It’s better to be old and poor than old and disabled

  • March 10, 2008
  • Bruce Bromley

By Ruth Sinai

Shlomo Karlitzky immigrated to Israel in 1990 and worked for eight years as an engraver, until open-heart surgery forced him to stop working. He was categorized as disabled and began receiving a disability stipend. “Six years later my status changed again – I stopped being disabled and became a pensioner,” he says. Instead of a disability pension, he began receiving an old-age allowance and a “disability income complement.”

However, the disability income complement deprives Karlitzky of the benefits he would have received as a healthy man. Since he receives a disability income complement he is not entitled to an income complement, and under the Social Benefits Law, only people who receive an income complement are entitled to various benefits. Disabled people are not.

“An old man with an income complement receives a 50-percent reduction in electricity bills and compensation for the rise in bread prices. But a disabled old man doesn’t,” he says. “Doesn’t a disabled pensioner have to eat?”

Pensioners with an income complement are also eligible for a heating grant in winter and a larger discount in city tax rates.

Karlitzky has no pension, and his monthly allocation is NIS 2,205. Along with his wife’s old age stipend, their overall income totals NIS 3,300. Had they been receiving NIS 100 to NIS 200 less, they would have been eligible for an income complement.

Some 160,000 old, needy people, who have no other income, are eligible for this complement.

The Karlitzkys have no complaints about not receiving an income complement. But they’re angry that Shlomo is not eligible to receive benefits, despite his disability. For example, he is not entitled to the monthly NIS 31 that people who receive an income complement will now receive thanks to recent legislation to assist Holocaust survivors and needy old people.

Many thousands of disabled people have become pensioners, which means that they won’t get benefits that healthy pensioners receive.

The Karlitzkys pay NIS 1,200 a month for the mortgage on their apartment, which they bought in Karmiel 18 years ago. “After paying electric and water bills, city taxes and buying medicines, even with a 50-percent reduction, not much remains for food,” he says.

Karlitzky sent complains to the prime minister, state comptroller and 50 Knesset members, most of whom did not reply. He has also petitioned the Haifa Labor Court, which is to debate the issue in June.