Article written by Michael Steffens, EU Delegation to Iraq and
Federico Romoli, EU Delegation to Afghanistan
There may only be a few things more personal than a disability. Nevertheless, it is good to shed more light on this topic since many staff are not aware of the support available from the institutions. Below, we address the medical aspects of disability and other support provided and reimbursed by the Commission.
Firstly, should you happen to encounter a situation, where a family member or you are confronted with a disability, take a deep breath. Among all the bad news you may have heard, there is also some good news: You are not alone and in addition to the support described below, there is also psychological support offered should you need it. Have courage!
Medical history: Support by the Commission will largely depend you providing a good medical history. Colleagues living with a disability, or who have dependents that do so, are well advised to see the right specialists regularly in order to be able to prove on paper the condition at hand. If a child is involved, it would be important to take these steps as early as possible and to press the paediatrician to involve a specialist as soon as possible.
Serious illness: On basis of the medical history and following the steps explained on the Intranet, you can then process an application for a serious illness, which should lead to the reimbursement of medical costs and approved therapies at 100%. This can be important when the family member concerned received treatments in Europe. Also, if the dependent is based in Europe, it is also important to check which treatments can be covered by your respective national system. Often therapies for the disabled are not linked to national health system, but are provided by the social system or the education system and can be also be accessed even though you are ensured under the JSIS. There is also a special leave related to a ‘serious illness’ and you can apply for this if your child/family member needs your support, e.g. for a medical or diagnostic visit or because of illness.
Dependent Child Allowance/Double Child Allowance: The dependent child allowance is usually only paid for your kids until the age of 18. However, the payment of the allowance can be extended for children who suffer from a serious illness or invalidity, which prevents them from earning a livelihood, and for the duration of the illness or invalidity. In addition, the child allowance can be doubled by a special decision of the appointing authority. For this, a medical questionnaire must be filled and medical reports submitted. If the opinion is favourable it leads to an additional payment of EUR 421,24 (currently) to your monthly salary.
In addition, a disabled child will also remain covered under the JSIS as long as it is deemed eligible for a double child allowance.
The single entry point for people with disabilities or parents of children with disabilities is based in the PMO: PMO-RCAM-BRU-HANDICAP@ec.europa.eu. It is advisable to send any questions directly to them and to establish contact with them early on in the process.
There are number other points to consider:
Medical costs: Medical costs will be reimbursed up to 100% if you or your child have a recognised serious illness. Some treatments or therapies will require a prior authorization. In cases where these are needed regularly, it makes sense to contact the disability team and to come to a workable arrangement, e.g. a prior authorization for a year in advance if it is imminent that a therapy such as speech therapy or physiotherapy will be provided regularly. This both helps the PMO case handler and the family or person involved.
Non-medical costs: These can be related to residence (specific institute, protected work environment, day care centre, etc.), to transport and equipment (stairs lift, bathtub, guide dog, car adaptation, etc.) care-taking, or schooling and education needs. Such costs are covered under “Financial aid for staff and their dependents”, which is a special fund specifically established for this purpose. The team involved is very sympathetic to the needs of disabled persons/children and forthcoming with relevant information – at least this is the feedback we received from many concerned families.
Dependency: The JSIS dependency chapter is also important and explains how any external care for a person with disability can be provided and is relevant for the elderly that require care. While most countries in Europe have introduced a comprehensive long-term care insurance, the JSIS is reimbursing care-related costs mostly through its dependency chapter. Accessing these services requires a dependence evaluation form to be processed that is normally attached to the assessment of a particular service requested, i.e. it needs to be linked to a prior authorization for a care service (see Chapter 3 in the guide on reimbursements).
In case the type of support you need in your family is not covered by the dependency chapter of the JSIS you may try to claim it under “non-medical costs”. However, the problem lies more in the fact that the Commission apart from the double child allowance does not provide an amount of money for care purposes that can be allocated more freely. In addition, the chapter is more inspired by care for the elderly rather then, for example, an autist or disabled child.
Divided Families due to disabilities: Often the follow up and treatment of disabilities can be very challenging in an EU Delegation environment in a third country. Some families are obliged to split and have two bases, one in Europe and one in an EU Delegation. In this case, what would help most is financial support that reflects the additional cost of this arrangement where two homes are needed.
National insurance: Finally, colleagues that face issues with any additional health or care insurances they took out in one of the member states can contact USHU. There could be case law that might be helpful for your case.
USHU calls on the institutions to provide staff with the relevant information concerning support to staff and their dependents with disabilities in a more accessible manner.
USHU supports the introduction of different “care categories” that could be easily modelled on existing Member State national systems.
USHU calls on the EEAS to consider adapting the existing accommodation allowance to allow for divided families because of disabilities, which mean they are separated to allow for the treatments of a disabled child or family member in Europe.
Finally, a word of caution to colleagues who are faced with this situation, in particular if you are new to this. You should make a conscious decision on how openly you share information on the disability of your child (or your own). Unfortunately, not everyone around you will be tactful or ready to deal with information on disability in the right way.
Even though you may request additional leave or other special provisions when you need them, you should not feel like you must reveal all to your superiors. There are confidential procedures in place that can be respected. It is really your own choice as to how much information you are willing share with your colleagues/managers. Don’t feel pressurised but make sure you are aware of what institutional support can be provided to you and your disabled dependents.
We invite colleagues to take the conversation to our Facebook group, where we will post this newsletter as well. Tell us your story. What type of support are you missing? Which proposals do you want us to push forward?