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More than 36,000 "unhealthy" recipients of social benefits cost the state 2.5 billion euro

20 March 2012 / 19:03:20  GRReporter
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Shocking cases of fraud in the payment of social benefits have emerged from the Greek Ministry of Health. A woman "forgot" to register the death of her mother in 2006 and since then, she managed to "save" 17 thousand euro in benefits. An elderly  woman was receiving seventeen types of total benefits.

People with mental derangement filled in census records themselves. A "blind" taxi driver offered his services on the island of Zakynthos. From next month, the state will stop paying benefits to 36,294 persons who have not appeared in customer service centres to take part in the census. In practice, it is about every one out of six persons who have received benefits so far. This will save the treasury 110 million euro.

All who have received benefits illegally will have to repay the amounts. Most likely, criminal persecution will be started against them. "In some cases, it seems that a criminal group is involved and criminal evaluation is necessary. We see that in some areas, a disability affects 1% of the population, while in others it reaches 4% or 5% but it cannot be proved," said Deputy Minister Markos Bolaris.

The Ministry is planning a new "purge" which will begin in the coming days. They believe that the number of alleged "sufferers" is so high that it is possible the benefits paid to date to drop by half. According to the Deputy Minister, there are continuous calls from citizens alerting of cases of illegal social security benefits.

The Ministry obtained a central electronic database through the census, which ended a week ago. With the introduction of epidemiological data from the World Health Organisation, the onset of various diseases among the population will be monitored. When deviations are noted, control bodies will carry out additional checks to reveal unclear cases. Furthermore, in the next two months, the benefits will be paid by a bank transfer rather than by regional offices, which will provide for a more efficient control.

The number of people receiving benefits has been increasing at a particularly rapid pace in recent years. Hundreds of alleged blind, deaf and dumb and people with severe disability presented the necessary documents to the authorities. According to epidemiological data, Greece is a country with a high percentage of patients affected by specific diseases. It so happened that these diseases had provided social benefits for the "ill" people.

In 2009, the number of people receiving benefits for blindness in the region of Pieria was 354. In 2010, when the last local elections were held, their number reached 676 and last year, their number came down to 590. Of these, only 270 appeared at this year's census.

In the region of Viotia, the number of people receiving benefits for severe disability in 2009 was 1,423 and in 2011, it reached 1,678. Only 1,297, or 381 people less, went to the census.
In 2009, the number of recipients of severe disability benefits in the area of ​​Thessaloniki was 12,000. In 2010, this increased to 13,672, and last year it was 13,648. The census involved 1,343 less people. In the same area, the number of people receiving mobility benefits (provided for people with paralysis or amputated lower limbs) was 972 in 2009. In 2010, this increased to 1,057 and a year later – to 1,104. The census involved 848 people.

In Iraklio in Crete, 2,168 people received severe disability benefits in 2011. Their final number was found to be 196 less.

The situation with deaf and dumb people is similar. In Thessaloniki, they numbered 278 last year and 260 in the census. In Karditsa, 212 from 251 in 2011 were in the census. The ratios are the same in the regions of Achaia, Attica and Evia.

Data analysis shows significant differences between different administrative areas where a new verification is necessary. The total number of inhabitants of the area of Phokida receiving all kinds of social benefits is only 0.93 per cent of the total population. They are 1.12 per cent on the Cyclades and 1.22 per cent in Lasiti.

Quite different, however, is the situation in the Rodopi area, where the percentage of residents receiving benefits is three times higher than in the area Phokida - 3.34 per cent. The number of sick people is high in the region of western Attica - 2.97 per cent and 2.94 per cent in the area of Evros.

In an interview with SKY TV, the Health Minister accused municipal authorities and physicians of granting social benefits to people who should not receive any. "The state will require the amount of 2.5 billion euro that was taken illegally," said Andreas Loverdos.

In some cases, the provision of medical certificates was particularly shocking. In one case, a respiratory physician issued a certificate of mental retardation, based on which the person was receiving social benefits. A gynaecologist diagnosed asthma and another colleague certified that the patient was suffering from depression.



Tags: SocietySocial benefitsCensusIllegal receptsAndreas Leverdos
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