President Ali intervenes to have NIS address veterans’ woes

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President Dr Irfaan Ali engaging veterans on Friday

…as veterans complain of bottlenecks, red tape faced at entity

After being informed of a host of issues being faced by veterans at the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), President Dr Irfaan Ali has stepped in to arrange a special three-day engagement at the Guyana Defence Force’s Headquarters to address these matters.

While speaking at the 13th annual Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the Veterans’ Monument located at GDF’s Base Camp Ayanganna on Friday, the Head of State recognised that there are issues at the NIS that Government needs to look into and resolve.

To this end, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces committed to put together a team of NIS officers to conduct an exercise at the GDF Headquarters to specifically tackle challenges faced by veterans.

“Yes, NIS is a problem. I am offering now… to have the NIS team here for the next three days – from Monday to Wednesday – to sort out all the outstanding NIS issues that you have here with the veterans. You do not have to go line up and wait [at the NIS office],” President Ali indicated.

His intervention was in response to pleas by the President of the Guyana Veterans’ Legion (GVL), Retired Lt Col George Gomes, who requested assistance in addressing the various challenges veterans confront at the NIS.

Guyana Veterans’ Legion President Lt Col (ret’d) George Gomes

One of the issues he raised is the policy at NIS whereby if a person never made any claims at the NIS during their working years, when they retire and their health deteriorates, they are unable to make claims at the institution.

“People get sick when they get old. Before I retired from army, I don’t even believe I went to the army for anything – not even a spectacle. But now as a result of diabetes and these things, people are suffering [such as the] dialysis cases. But if you never reported it, and you never went to the NIS with it while you were working and while you were young, the NIS cannot give you anything.”

“Sir I am asking you to look into this. People are now getting sick when they are old and that rule at the NIS needs to be changed. We have to cater for our people in their old age,” he contended.

Another issue with the NIS that was highlighted by Gomes has to do with claims by newly retired veterans. He explained that during the massive 2005 floods in Guyana, many of GDF’s records were destroyed.

As a result, he pointed out that when persons now reach the retirement age and go to NIS to make their claims, they are being told that there is no record of their contributions.
The GDF, he noted, has since come up with a system where they prepare letters indicating that the individual in question actively served as a soldier within the requisite years. However, Gomes said that the NIS does not recognise this letter.

“Once you were in the GDF, NIS was being deducted from you but the NIS administration is disrespecting and not honouring those letters. The GDF is a reputable organisation and I’m certain no officer would just give somebody a letter here to take to NIS if they were not a serving soldier,” the GVL President stated.

To this end, the veteran implored with the Head of State to have the NIS accept the GDF letters as a credible record for retirees to make claims on their contributions.

Meanwhile, President Ali further committed to implementing programmes and policies for the upliftment of Guyanese especially the men and women in uniform.

President Dr Irfaan Ali speaking at Friday’s wreath-laying ceremony

Only Thursday evening, the Guyanese leader announced an eight per cent salary increase for all public servants and revealed that the permanent salaries of public healthcare workers and members of the disciplined services are being reviewed. An announcement on the latter intervention is expected in the coming days.

Nevertheless, the Commander in Chief on Friday reminded of the steps already taken by his Government to enhance the lives of the serving members, particularly in the areas of housing and education.

“We have embarked on a programme that is allowing men and women in uniform today to own their own homes. I took a personal interest in ensuring that there is a special window to allow them to own their own homes, both at the Ministry of Housing and through the banking system…”

“I took a personal interest to ensure that their educational upliftment is being guaranteed. Never before did we ever have so many men and women in uniform doing a degree, a diploma or post-graduate training or a specialised training in the history of the Joint Services—never before,” he contended.

Moreover, President Ali reassured that his Administration intends to do a lot more for the country’s pensioners and elderly.

“We raised pension by 40 per cent. Yes, it’s still not enough. We will do more… We must do more for our pensioners and elderly, and we will do more. We will do a lot more. In my announcement, you heard me say that we are progressing in a very phased manner and the next set of announcements will shake some heels in this country,” the Head of State posited.

Since the PPP/C Administration took office in August 2020, senior citizens have benefitted dramatically from a number of initiatives including the increase in old age pension from $20,500 to $28,000. This measure alone placed $22 billion annually into the hands of pensioners.

Additionally, last year, this segment of the population benefitted from a one-off grant of $25,000. To further offset the rising cost of living, President Ali, for a second year, announced last month a $28,000 one-off cash grant which is currently being distributed to pensioners across the country.

Pensioners have also benefitted from the reintroduction of the water subsidy as well as easier access to their entitlements under the current Government.