(CN) – The European Court of Justice cracked down Thursday on Spain for trying to claw back a Social Security supplement because he started receiving a separate pension from Switzerland.
Though the Luxembourg-based court did not make a copy of the ruling available in English, a press release says that the case arose from a pension granted by Spain to Jose Blanco Marques.
In addition to qualifying as totally permanently incapacitated, Blanco Marques was older than 55 when his pension entitlement was recognized, so he was granted a 20 percent supplement.
But Blanco Marques was also entitled to a retirement pension from Switzerland when he turned 65 because he had contributed to the Swiss compulsory scheme.
After receiving the Swiss payments from March 2008, Blanco Marques learned in February 2015 that Spain wanted to withdraw his 20 supplement and have him reimburse it to the tune of $21,400.
Blanco Marques filed suit in turn, persuading the Social Court in Ponferrada, Spain, that the 20 percent supplement was not incompatible with his receipt of a Swiss retirement pension.
Spain’s high court was less certain how to rule on appeal, however, so it asked the European Court of Justice, which ranks as the EU’s highest court, to settle the compatibility issue.
Based in Luxembourg, that court ruled Thursday that the pension and supplement could be incompatible since they are both “comparable to old-age benefits, inasmuch as they are intended to guarantee a means of subsistence to those workers during the period between the declaration of total permanent incapacity and retirement age.”
In a boon to Blanco Marques, however, the court determined that Spain cannot suspend his supplement because there is specific reference to the latter in the statute.
Thursday’s press release emphasizes two requirements in the regulation that trigger the reduction of benefit: “(i) the amount of the benefit must not depend on the length of the periods of insurance or of residence completed (which it is for the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Castilla y León to ascertain in respect of the 20% supplement) and (ii) the benefit must be referred to in the above-mentioned annex to the regulation.”