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By Svetlana Marshall
The Bath Settlement man, who last April questioned Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo about the National Insurance Scheme’s (NIS) failure to increase the benefits of retired workers since the return of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to office, was days ago informed that he was not an invalid between 2011 and 2014, and therefore would not receive his benefits for the disputed period, although, a review conducted in 2014 found him to be.
The 57-year-old man, Suresh Lallbeharry, who resides at Bath Settlement, West Coast Berbice, believes he is being politically victimized.
In May 1999, NIS Medical Board deemed Lallbeharry to be an invalid – a sick person who is confided to his home or bed because of an illness, disability or injury. At the time, Lallbeharry was diagnosed with epilepsy – a disorder of the brain characterized by repeated seizures.
However, following a review, the Medical Board, in October 2011, indicated that the Bath Settlement resident was no longer an invalid – a decision which resulted in his pension payments being ceased.
But desperate for help, Lallbeharry reapplied, and on August 28, 2014, the then Medical Board at the National Insurance Scheme once again deemed him to be an invalid.
But notwithstanding this inconsistency, NIS, in a letter dated November 21, 2021, maintained its position. A section of the letter reads: “Based on guidance given by Medical Adviser and Medical Board, you were not an invalid between October 19, 2011 and August 27, 2019.”
However, Lallbeharry has long maintained that based on the fact that a review conducted by the Medical Board in 2014 found him to be an invalid, he is entitled to his pension.
But in a letter dated February 7, 2022, NIS iterated its position. In that letter, NIS Nursing Officer, Margurite Hoyte told Lallbeharry that the decision of the Medical Board was final.
However, determined to have a favorable outcome, Lallbeharry raised the issue during a government outreach to Bath Settlement in April, 2022.
In an interview with the Village Voice Newspaper, Lallbeharry said he was assured by the Vice President that there would be a thorough review of his case by NIS, and monies owed to him would be paid. However, he said everything went downhill after a video of him enquiring from the Vice President about increases went viral.
Lallbeharry explained that on May 11, 2022 he received a notice from NIS instructing him to report to NIS Medical Board on May 20, 2022 at its Brickdam Office. Concerned about the possible outcome, the Bath Settlement man turned to the Office of the Leader of the Opposition for assistance, and was placed in contact with former Member of Parliament, Mervyn Williams, who once served as a Member on NIS Board, and currently operates Social Security Solutions – a consultancy agency.
Together with Williams, Lallbeharry appeared before the Medical Board on May 20. The board comprised three members – Dr. Karen Butters, Dr. Waroon Sony and Dr. Yaquelin Gonzalez Ricardo.
During the meeting, Lallbeharry was informed that the Medical Board upheld the 2011 decision.
“Upheld decision made at Medical Board October 2011. Not an invalid during the period October 20, 2022 to April 28, 2014,” a document provided to the concerned citizen read.
According to the Medical Board, Lallbeharry needed to optimize his medication and should be seen by a specialist doctor.
Lallbeharry told the Village Voice Newspaper that from 1999 to present, he has had the same illness, and is unsure why he is unable to secure his benefits for the period 2011 and 2014, when he was “wrongfully” considered not to be an invalid.
He said while the Medical Board indicated that he should optimize his medication and see a specialist doctor, he has been merely following the advice of the doctors over the years. “I can’t read and write, how would I know that not good enough,” he told this publication.
AN EXPERT’S TAKE
In an interview with the Village Voice Newspaper, Williams said the foreign doctors sitting on the Medical Board are apparently ignorant to the issues facing the poor and underprivileged in Guyana.
“You have a foreign doctor who clearly does not understand the realities of a Guyanese society. This is a gentleman, who cannot read and write; the man says he is illiterate; the man had a menial job at the Guyana Sugar Corporation before he became sick; the man went to a doctor, the doctor saw him, the doctor treated him, it is the doctor who ought to have referred him to a specialist,” Williams reasoned.
He submitted that the Medical Board in 1999 could have also referred him to a specialist doctor or in 2011 when his case was up for review. He said the same could have been done in 2014.
“But here is the catch, specialist doctors are mostly attached to private hospitals, but here is a man who is struggling to survive on his pension from NIS and the little support from the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security. Can’t read and write, and you are telling him that he should know that he should see a specialist doctor…that man is not responsible for the medication he took, he did not diagnosed himself, he did not prescribe the medication, he went to a doctor, and it is unreasonable for the Medical Board at the National Insurance Scheme to penalize this man,” Williams argued.
He said the decision was arrived at without any medical examination or tests done. “It is outrageous, it is unreasonable and it is absolutely anti-social security,” he added.
Williams believes that the selection of doctors to sit on NIS Medical Board should be carefully considered.
“Yes, you need specialists in particular areas but if it could be avoided do not put people there who are divorced from the realities of this country,” he urged.