Labour Minister George Koutroumanis on Monday presented a new 'Disability Certification Centre' that he said would help get rid of the inequity, corruption and extensive benefit fraud that riddle the current disability pension and benefits system.
The minister said that the new centre will be in charge of coordinating a uniform system that was previously scattered between a number of social insurance funds and local or regional authorities, thus ensuring significant cost savings and closing loopholes that allowed cheating on a large scale.
The centre will operate under the oversight of IKA-ETAM and aims to make the system more transparent, simpler, more efficient and prevent 'fake' pensions or people cashing in double benefits from different sources.
To illustrate the problems of the previous system, Koutroumanis pointed out that IKA was paying 135,000 disability pensions - or 11.7 percent of the total - in 2010, while the same percentage in the farmers' fund OGA was 16.56 percent and in the freelance workers' fund OAEE 10.6 percent.
The ministry's leadership hopes to restrict these percentages to 9 percent for IKA, 12 percent for OGA and 8 percent for OAEE by 2012. In the longterm, they aim to bring these percentages in line with the EU average by 2020.
The operation of the centre for IKA-ETAM pensions has already yielded results, leading to a 6.6 percent reduction in disability-related spending in 2011.
Unveiling plans for the centre in the near future, Koutroumanis said that the number of specialist doctors assessing applications will increase from 250 at present to 500 in the near future and ultimately to 1,000 in order to process the 28-30,000 applications for disability pensions received each month and reply to pension applications within roughly 40 days.
There are currently 324,000 people receiving disability pensions in Greece (in a population of roughly 11 million), while there are hundreds of thousands more that are eligible for various kinds of benefits, tax relief and other assistance. The government's aim is to quickly draw up a national register of persons with disabilities to be coordinated by the labour ministry and a register of those qualifying for various kinds of benefits and welfare.