Greek Taxi Drivers Fake Blindness to Get Disability Payments (Video)

On the Greek island of Zakynthos (population approximately 35,000), at least 600 people (including taxi drivers and recreational hunters) have falsely registered themselves as blind and are collecting disability payments (of at least 350 euros, about $462, per month) from Greece’s cash-strapped government. This would mean that 2 percent of the island’s population is blind, “nearly 10 times the average rate of blindness in the rest of Europe,” says the Christian Science Monitor.

Such abuses of Greece’s social welfare system cost the Greek government 111 million euros ($146 million) last year. Officials have stopped welfare or pension payments to about 200,000 people due to such fraudulent claims.

Corruption Deeply Embedded in Greece

The Christian Science Monitor describes farmers whose fraudulent subsidy claims garner billions of euros for them from the European Union, people claiming pensions for long-dead relatives, women accruing multiple maternity benefit payments despite their never having had a child.

Sadly, these sorts of improprieties are too often the norm in Greece. Tax fraud and corruption are commonplace. The Mediterranean country of 11 million ranked 80th out of 183 in Transparency International’s 2011 corruption perceptions index, following CubaTunisiaChina and Saudi Arabia. Fakelaki, “little envelopes” of cash, are routinely used to bribe medical practitioners and all manner of officials with a view to obtaining construction permits and more. This “system of favors” dates back to Greece’s years under Ottoman rule, says the Christian Science Monitor.

I find the false claims of disabilities especially abhorrent as the situation for individuals with disabilities in Greece is highly lacking. I know a few families with children with disabilities in Greece. There are special education services but these are not what they are in the U.S.; there is no Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA) to require the Greek government to provide accommodations and appropriate services for children with disabilities. One friend and her husband pay quite a bit in tuition to a private school so their son (who has Angelman’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder) can attend.

Another friend’s autistic son is in his 30s. He attended school years ago. Now he goes out once in the morning with my friend and her husband and then spends the rest of the day in the apartment, a routine that has been his and theirs for years and years.

This video provides an idea of what it is like to live with an actual disability in Greece.

The video was made in 2004 before the economic crisis hit. 21 percent of Greeks are now unemployed and the country is in its fifth year of a recession. Reports about “blind” taxi drivers underscore why, prior to May 6th elections, Greeks have become deeply cynical not only about politicians but also about the country’s social system.

 

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Photo by Tran's World Production

62 comments

Jane R.
Jane R.4 years ago

I hope all the people claiming to be blind will really go blind!! What corrupt society! Something needs to be done to make getting around in a wheelchair easier. This woman driving hers on the street will probably get hit by a car. So sad.

lis Gunn
lis Gunn4 years ago

Once a proud and principled nation, now reduced to welfare cheats. It is terribly sad but predictable.
Tragic also is that so many Greeks are suffering and will continue to. That so many Greeks cheated the system for so long says a lot about the lack of ethics and morality in society. The riots against austerity measures, the unemployment rate and the "me,me, me" ethos does not augur well for the upcoming elections there. All the corruption, bribery and tax evasion will come home to them. The good times are over.

lis Gunn
lis Gunn4 years ago

Once a proud and principled nation, now reduced to welfare cheats. It is terribly sad but predictable.
Tragic also is that so many Greeks are suffering and will continue to. That so many Greeks cheated the system for so long says a lot about the lack of ethics and morality in society. The riots against austerity measures, the unemployment rate and the "me,me, me" ethos does not augur well for the upcoming elections there. All the corruption, bribery and tax evasion will come home to them. The good times are over.

Stefanie D.
Stefanie D.4 years ago

Folks have to remember that legit legal blind status does not mean one is completely blind or totally non-sighted.

For some places, legally, one is considered blind if one has severe myopia beyond -4.50 for both eyes. It's just a matter of whether one applies for such disability benefits or not, given the condition being real.

Mara C.
Past Member 4 years ago

It figures.

Robert C.
Robert Cruder4 years ago

In a corrupt society honest people sacrifice their own welfare and that of their family for empty principle.

Honesty on their part will not correct the broader society.

That is why most start out honest but rationally choose otherwise after seeing enough other people succeed by corrupt means.

The Greek who steals 350 euros per month believes (correctly) that others are stealing millions and sees no reason to stop.

The reverse is true. The thief who steals more can bribe more cops and have less chance of prosecution.

That is the moral hazard of letting the rich and powerful steal without penalty (as the U.S. did with Wall Street and investment bankers).

Jailing one or a hundred petty thieves out of 11 million Greeks would not dent the problem and would deter few.

Jailing and bankrupting a few of the richest thieves would deter theft at every level.

It only requires one cop, one judge and one jailer who cannot be bribed.

For that reason Greece is doomed.

David L.
David L.4 years ago

THE GREEK ECONOMY IS DEAD...

GREECE is doomed..

The sooner more people accept these facts, the sooner they can get on with cleaning up their messes.


ANYBODY want to BUY a well used and grossly abused minor Euro' nation ~ once a great empire, but now a broken basket case ~ going cheap..

Anyone... Anywhere....

Going once, going twice...

};-P

Bob Abell
Dr. Bob Abell4 years ago

It is easy to blame it on "socialism" when you see a communist under every bed, as many in the US seem to have been doing since the 1950's and McCarthy.

The real problem is enforcement and education. People clearly found to have abused the system should have all payments clawed back, with interest, and it needs to be public in the community when such abuses are systemic. From an education perspective, the media could do a lot by constantly reminding people that when they abuse the system they are stealing - stealing from their neighbors - not some amorphous entity called "the government".

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L.4 years ago

Maybe the Greek people need to take a long hard and honest look at what is happening in there country and make some changes that are fair to every single citizens. This is disgusting coming from the people; but it doesn't say much about the government either.

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers4 years ago

The result of desperation? Or, just greed?