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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Torturous Process of Pension Application

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In the Soviet era, all state enterprises, institutes and agencies were headed by a triumvirate made up of the director, the party secretary and the labor union chairman. No important decision was made without their say-so. Our institute was no exception. The party secretary is now a thing of the past. The director rules the roost, while the labor unions have the job of defending workers' rights.

Nowadays, the union job has become a pure formality. No one really aspires to the post any longer because it carries no extra benefits.

At our institute the union boss for 15 years now has been an amiable fellow called Sergei Pavlovich. Not long ago I ran into Sergei. He was clearly worked up about something.

"What's the matter, Sergei Palych?" I asked.

"Sixty is right around the corner, and I'm applying for my pension," he replied gloomily.

"Well, what can you do. You can't stop time," I said to cheer him up.

"That's not the problem," he said. And he told me the following story.

Before perestroika, the accounting department took care of the pension paperwork when employees were getting ready to retire. They would collect all the documents and deliver them to the district welfare office where everything was sorted out. These days people have to do all this work themselves, even the director.

Sergei got his documents together and set off to the Pension Fund office. He waited three hours in line to see an inspector.

"Don't worry if there's a problem with the paperwork," the inspector told him as she began leafing through his documents. "A lot of people come back two or three times."

Sergei was offended, but of course the inspector found a problem. She handed Sergei a receipt for the documents and told him to call in a month.

He called, and found out that his pension request had been turned down because no payments had been made to the Pension Fund in his name for the past two years.

"There is a name on the list that looks like yours, however," the inspector said. "Sort it out with your accounting department."

It turned out that the accounting documents are no longer submitted on paper but on computer discs.

"But I don't have a computer!" he shouted, feeling like a dinosaur.

Sergei has been calling the Pension Fund every day for a month now. The machine that checked his pin number against the garbled name in their files issued an "error" message, and the only person who can fix the problem is the inspector who first accepted his application. And she is away on training for three months.

"I'll get my pension in the end, of course," he said, as if to convince himself of the fact. "But who will restore my piece of mind after all this?"

Vladislav Schnitzer is a pensioner and journalist living in Moscow.