– It’s dangerous. It’s getting worse, I told Now, but they’re still walking with straight backs and smiles, says Terje Vaginius from Alvatal in Inlandet.
Due to a labor dispute, he received a severance package from his employer in 2014. The severance package is equivalent to twelve months salary. Within a year he was crippled by chronic mental illness. Suddenly one day he received a letter in the post box. Now demanded repayment of disability benefits – NOK 180,000.
They believed that severance pay should be treated as a normal monthly salary and that you cannot receive the salary at the same time as you receive disability benefits.
Vaginius now believed that he was wrong, and that the lump sum he received from his employer could not be considered a salary, but compensation, his former employer also confirmed in a letter seen by Daxavisen Fremtide.
– This is not pensionable income and does not provide a basis for holiday pay, Wagenius said.
After he experienced inadequate guidance from Nav, it became clear that he needed to get a lawyer to avoid paying back the money. The lawyer helped prepare the case for the Social Security Court, the body for appeals against Now’s decisions.
Wagenius prepared for the Social Security Court, but in 2018 the Swedish Tax Agency overturned a 2014 decision to tax compensation from his former employer as salary. Nau reversed his decision and allowed Terje to keep the disability benefits he received in 2015. This was done before the case was pending in the Social Security Court.
Vaginius is now left with court costs. If the case had gone to court, he would have covered the legal costs, whereas Nau believes that because of circumstances beyond Nau’s control, Vaginius’ support changed, they could not.
The legal costs were ultimately over NOK 187,000, more than Nav had initially requested.
– Having a chronic mental illness is hard, losing my job is hard, standing up if it’s hard, but what Now did to me was an abuse of power. By the end I was completely exhausted, says Terje.
Steinar Folgerø was a friend of Terje Vaginius, and followed his case.
– Had Terje succeeded in his appeal to the Social Security Court, he would have been entitled to the necessary legal costs. As Now overturned the decision and the case did not go to the Social Security Court, he did not have that opportunity. When we realize that we have made a mistake, can we change to their liking?
He believes this undervalues Nav customers.
– This loophole in the system means that Nav can reverse its decision once they realize they made a mistake, and Nav customers have bills and a huge psychological burden, he says.
It was Online newspaper Who first told the story to Terji.
Many lawyers speak
Karsten Egeland, a lawyer from Advokatfirmaet Egeland, says it is an unheard-of event for Nau to reverse a decision just before the Social Security Court hears the case. He says that such events often change as new information is received. Nau would then claim that the change was due to circumstances beyond their control, thereby showing that they were not obliged to cover the appellant’s legal costs.
This is not the first time lawyers have criticized the practice. Last year, a case involving a woman with ME went all the way Supreme Court To cover costs of litigation.
– Now saves costs
Attorney Egeland goes on to say that the irony in such cases is that it is usually the appellant or attorney who procured the document that leads to the reversal.
– I believe this is a evasion of the duty of management to report the matter itself. It is not correct that the facts of the case should be disclosed only by the private party. The liability he or she receives there also represents a significant cost liability for litigation, he says.
He believes the development is increasingly placing greater responsibility on private parties to disclose the matter, parallel to the government taking less responsibility. This bias can also have unintended consequences, such that individuals with few resources do not receive adequate information about their case.
– Confidence in the system is eroding
Wagenius filed a claim for legal costs. Such a claim must be sent within three weeks from the day you win in court. Nau says Wagenius didn’t have time to submit a claim by the deadline.
According to Aurora Skland, a lawyer working with social security law at Advokatfirmaet Molteberg Nilsen AS, this is a known problem.
– We’ve experienced Now not informing us when we’ve helped clients win cases. As cases often have very long processing times, it is difficult to predict when decisions will be made. This is seen as problematic because Now appears to be trying to avoid claims for legal costs in these cases, he says.
The refusal to cover legal costs can be appealed, but when the case has come this far, it is difficult to take the fight any further, he says.
– The case may have been going on for years, and faith in the system has been eroded among those experiencing it. A new cycle can be experienced as more burdensome and many prefer to put the case behind them.
Anja C., Director of the Department of Legal Affairs in the Directorate of Labor and Welfare at Nav, was presented with the criticism presented in the Nau case. Hiltonen explains in the e-mail only the general rules of Nau. Related to reversal of decisions, guidance obligations and reimbursement of legal costs. These are already in the case. She doesn’t respond to criticism.
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