SINGAPORE - More than 600 seniors who appealed for Pioneer Generation benefits have been given the nod, Senior Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo said yesterday.
They were not eligible earlier because they did not become Singapore citizens on or by Dec 31, 1986 - the citizenship cut-off date to qualify for the $8 billion Pioneer Generation Package.
But the panel that reviewed their appeals took into account whether they became Singapore citizens shortly after 1986, Mrs Teo told Parliament.
An example of a successful applicant was an elderly woman who lives in Nee Soon South, recounted Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC), who did not name the resident.
"She came very early to Singapore and started working as a seamstress in a textile factory. But she missed the (1986) deadline for applying for citizenship by a bit," said Ms Lee of the resident now in her 70s.
"Her whole family is Singaporean. She didn't just contribute to nation-building, but contributed a few children to the nation, too."
Factors - such as whether applicants had been in Singapore since the early years of independence, contributed to Singapore society and demonstrated clear efforts to sink roots in Singapore - were looked at by the appeals panel, said Mrs Teo.
But no senior who appealed successfully was born after 1949. The reason is that the panel considered only appeals relating to the criterion of citizenship, not age, said Mrs Teo.
To qualify for the Pioneer Generation Package, which offers help with health-care bills, seniors must have been born in 1949 or earlier, and have become Singapore citizens before 1987.
Said Mrs Teo: "Whatever the age set, there will always be those who marginally fall short of it. It would therefore not be feasible or fair to allow age-related appeals without extending the new age criterion to all Singaporeans."
She was replying to Mr Seng Han Thong (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who had asked how many appeals were received and approved, and on what grounds.
As of Dec 31 last year, the appeals panel had evaluated about 2,480 cases and approved 642 of them, she said.
In all, about 2,900 appeals were received.
Dr Lily Neo (Tanjong Pagar GRC) asked if the appeals panel would consider the financial situation of applicants.
Mrs Teo said those ineligible for the package may qualify for other schemes, including Medisave top-ups and subsidies for MediShield Life insurance. "If there is still a need, we'd very much like to know who these individuals are, and find other ways to help them."
This article was first published on January 21, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.