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The national pension scheme is intended to provide a pension or grant for contributors in their old age and a pension or grant for the surviving dependants of a contributor or pensioner who has died.

It also provides an invalidity pension or grant for contributors below the age of 60 whose physical or mental health permanently prevents them from working.

Whether it is a pension or grant that is provided depends on how long the contributor has been contributing to the pension scheme. In the case of the retirement benefit and survivor’s benefit a minimum contribution period of 120 months, which is 10 years, is required for a pension.

With the invalidity benefit the minimum contribution period for a pension is 12 months.

How much the benefit is depends on the contribution period and the contributor’s monthly insurable earnings, which are the earnings on which the person’s contribution was based, just before retirement, death or invalidity.

The scheme is not one where money is provided to meet particular needs. The amount that is paid depends on the contribution period and insurable earnings. It is a fixed amount determined by a specific formula that takes into account the contribution period and insurable earnings.

Retirement pensions can only be paid to those over 60 who have retired, those over 65 whether retired or not and those over 55 who have worked for seven of the preceding 10 years in arduous jobs such as farming, heavy truck driving, quarrying and some mining and forestry jobs.

The national pension scheme is not an unemployment benefit scheme, so to contributors aged 40, 47 or 51 who write in, as some have done, to ask if they are entitled to something after having lost their jobs, the answer is no.

Nobody can receive a retirement benefit before the age of 55. Even then a pension or grant will only be awarded at age 55 if the person claiming it has been working in one of the areas classified by NSSA as arduous employment already mentioned and has been working in such a job for seven of the previous 10 years.

The primary purpose of the pension fund is to provide a monthly retirement pension that replaces a portion of a person’s insurable earnings at retirement. The longer the contribution period and the higher the insurable earnings the greater the proportion of the insurable earnings the pension will replace.

Ten years is the minimum contribution period for a retirement or survivor’s pension. As time goes by and the pension scheme, which is already almost 20 years old, matures, more and more people retiring will receive a retirement pension. Fewer will receive grants as more and more people will have contribution periods in excess of 10 years.

For those who have not contributed for the full 120 months required to qualify for a pension, there is a retirement grant, provided contributions have been made for at least 12 months.

Likewise with the survivor’s benefit the minimum contribution period for a pension is 120 months. If contributions were made for less than that but more than 12 months a grant is payable.

Grants are single payments. A grant is paid once only, while a pension is received every month. When a contributor or pensioner dies, a $300 funeral grant is payable to help meet funeral costs. That is in addition to the survivor’s benefit. All of these benefits have to be applied for on the NSSA P910 form. There is a section of this form that needs to be completed by the contributor’s former employer.

It is important for this section to be completed. However, where it is impossible to have it completed, whether this is because the employer’s business has closed down or because the employer is uncooperative, the form can be submitted with a note indicating why the claimant was unable to have the section completed by the employer.

Talking Social Security is published weekly by the National Social Security Authority as a public service. There is also a weekly radio programme on social security, PaMhepo neNSSAEmoyeni le NSSA, at 6.50 pm every Thursday on Radio Zimbabwe and Friday on National FM. There is another social security programme on Star FM on Wednesdays at 5.30 pm. Readers can e-mail issues they would like dealt with in this column to mail@mhpr.co.zw or text them to 0772-307913.

Source : The Herald