‘Sassa turning us down,’ say sick applicants

2010-02-05 00:00

APPLICANTS for social grants claim the South African Social Services Agency (Sassa) has been declining their applications, although doctors at clinics and hospitals certify that they are in poor health.

They say their medical records state that they are not fit for work, but doctors employed by the agency reject the claims.

Nadraj Govender, who is in his late forties, applied for a social grant in 2007 and was turned down. He is a cardiac patient with high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Govender and his wife are unemployed and live on hand-outs from the neighbourhood.

He appealed to MEC Meshack Radebe’s office and in March last year was informed that he would receive the grant for a year, but has still not received it.

“I’m in and out of hospital due to my poor health. Life is tough for us. With the grant it would be easier,” said Govender in an interview with The Witness.

Another complainant, Jasoda Sookdev (46), said she applied for a social grant in 2009 after she was diagnosed with angina and chronic eczema and psoriasis. Angina is a sudden chest pain thatoccurs when not enough blood flows for the heart muscle to function effectively, while chronic eczema causes reddening, dryness and scaling of the skin, which can progress to painful cracks. It can become infected, leading to pus-filled blisters and ulcers.

The department turned down Sookdev’s her application, despite the medical documentation detailing her condition.

In response to her application, Sassa stated that in terms of section 5 of the Social Assistance Act of 2004 and Regulation 3, an application for social grant is subject to medical assessment.

“This is weird because I have been examined by doctors and they gave me the results in writing, which I have submitted along with my application,” said Sookdev.

Sassa general manager Sibongile Setlaba denied turning away qualifying applicants for any grants, adding that those whose applications are declined can appeal to the agency’s tribunal.

“We have doctors contracted to the agency who do the assessment of applicants’ health conditions.

“People must understand that sicknesses diagnosed by doctors in hospital do not qualify them for grants. You qualify if you meet the criteria as stipulated by the Social Assistance Act,” said Setlaba.

Democratic Alliance social development spokesman George Mari said hundreds of applicants remain in limbo, in some cases for up to two years, with no form of income while they wait for a decision by the tribunal.

“We are concerned that Sassa is rejecting doctors’ assessments with the full medical history of the patients,” Mari said.

“It appears that the criteria used by doctors contracted to Sassa are in conflict with the opinions and assessments of the applicants’ doctors.

“The criteria will be challenged and, failing this, a class action will be considered by the DA,” Mari said.

Social Development public relations manager Mandla Ngema said there are instances where people struggle to get their social grants. He advised those experiencing problems with Sassa to contact the department’s hotline at 033 264 3000/1/2/3/4.

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