Is SSS misleading members?
MUCH HAS been written about the recently published new policy of the Social Security System on members who have reached the age of 65 with less than 120 monthly contributions. Widely criticized, the policy nevertheless was not profoundly discussed for the enlightenment of the public. And media interviews with SSS officials have not been helpful either. And despicable are the press releases that are totally misleading, like the ones telling the public that SSS terms for pensions have been softened, as if the policy is beneficial to members.
Prior to this policy:
- An employee who has not yet reached the age of 60 is subject to compulsory coverage.
- In case of death, if he had paid at least 36 monthly contributions, his primary beneficiaries are entitled to survivors’ pension; or, if less than 36 months, to lump sum. If there are no primary beneficiaries, his secondary beneficiaries are entitled to lump sum regardless of the number of contributions paid.
3. A member who has paid at least 120 monthly contributions and has reached the age of 60 and is already separated from employment, or has reached the age of 65 is entitled to retirement pension.
In case of separation from employment and he wishes to complete the required number of contributions for him to qualify for retirement pension, or for his primary beneficiaries to qualify for survivors’ pension, he is allowed to continue paying voluntary contributions, regardless of his age and number of contributions paid.
The following are the effects of the new policy on a member initially covered at age 56 or above:
- He will never be entitled to retirement pension because upon reaching age of 65, he could not have possibly completed the required 120 monthly contributions and he is no longer allowed to continue paying contributions because he is already more than 55 years old at the time of his coverage. Instead, he is entitled to a lump sum retirement benefit equivalent to the refund of contributions, plus interest.
2. In case a member who has already celebrated his 65th birthday dies, the only benefit due is the funeral benefit. No survivors’ pension; and no lump sum unless he did not avail of the lump sum prior to his death, in which case the same is to be paid to his legal heirs.
In view of this new policy, the SSS might as well tell this categorical and truthful advice to members who have less than 120 monthly contributions or were covered at or after age 56: “Dying at age of 65 or over is extremely disadvantageous to your family—there will be no death benefit due, only the refund of your contributions!”
In other words, a member who has less than 120 monthly contributions or has been covered at or after age 56 must die before celebrating his 65th birthday so that his family may enjoy the death benefit. But the Social Security Law explicitly cites the qualifications for entitlement to death benefit and mentions nothing regarding the disqualification for deaths at age of 65 or over. So which will prevail—the SS Law or the policy in question?
—OSCAR R. NAVALES,