Erwerbsminderungsrente: Here’s who is entitled to an incapacity pension in Germany!

The Erwerbsminderungsrente, or incapacity pension, is intended to provide financial support to people who have experienced difficult life situations, such as having had an accident that prevents them from returning to their previous work or are chronically ill and have not yet reached the legal retirement age.

But what requirements must be met to receive one? What is the amount of the disability pension? And what else should you consider? Here are answers to the most important questions about the disability pension.

What types of disability pensions exist in Germany?

Basically, for employees who are insured under the general pension system, there are two types of disability pension:

  • The total incapacity pension is paid by the German Pension Insurance (Deutsche Rentenversicherung) if you are no longer able to do gainful work at all due to health reasons, or if you can work, but not for more than three hours a day.
  • Partial incapacity pension: You receive this benefit if, for health reasons, you are no longer able to work full-time but only for three to six hours a day. A special rule applies to persons born before 2 January 1961: If you can do your current or comparable work for less than six hours a day, you are entitled to a partial disability pension even if you can do other work for more than six hours a day. This provision does not apply to younger seniors.

You are also entitled to a total disability pension if you work in a disabled workplace that is recognized by the relevant state agency.

In this case, you also do not have to meet the requirement of a five-year insurance period (so-called waiting period) in statutory pension insurance. If you have worked continuously for at least 20 years in such an employment agency for people with disabilities, you are also entitled to a total disability pension.

Until 2001 there was a so-called EU-Rente, or Erwerbsunfähigkeitsrente. This has been replaced by the Erwerbsminderungsrente. In order to receive it, you have to meet different criteria than before.

What conditions have to be fulfilled in order to receive a partial disability pension in Germany?

In order to receive a partial or total work disability pension you must meet certain criteria.

  • You must have been insured for at least 5 years. A waiting period of at least 5 years in statutory pension insurance. You must also have paid compulsory contributions for at least three years during the five years prior to the incapacity for work.
  • You have not yet reached normal retirement age.
  • The reason for your inability to work must be illness or disability.

It is also a condition that it is medically impossible for you to regain full working capacity.

The German Pension Insurance Agency will carefully check whether it is medically impossible for you to return to work – assuming you undergo rehabilitation, treatment or other medical procedures (see below).

Interestingly, most of the disability pensions awarded in Germany for inability to work are due to mental illnesses such as depression, burnout or addiction.

How much is a disability pension in Germany?

How much money you receive depends on how many years you have been covered by statutory pension insurance and how many pension points you have accumulated during that time.

If you receive a partial disability pension, the benefit amount is half that of a total disability pension.

What if your annuity is very low?

In 2019, the average total incapacity pension was a net amount of only 853 euros. Experts therefore advise you to take out incapacity insurance.

You may also be entitled to basic insurance (Grundsicherung). You can find out more about this at the Jobcenter.

Remember that, as with an old-age pension, you will have to accept deductions if you apply for an occupational disability pension before a certain age. That limit increases to age 65 in 2024.

To find out how much your incapacity benefit will be, you can look at the annual pension information (jährliche Renteninformation). This tells you how much your invalidity pension would be if you were to apply for it.

How do I apply for an occupational disability pension?

You have to apply for an occupational disability pension from the Deutsche Rentenversicherung. You will need the following information for this:

  • a list of your health problems
  • names and addresses of doctors who have treated you
  • All information about medical examinations by public institutions (e.g. health insurance companies or the Labour Office)
  • Information about your stays in hospital and rehabilitation in recent years
  • A chronological list of your occupational activities to date

Ideally, you should document your medical history in detail and obtain a certificate from your doctor stating that you have been ill. However, you should not send the originals of these certificates to Deutsche Rentenversicherung, but only copies of them.

Deutsche Rentenversicherung will then check in detail with the help of medical experts whether you are entitled to a total or partial invalidity pension – and for how long. This can take several months.

The DRV often does not grant a disability pension forever, but for a specific period of time. This is especially true if there is hope that you will recover in some time and be able to return to work.

It is important to note that you will not receive disability benefits until at least the seventh month after you become unable to work. Before this happens, you will be receiving sick pay from your employer. However, you should make your claim as soon as possible as it can take a long time to process. If you no longer receive sickness benefit, you can contact the employment office (Arbeitsagentur) – you may be entitled to unemployment benefit.

What should I do if my application for a disability pension is rejected?

The pension insurance system rejects many applications for incapacity benefit. If you receive a denial, you have the option of appealing it. The best way is to send the appeal by registered mail. However, you have only one month to do this. You should enclose important documents which show why you are no longer fully capable of working. Pension advisors, welfare organisations or trade unions can help you with this.

If the DRV rejects your appeal, you still have the option of appealing this decision to the social welfare court. But then it is worth consulting a lawyer who specialises in social welfare law – and this can cost a lot.

Can recipients of disability benefits earn extra money?

Yes, it is possible. However, how much you can earn depends on the type of incapacity benefit you receive.

  • Total incapacity pension: In this case, you can earn up to an additional 6,300 euros per year. If you earn more than this, 40 percent of what you earn above this amount will be deducted from your pension.
  • Partial invalidity pension: In this case, the additional earnings limit is set individually. It is based on the highest amount of earnings you had during the last 15 years before you received the partial disability pension. This limit is at least €15,479.10, and 40 percent of what you earn above this amount is deducted from your pension. The best thing to do is to look at your annuity statement (Rentenbescheid) or ask your pension insurance institution how much you can earn in additional employment.

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