José Costa was left without a pension overnight. He later discovered that his social security number had been mistakenly assigned to another man with the same name and born on the same day. Once the problem was identified, the most difficult thing was to find the solution. If you have a headache that you can’t solve either, tell us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are things that are not for everyone: José Costa has just turned 93 years old. However, there are also things that only happen to the best: let this man from the parish of Vinha da Rainha, in Soure, Coimbra, say so when, in June 2020, he wanted to lift the reform.
“From time to time I go to the cash desk, to the mutual fund, which is here, and I update the passbook. But there was nothing there,” José Costa tells the team of TVI / CNN Portugal report.
José and his family were vigilant, but they didn’t value what they thought was just a late Social Security payment. “It could be a computer error or a problem because we are starting from pandemics,” reports Luís Costa, José’s grandson.
The problem is that José’s renovation did not arrive in June 2020, nor in July, nor in August, let alone in September of that year.
“I was wondering what was going on. After all, I wasn’t dead yet!” Reacted the pensioner, with some indignation.
Without reform, and in the midst of a pandemic, José Costa had the chance to live in the countryside, alongside his wife and daughter. “We have, around our house, four hectares of land. We have wine, we have olive oil, we have potatoes, we just don’t have rice,” says José, with pride in their eyes, to the journalists of Happens to the best.
Be that as it may, pension money was still scarce. That is why, five months after he stopped arriving, the family was quick to seek explanations.
“My dad made arrangements with my husband, and they went to social security in Soure, which is the closest. When they got there, Aurora said ‘Oh, but you…not even your tax number n t is yours, nor the social security number, nothing is yours, it belongs to another man”, says Maria Zélia, only daughter of José Costa.
It sounds like a lie, but it’s true. In the Social Security records, José Costa was, after all, someone else. It’s just that in Soure there are two men with very similar names. Our interlocutor is José Costa, the other man’s name is José da Costa, and they were both born on the exact same day, month and year. It is true that both have citizen card numbers that differentiate them, but the similarities were enough for Social Security, at one point, to assign José Costa’s social identification number to the other José, da Coast. Thus, the pension of our interlocutor was paid to the wrong person.
“I called Lisbon, I have a very nice person at Social Security, and there they told me there was a mistake. Mr. José da Costa went to get his citizenship card because he was a widower. His father’s number”, says Maria Zélia.
And so, José Costa found himself without a pension. The man does not comply, as he not only guarantees that the money is missing, but that it is rightfully his. However, what will be the real degree of culpability of Social Security in this case?
“It’s bad enough that Social Security has assigned the same number to two different people. Worse, after learning of the mistake he made, he continues to penalize a citizen by not paying him what is due to him. Social Security was wrong and doubly wrong, “said Paulo Veiga e Moura, lawyer specializing in administrative law.
In an attempt to recover José’s retirement, this family has set up a real intervention team. They wrote letters, emailed, called and went to Social Security. But nothing was done and, in the middle of this odyssey, age started to speak louder.
“My grandfather began to have periods of hallucinations due to lack of sleep and food. Obviously a person of this age is affected by a situation of this nature”, confides the grandson to TVI and CNN Portugal .
Her father’s state of health deteriorating and the knot taking time to untie, Zélia, an only daughter, decides to go to the source of the problem and goes in search of her father’s namesake, that is to say say the man who had the same name and now the same social identification number as José Costa.
“I went to see the lord’s daughter, and she said to me ‘yes, my father receives a pension which is not his, every month. But I cannot return the money to you, it must be the national pension center or social security.’ I can’t give you the money from hand to hand.
What is certain is that Social Security ended up asking the other José for the money that was unduly paid to him and, in March of last year, the family returned 1,626 euros to the institute audience. All that remained was to transmit the amount to José Costa and the situation would apparently be regularized.
However, Social Security received the money, kept it in the state coffers and kept silent: our interlocutor remained without a pension.
“Obviously Social Security will have to pay him what they didn’t pay him, and he will have to. I doubt he will, but he will have to, legally, paying interest. If, in addition of this, this citizen manages to prove that he had other damages directly related to this inappropriate behavior of social security, well, this damage, this damage that this citizen may have suffered, can be attributed to social security “, concludes the lawyer Paulo Veiga e Moura.
However, considering the payment of moral damages or interest may seem too ambitious, considering that even the social security reform does not pay José Costa. Happens to the Best asked the public institute about the error and the impasse but, in due course, there was no room for any clarification.
“I think the National Pensions Fund will have to take care of something, and return the money to whomever it may concern,” concludes Maria Zélia, the daughter.
José Costa has already waited so long that he guarantees it will be a miracle for Social Security to restore his pension with retroactive payments. But sometimes it seems like miracles happen. A few weeks after the execution of this report, José Costa received the news he had been waiting for for two years.
“After checking in, my dad, after a few days, received a letter saying that the money would be fully returned to the account, the following month. That was in March, in April, they deposited the money on my father’s account,” reports Maria Zélia, via video call with the Happens to the Best team.
It took a while, but Jose’s problem is finally solved, and it was a nice birthday present for the 93-year-old, who celebrated his birthday half a dozen days ago.
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