On October 1, the International Day of Older Persons was marked. The aim of this day is to raise on the public agenda the issue of the welfare of the elderly and concern for their needs throughout the world. According to the data of the Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2017 the community of senior citizens in Israel (aged 65 and over) crossed the million line for the first time since the establishment of the state.
The Office of the Ombudsman receives annually many complaints from the community of senior citizens. The Ombudsman places great importance on these complaints, especially those of Holocaust survivors. The following are a few examples:
Discrimination because of age in providing aid to a returning citizen
The complainant, an artist who had lived abroad for many years, decided to return to Israel under the status of "returning citizen", after hearing about a project of the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption to aid returning artists. To his dismay, the complainant discovered that the aid was granted to artists aged up to 75 and since he was 80 when he returned to Israel, he was ineligible for the aid.
Following the inquiries of the Office of the Ombudsman, it was decided to reconsider the case of the complainant without taking into account his age, only his work as an artist. The appeals committee classified him as a "particularly outstanding" artist and found him deserving of the aid.
The Office of Immigration and Absorption subsequently notified the Office of the Ombudsman that it had decided to stop taking into account age when considering applications for aid.
Delay in payment of old-age pension
Old-age insurance, also called old-age pension, is designed to ensure that residents of Israel receive a fixed income in their old age. In February 2018, the complainant, a senior citizen who had worked in Israel for 20 years, filed an application for old-age pension from the National Insurance Institute (NII); in her application, she specified that she intended to leave Israel for an extended stay in Bulgaria.
In December 2018, the complainant filed a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman about the delay in the approval of her application for the pension.
The NII notified the Office of the Ombudsman that the handling of the application had been delayed since the application had mistakenly been forwarded to the Conventions Department in the Head Office, after the complainant was erroneously treated as the foreign resident of a convention state. Following receipt of the complaint, the mistake became apparent and the application was returned to the relevant branch of the NII to be processed. The NII approved the application and paid the complainant pension retroactively from December 2017. In addition, the NII instructed the complainant how to proceed if she intended to stay in Bulgaria for over a year.
Retroactive reimbursement of rent benefit for an elderly new immigrant
Under certain conditions, the Ministry of Construction and Housing grants new immigrants without housing a monthly rental allowance in order to facilitate their absorption into Israel.
In 2017, the complainant, an elderly man aged 90, discovered that the Ministry of Construction and Housing had not paid him rental allowance for the preceding seven years. When he applied to receive retroactively the full amount of the allowance owing him, it was decided to pay him the allowance for the preceding year only.
The investigation of the complaint disclosed that the complainant had received monthly rental allowance until April 2010. The allowance was stopped after it was found that the complaint had not acted in accordance with a letter of the Ministry of Construction and Housing requiring him to go to one of the branches of the companies handling the rental allowance and fill out forms to verify that he was still living at the same address.
The complainant claimed that he did not receive the above letter and the investigation revealed that the Ministry of Construction and Housing had no proof that the letter was sent. Following the inquiry of the Office of the Ombudsman, the matter was reconsidered and it was decided, in light of the complainant's age and circumstances, to pay him the full amount of the allowance to which he was eligible from May 2010.
Retroactive reimbursement of mortgage repayments for needy elderly persons
Under certain conditions, the Ministry of Construction and Housing assists in the payment of mortgages of elderly people aged 70 and over. An elderly Holocaust survivor couple, living on old-age pension and income supplement, claimed that they had not been aware of their right to receive the benefit and that their application to the Ministry of Construction and Housing had been unsuccessful. Following the inquiry of the Office of the Ombudsman, the Ministry of Construction and Housing notified the Office that the assistance had not been given to the complainants despite the actions of the Ministry to locate eligible persons and ensure the exhaustion of their rights, this being an exceptional case. The Ministry also notified the Ombudsman that it had reimbursed the complainants with mortgage assistance for the years 2011-2017.