NAV scandal rages

EU rules wrongly interpreted, people wrongly convicted of benefit fraud

Photo: Wikimedia
NAV office in the Tøyen neighborhood in Oslo.

The Local

The Norwegian Labor and Welfare Administration, NAV, is embroiled in an ongoing controversy after it incorrectly interpreted EU rules, resulting in people being wrongly convicted of benefits fraud. The issue has become so serious that calls have been made for the authority’s director, Sigrun Vågeng, to resign. 

Politicians have also been critical, with Left party leader Bjørnar Moxnes calling the case a “scandal,”and Socialist Red Party leader Audun Lysbakken describing it as a “catastrophe.” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said that it was “incredibly unfair” and “should not happen in Norway,” Nettavisen reported.

NAV, responsible for around a third of Norway’s state budget, administers social security programs, including unemployment benefits, pensions and child benefits.

The authority admitted it had made comprehensive errors in its interpretations of sickness benefits, support for people who need medical treatment, or other measures to help them get back to work (work assessment allowance or arbeidsavklaringspenger, AAP), and support for people who are unable to work due to a sick child’s care needs. 

At least 48 people have been wrongly convicted of social security fraud, NTB reports. The issue specifically affects people who are residents of Norway temporarily living in another EEA country. 

Rules for taking sickness benefits, AAP, or care benefits to another EEA country with a permanent residence in Norway have been incorrectly practiced by NAV since 2012, when EU regulations on the area were introduced. 

State prosecutor Tor-Aksel Busch called the matter “very serious,” according to VG.

“These were people in difficult situations. In addition to being denied benefits they were entitled to, they have been required to serve time.” Busch said.“Now we must do what we can to make up for this,” he added.

Several people were reported to police for benefits fraud, and the at least 48 incorrect convictions were made, including  prison sentences, the longest of which was eight months, VG writes.

All people who lost their welfare entitlements could be entitled to refunds.  Compensation will be paid to those who have served prison sentences. A total of about 2,400 cases have been incorrectly assessed. Those affected will be contacted by NAV, and those who think they may be affected can also contact NAV’s offices.

This article was originally published on The Local.

This article originally appeared in the November 15, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

Norwegian American Logo

The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.