As pension reform proposals are in the final stage of legislative review, draft provisions of the eligibility for death benefits and survivor benefits of civil servants received their second reading yesterday at a review marked by lengthy speeches by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers.
A plenary legislative session reviewed dozens of clauses — 36 as of yesterday, with a total of 79 clauses to be reviewed — of a draft act on civil servant pensions, despite the KMT caucus continuing to stall proceedings. Reviews were still continuing at press time last night.
Lawmakers passed the second reading of draft provisions to tighten the qualifications for the survivor benefit, which would allow the spouse of a deceased civil servant to receive half the monthly pension paid to the civil servant if the spouse is aged 55 or older, and has been married to the civil servant for at least 10 years.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
Spouses of deceased civil servants can qualify for a survivor benefit if they are aged 55 or older and had been married to the deceased for at least two years. The raising of benefit eligibility is to prevent people from marrying aging retirees for financial reasons.
Underage children of a deceased civil servant would be able to receive the survivor benefit until they turn 20, while children with mental or physical illnesses who are incapacitated and cannot work can receive the survivor benefit for life, the draft provisions say.
However, surviving family members who have received other pension benefits would only receive one type of pension benefit, according to the draft provisions.
The KMT criticized the proposed ban on receiving double pensions as discrimination against couples who are both public employees.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) said the survivor benefit is designed for the welfare of underprivileged people rather than as an extra income for financially stable pensioners.
Another set of provisions that would allow the family of a deceased civil servant who committed suicide to receive the death benefit also passed its second reading.
The death benefit is payable only when the suicide is committed for health, financial or family reasons, but not when the deceased are thought to have killed themselves because of a criminal conviction.
The death benefit is only payable when a civil servant is killed in the line of duty or dies of illness or accident, and the new legislation is to include suicide as a legitimate cause of death for compensation.
Death by suicide causes tremendous pain to surviving family members and therefore they should be entitled to the death benefit, Yu said.
The KMT criticized the DPP caucus for approving provisions that are at odds with the proposals made by Presidential Offices’ Pension Reform Committee and the Examination Yuan, while the KMT called for the diversion of the NT$882.49 billion (US$29.09 billion) Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program budget to pension funds.
The KMT also urged the discussion of a basic pension scheme to supplement occupational pensions and ensure a basic living standard for all retirees.
The DPP caucus sought to have the draft act pass the third reading yesterday to proceed with the review of other two draft acts on public-school teacher pensions and political appointees’ retirement benefits, before reviewing the proposed infrastructure plan bill.
However, the DPP caucus has decided to move the review of the infrastructure plan ahead to address the issues surrounding the program.
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