When 63-year-old Armen* decided to retire, he did not expect a 30% decrease in his projected monthly pension. A former truck driver, Armen was confronted with this devastating possibility after his local Social Security office refused to acknowledge ten years of his work history. In Armenia, employment details are registered in each individual’s labor book, a passport-like summary of employment records. While Armen’s labor book clearly reflected the contested ten-year period, the Social Security Office remained steadfast in its judgment.
Armen attempted to seek counsel from local attorneys, but was unable to afford their services. With nowhere else to go, he turned to the new Advocacy and Assistance Center (AAC) in his hometown of Armavir in hope that they could help him. The Armavir AAC is one of eleven centers located throughout the country, operated by local NGOs, where victims of corruption receive free legal assistance on a walk-in or call-in basis.
When Armen said that he was expected to pay a bribe to resolve the pension dispute, AAC staff sent a letter to the local Social Security office. In the letter, the AAC referred to Armen’s labor book, which confirmed that he should receive the higher pension amount by law. At first, the Social Security office adhered to its original decision. The AAC’s legal staff persisted and decided to take the matter to court. Upon receiving notice of the court action, the Social Security office modified its position and adjusted the pension amount in Armen’s favor.
“I am very pleased with the AAC’s assistance,” said Armen. “Without their help, I would have lost a big portion of my pension simply because officials were abusing their discretionary power and not following legal procedures. I have already told all my friends and family where to go when their rights are violated.”
* The name and photo of the citizen in this article have been changed for confidentiality purposes.