Brussels, 30 May 2013
Disability benefits: Commission refers Slovakia to Court of Justice for discriminating against severely disabled people living abroad
The European Commission has referred the Slovak Republic to the EU's Court of Justice for not paying disability benefits to severely disabled persons living in other Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, in breach of EU law on social security coordination.
Under Slovak law, three Slovak care benefits for the severely disabled, namely the carer's allowance ('peňažný príspevok na opatrovanie'), disability allowance ('peňažný príspevok na osobnú asistenciu') and cash allowance for compensation of increased costs for severely disabled persons ('peňažný príspevok na kompenzáciu zvýšených výdavkov') are provided only to those who live in Slovakia.
According to the case-law of the EU's Court of Justice, cash benefits for long-term care which improve the standard of living of persons in need of care and compensate for the additional expense brought about by their condition, must be regarded as a sickness benefit within the meaning of Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems. The entitlement to these cash benefits cannot be conditional on the person living in the Member State where he or she claims the benefit. This rule enables persons who are dependent on care to move to another Member State whilst retaining their right to cash benefits for long-term care from their country of insurance.
The Commission considers that the three Slovak benefits (carer's allowance, disability allowance and cash allowance for compensation of increased costs for severely disabled persons) should, in view of their purpose and legally defined entitlement criteria, be provided also to persons who are insured in Slovakia and who live in another EU Member State, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. The restriction on export of these benefits is contrary to EU law.
The Commission became aware of the infringement at issue through the many complaints it has received from Slovak pensioners and their family members living abroad.
In October 2012, the Commission requested the Slovak Republic to end this discrimination against people living abroad but no measures to this end have been notified to the Commission (MEMO/12/794). On the contrary, the Slovak authorities, in their official reply to the Commission, confirmed that the benefits would not be paid to severely disabled persons living in another Member State than Slovakia. Slovakia argued that the benefits are social assistance benefits which do not fall within the scope of Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 and that the benefits are not, in any way, linked to the risk covered by that Regulation. However, on the basis of the case law of the EU's Court of Justice, the Commission does not agree with the Slovak authorities' view.
For more information on infringement procedures:
On the May infringement package decisions: MEMO/13/470
For further information on EU social coordination:
Homepage of László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/andor/index_en.htm
Follow László Andor on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LaszloAndorEU
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