pondo para sa medical needs ng mga indigent senior citizens sa paraan ng P500 monthly pension."

From 2011 to May 2015, some 937,556 senior citizens are under the social pension program, he said.

Also, the government adjusted the age limit for senior citizens to qualify for indigent 'senior citizens’ pension. Quezon said that from 2011 to 2014, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) prioritized senior citizens aged 77 years and above.

And in 2015, seniors citizens with ages from 65 years old and above qualified under the program. In that year alone, Quezon said 760,736 indigent senior citizens were served by the government.

Also, SSS pension increased by five percent on May 31, 2014.

The SSS also increased the funeral benefits from a fixed amount of P20,000 to a maximum amount of P40,000 depending on the number of contributions and average monthly salary credit as of August 2014.

SSS also put up a voluntary provident fund, called the Personal Equity and Savings Option (PESO) fund for SSS members to provide more avenues for retirement security.

And, together with the national government, the SSS opened a P7-billion educational assistance loan program that started in 2012. And, as of June 2015, over P3.1-billion worth of loans have been disbursed for 67,299 qualified student beneficiaries, Quezon explained.

To lessen the burden for pensioners, SSS implemented two penalty condonation programs in 2011 and 2012 allowing delinquent beneficiaries to once again join the SSS.

Some 406,421 delinquent member borrowers benefitted from this program.

Quezon defended the President after he vetoed the proposal asking for P2,000 across-the-board increase in SSS pension saying the President did the right decision by choosing to prolong the life of the SSS fund.

"I think we should understand the President’s reasoning in doing this. Lahat naman ng bumabayad ng SSS ay mga miyembro nito at may obligasyon ang pondo na mabayaran sila at pati ang mga benepisyo," he said. (PCOO News Release)

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