No Prejudice in Denial of Disability Benefits

disability benefits

József Kátai is a Hungarian national who became permanently disabled. As a result of his disability, he became entitled to a disability pension. The amount is equivalent to 37% of his average month salary. An Act of 2011 was introduced which included a new system of disability allowances. The court stated that his health condition was irreversible and could not be subject to any further assessment.

To become subject to the new allowances, and individual needed to apply for a reassessment of their health condition by an expert committee. Once the individual applied to the program, “they became entitled to a transitional allowance – the amount of which did not differ from that of their previous pension – until the reassessment took place.” Depending on the outcome of the reassessment procedure, a “disability allowance” or a “rehabilitation allowance” could be granted to the people concerned. They also could be removed from their allowance if the committee felt that they no loner qualified. Another potential outcome is that when getting reevaluated, the individual may lose some benefit that was previously part of their old status.

The system was also applicable to people whose degree of disability had been confirmed in a final judgment. As a result of this provision, Mr. Katai applied for reassessment of his health status. Mr. Katai has yet to receive a reassessment. As a result, Katai filed this action in the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr. Katai’s complaint contained allegations of a violation of his article 6 (right to fair trial), article 13 (right to an effective remedy), and article 17 (prohibition of abuse of rights). He further claimed that his initial disability was removed as a result of the 2011 Act. He also alleges that he lost his acquired pension fund as a result of the 2011 Act.

The court contended that Katai has been concerned by the 2011 Act. However the court stated that he had yet to have a reassessment to establish his new potential entitlement benefits. Thus, pending this reassessment, Katai still received his former disability benefits until he took part in the reassessment. The Court found that the legislation concerned had not yet been applied and that Mr Kátai was still receiving a monthly amount which is equal to his former pension. Therefore, it concluded that he had not suffered any significant material prejudice and declared his application inadmissible.

Do you think the court came to the right conclusion? Should the language of the Act be more clear to express its intent for individuals with existing health disability benefits? 

Source: ECHR


One comment

  1. As far as the injury suffered by Mr. Katai, I believe the Court came to the right conclusion because he continued to receive equal benefits after the 2011 Act. Mr. Katai did not really suffer material injury up to that point.
    However, after the 2011 Act is applied to Mr. Katai’s situation, he will likely suffer harm in the future. Therefore, the Court’s analysis is very narrow. Article 17 could have applied to this case because Mr. Katai’s health benefit rights might have been taken from him, and the 2011 Act presents an obstacle for receiving the same benefits in the future.
    Further, the language of the Act could have been more clear to express its intent for individuals with existing health disability benefits. Another problem with the Act is that people might lose some or all benefits after reevaluation. I think that the 2011 Act should not apply to people who already had plans, but should be used for future holders.

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