Burnout, back, cancer – there are many health reasons why people can no longer work. And these are by no means exceptional cases: According to the Ministry of Labor in Germany, 170,000 people have to quit their job every year before they retire because they simply can no longer continue after an accident or illness. Roughly twice as many, namely around 338,000, applied for a disability pension last year with the German Pension Insurance (DRV), which can provide support in such cases - and around 1.8 million Germans are already receiving the benefit today.
Help sounds good. But the very word disability pension suggests that things could get complicated - and in fact the DRV rejects almost every second application. There are three terms in the word that could be responsible for this. They make the disability pension a benefit to which those with pension insurance are entitled, but which is not that easy to obtain.
The first question is: What exactly is acquisition? Many people think of their job - but that's not the same. Simply put, a profession is what you once learned, but gainful employment can be any job. If a roofer can no longer climb the ladder, she may still be able to work in the supermarket, and the carpenter may still be able to find something in the call center after an accident. Such people may then be unfit for work, but not incapacitated - and would therefore not be eligible for a disability pension.
A special rule applies to people born before January 2, 1961. You are not only entitled to a pension in the event of reduced earning capacity, but also if you can no longer work in your usual job - similar to occupational disability insurance. “In these old cases, however, there are often disputes about which activities are still comparable and reasonable,” says Verena Bentele, President of the largest German social association VdK. If you don't get your application through for this reason, you should consider an objection, she advises.
The second sticking point is “mitigation”. Here too, a fine distinction is necessary. It's not about not being able to work anymore, just less. But being seriously ill alone is not enough. In official German, the procedure is called “determination of performance”. A doctor commissioned by the DRV is responsible for this. The medical question is: How many hours per day can the affected person still be available to the general labor market? If it is less than three hours a day, it is referred to as full disability, and if it is three to a maximum of six hours, it is only referred to as partial disability. Then you are only entitled to half your pension - unless you can't find a suitable part-time job. Anyone who is only "reduced" in their employment can consequently also earn something in addition to their pension - this year up to 35,647.50 euros with half and up to 17,823.75 euros with full disability.
Finally, the third component of the word monster is: pension. This indicates that disability pensions are only available to employees who have also paid into the statutory pension fund. The requirements are: There are at least five years of contributions in total. Parenting times are included. And: In the past five years, compulsory contributions were paid for at least three years. Exceptions to these rules are only possible in the case of work accidents or recognized occupational diseases.
If that seems complicated enough, you don't even know the details of the application process. You should take an hour to fill out the form, which must be accompanied by proof of insurance periods and a medical record that is as complete as possible. And then the German pension insurance not only checks the medical situation - but also the chances of restoring the ability to work: "The principle is: rehab before retirement," explains VdK President Bentele. This means: It is not uncommon for the application for a disability pension to end with a request for medical or professional rehabilitation. And even if the application goes through, it is usually limited in time: money is only available until your health improves.
By the way, just like the old-age pension, how much disability pension there is depends on the contributions paid and the pension level, which depends on several factors such as wage developments. There is also a deduction for the time until the actual start of retirement. Last year, the average disability pension nationwide was 933 euros.
This article first appeared on "Capital".