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PSSPF

Security guard who lost the use of his right arm doesn’t qualify for disability benefits

The Financial Services Tribunal (FST) has upheld a determination by the Pension Funds Adjudicator that a security guard who lost the use of his right arm following a shooting did not qualify for a disability benefit, because he could perform other duties.

The guard (“CN”) retired from the Private Security Sector Provident Fund after his right elbow was seriously injured by gunshots. CN claimed disability benefits, but the fund said he was entitled only to a withdrawal benefit.

CN complained to the Adjudicator, who found that he had not made out a case entitling him to disability benefits in terms of the fund’s rules.

The FST said that, according to the medical evidence, unless further procedures, which were not possible during lockdown, were successfully performed, CN would be unable to use his right arm in the performance of his duties as a security guard, because he would be unable to grip or lift an object such as a firearm.

The tribunal drew attention to the fund’s rule on total and permanent disability, emphasising the phrases in italics:

“A member will be classified as totally and permanently disabled in terms of this rule if the trustees receive notification from his employer and satisfactory medical evidence that he has become totally and permanently incapable of engaging in his own occupation or in any other occupation for which, in the trustees’ opinion, he could be reasonably considered capable of engaging by virtue of his training and general experience for remuneration or profit, provided that the member shall, within a period of three months after the date of disablement, procure proper medical attention and carries out and follows in full the medical instructions and advice given.”

The FST said the medical evidence established that CN’s right arm was totally and permanently incapacitated. But this did not mean he was incapable of being engaged, by virtue of his training and experience, in “any other occupation”.

CN was offered a position in his employer’s control room, which he rejected.

The medical reports agreed that CN was able to perform light work and supervisory functions, the FST said.

“It follows that the allegation that the fund’s decision was unreasonable and therefore not in accordance with the rules cannot be sustained. The PFA was, accordingly, correct in dismissing the complaint,” the tribunal said.

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