Dealing with services and institutions from Greece has always been a challenge, but many Greek Australians are finding the experience more frustrating than ever. A large number of Greek pension recipients are facing significant delays in payments, while in several cases payment has abruptly ceased – without explanation.
Neos Kosmos has been inundated with complaints by frustrated elders, who have tried in vain to contact the social security services of Greece seeking a response on why their pensions have not been paid.
In one case, a Greek Australian pensioner lodged an application to Greece through Centrelink in 2016 and is still waiting for a pension to be granted by the Social Security Foundation (IKA), despite having recently received confirmation that his application has been processed. Another Greek Australian eligible for a pension by the Agricultural Insurance Organisation (OGA), has reported that the Greek fund has misinformed Centrelink that pension payments have gone through, while this has never happened.
Similar incidents have been reported by Greek pensioners living in the United States. On more than one occasion, Greek institutions have been sending out payment slips to pensioners leading them to the conclusion that the delays were the fault of the Greek banks tasked with sending funds to financial institutions abroad. IKA does not disclose which bank is processing payments on their behalf, which makes it difficult to resolve the issue. As far as Australia is concerned, Centrelink is unable to intervene, however delays do not affect the sum of pensions paid by Australian funds.
One explanation for delays may lie in the recent reforms of the pension system, which make it mandatory for eligible pensioners to supply a ‘life certificate’ each year. Only the original document is accepted by relevant services, which means that pension payments may stop automatically if it is delayed or is somehow filed incorrectly. Eligible pensioners should also file an official form in which it they are required to provide their Greek tax file number (AFM) along with their social security number (AMKA) – if they don’t have either, they will have to appoint a proxy to source the numbers on their behalf, at the relevant tax office and citizens service centres (KEP).
In an effort to resolve the issue, the Consul General of Greece in Melbourne, Dimitrios Michalopoulos, told Neos Kosmos that he would try to contact all relevant services in Greece.
“We were informed by Neos Kosmos about this issue and we intend to communicate the concerns of the Greek Australian community to the ministries and relevant services in Athens. I believe it is clear to everyone that the Consulate is not responsible for this issue, but we need to find a way to resolve this problem in a way that will facilitate the community, particularly the elders who have not many options to proceed in different actions. I am not certain that I will be able to resolve this, but I can at least make Athens aware of the problem,” Mr Michalopoulos said.
Neos Kosmos has also tried to contact social security services and funds in Greece to no avail.