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Have conscripts been abandoned in the benefit quagmire?

Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja conducted an own-initiative investigation of the conscript's allowance based on observations made on an inspection of Upinniemi garrison.

The personnel of the garrison are concerned over the conscripts' financial position. Conscripts with families, for example, may be put in a less advantageous position than other recipients of Kela benefits. The low amount of the conscript's allowance also affects willingness to aim for demanding and long-term service duties.

Kela has proposed an update of the system

Kela has proposed amendments to the provisions on conscript's allowance. At the moment, all earnings that a conscript may have will reduce the conscript's allowance. Similarly to unemployment benefits, conscripts' earnings could be subject to an exempt amount of EUR 300.

According to Kela, the conscript's allowance should be granted on the same grounds as the general housing allowance, and a conscript's household insurance should be part of the housing costs eligible for reimbursement. The conscript's allowance should also be easy to grant in arrears.

Decision-making practices are not the problem

The processing of conscript's allowances is highly centralised. All of them are processed by the family benefits unit of Kela's Western Insurance District. The decisions may be appealed to the Social Security Appeals Board and the Insurance Court.

According to the Deputy-Ombudsman, the problem of the conscript's allowance lies in the actual scheme rather than in inconsistent decision practices.

A comprehensive report by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is needed

No systematic report on the conscript's allowance has been produced that would assess such aspects as the allowance amounts and the impacts of the allowances on conscripts with different family situations.

The Deputy-Ombudsman requests the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to report on any pending or planned legislative projects aiming to develop the conscript's allowance by 9 January 2017.

Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja's decision of 6 October 2016, record no 4400/2/12, can be accessed at http://www.oikeusasiamies.fi/.

Further information is available from Notary Eeva-Maria Tuominen, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3395.