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Jul 26, 2022

Amputee John Brackett Pickets S.S.B. for Invalidity Benefits

The Social Security Board has been in our newscast for various reasons since last week, primarily as it relates to loans that the institution plans to make available to the Development Finance Corporation and Pharmacy Express Limited.  But tonight, we’re highlighting the plight of an individual whose lower right leg was amputated in May due to diabetes-related complications.  He is protesting against S.S.B. for what he believes is unfair treatment regarding a request for his benefits. Tonight, we look at both sides of that coin.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

When John Brackett lost a lower limb to type 2 diabetes a few months ago, he did not foresee that collecting his invalidity benefits from the Social Security Board would be an issue.  In fact, the cabdriver, who is now limited to a pair of crutches, was confident that having exceeded the required five hundred contributions, accessing government assistance was the next step in adjusting to his new reality.


John Brackett

John Brackett, Amputee

“I have submitted my application with what has been asked for.  It was accepted for about half an hour and they have asked me to go and get a medical report from Karl Heusner [Memorial] Hospital which I did, from the doctor which does the amputation operation on my foot.”


On June sixteenth, Dr. Jose Moguel, the general surgeon who carried out the removal below Brackett’s right knee, wrote on his behalf to confirm that the fifty-three-year-old has indeed been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus.  The letter came after Brackett’s application was rejected by S.S.B.


John Brackett

“I went and I got the letter. This is the letter and it stated that I am diagnosed with diabetes and that my foot has been amputated and I am taking medication for it and I am doing follow-up with the doctor. When I presented this letter from the hospital, I was turned down. The lady took my application, took it to the back to the other office and then she came back out and she said, “well you cannot get any claim, you cannot get any benefit because of the time that you were not working.  That was like from 2019 up to this month.”


Deborah Ruiz, Chief Executive Officer of the Social Security Board, told News Five that the existing requirements specify that beneficiaries must be employed up to three months of the time that they take sick.


Deborah Ruiz

Deborah Ruiz, C.E.O., Social Security Board

“We cover in the short term, for sickness benefits and invalidity benefits.  Now sickness, he would not qualify for again because you said he hasn’t worked since 2019 and based on the current rules, you have to be in insurable employment in the thirteen weeks prior to when you fall ill.  The same is the situation with invalidity.  If you have not been working in the last five years prior to when you fell sick then you may fall short.”


Brackett maintains, however, that he is more than qualified to receive his benefits based on the number of contributions he amassed while he was employed.  A document from the S.S.B. calculates his contributions at six hundred and fifty-four.  Those payments go all the way back to 1988 when he was employed at the Belize Bank. Brackett’s most recent contributions were thirteen payments that were made by Aqua de Caribe Luxury in 2019.


John Brackett

“What I am relying on is that I have six hundred and fifty-four contributions with the Social Security Board and I believe that I should be compensated and that’s the reason why I am here.  Now they have asked me to do certain things which I don’t see necessary.  Like, for instance, they want to know why I am not working, why I am not employed from that time.  That is my personal business.  The fact is that you asked for contributions to be made to Social Security Board from my pay since I was employed.”


According to CEO Ruiz, the number of contributions made on Brackett’s behalf is sufficient for him to collect retirement pension.  On the other hand, the amputee is seven years away from becoming pensionable.


Deborah Ruiz

“We have different benefits under the long term.  Six hundred and fifty-four contributions is enough to qualify you for a retirement pension.  Unfortunately, retirement pension is not payable until age sixty.”


For the past two days, Brackett, who some would remember from his days of activism, has been staging another one-man protest in front of SSB’s office in Belize City.


Isani Cayetano

“What do you expect to get out of it?  Do you expect that at the end of all of this that S.S.B. will follow suit and properly compensate you on a monthly basis as other pensioners?”


John Brackett

“Well I am expecting that. I am expecting that, I am expecting anything though because if I have to raise the level of demonstration, I might even die and don’t get anything.  But what will happen is that they will deal with other citizens on a more professional basis.”


Isani Cayetano For News Five


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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