You’ve probably been contributing to SSS for years now partly because it’s the law, and partly because your employer deducts your share automatically. Or maybe you’ve left your regular job and gone freelance, which has made you stop contributing because you feel like there’s really no point in doing so. While the concept of putting money into the Social Security System is something that's still a bit vague, you may want to think of it this way: You’re filling in a pot of money along with thousands of other people so that you can have something to fall back on during a rainy day. Will it be a lot? It really depends, but it’s something, and having something is reassuring.

To help clear the confusion that usually comes with dealing with contributions, we reached out to SSS Assistant Vice President for Media Affairs Ma. Luisa Sebastian and asked some of the most common questions you may have about your benefits and your loans, as well as some that have appeared on GirlTalk. These range from the most basic issues concerning salary loans, to the forward-looking inquiries about retirement and pension.

FemaleNetwork.com: What are the compelling reasons to apply for an SSS salary loan?

AVP Luisa Sebastian: There is usually a surge of applicants for the SSS salary loan during enrollment and Christmas holidays. The SSS does specify the use for salary loans. The loan can be used for educational or health needs, purchase of gadgets or any other material.

FN: Is there a set amount for your first salary loan, and how many times can you apply for it?

AVP Luisa Sebastian: The amount of loan proceeds depends on his/her contributions. The loanable amount is the average of the last 12-monthly salary credits (MSC) of a member. So, if a member is consistently paying at the minimum monthly contribution amount of P110 which has an equivalent MSC of 1,000, then his/her loan will amount to P1,000; while a member who is consistently paying at the maximum monthly contribution of P1,760 which has an equivalent MSC of p16,000, then his/her loan will amount to P16,000.

Under the salary loan program, a member is entitled to avail of the salary loan if he/she has paid at least 36 monthly contributions and has at least 6 posted monthly contributions within the last 12 months before the month of filing of application. A member who has paid at least 36 months but not more than 72 monthly contributions is entitled to a one-month salary loan; those who have paid at least 72 monthly contributions are entitled to a two-month salary loan.

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Using our example above, if a member paying at the minimum is entitled to a two-month salary loan, his/her loan will then be P2,000; if member is paying at the maximum, his/her two-month loan will amount to P32,000.

The maximum loanable amount is P32,000.

A member can apply for a loan for as many times as he/she wants, as long as he/she is qualified. A member is allowed to renew their loan if they have paid their loan for at least one year and their loan balance is not more than 50 percent of the principal of their last loan.

FN: If you're employed, is it better to get your salary loan through your employer or would it be faster to process it at an SSS branch?

AVP Luisa Sebastian: If you are employed, it is best to get your salary loan through your employer. Employed-members are required to get their certification for loan from their employers. Also, if the employer is aware that you are filing for a loan, they can assist you in following it up from the SSS through your company representatives. Making your employer aware that you have been granted a loan by the SSS will also ensure that the employer will know when deductions should be made for your loan payments, as well as the amount that should be deducted from the member's salary.

Members can now file their salary loans online. For employed members, their employers should be registered with the SSS online so that they can file their employees' loan applications through the internet.

Members can also opt to get their loans through prepaid cash cards issued by SSS partner banks.

FN: Can one have a GSIS and an SSS membership at the same time?

AVP Luisa Sebastian: Yes. Individuals who used to work in the private sector are considered members of the SSS even if they are not with the private sector anymore and have stopped paying SSS contributions. The SSS has a once a member, always a member policy. This means that these individuals can still avail of benefits from the SSS as long as they meet the qualifying conditions. Some of these members may have transferred to government service and become members of the GSIS. Then, they become members of both systems.

SSS advise[s] these members to continue paying their contributions with the SSS to ensure their qualification to benefits and privileges under the system.

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FN: What happens if an employee resigns with an outstanding salary loan?

AVP Luisa Sebastian: If a member resigns with an outstanding salary loan, the employer should deduct the full balance from the proceeds of his/her benefits from the company and this should be remitted to the SSS. If the benefits of the employee cannot cover the full amount of the loan, the employer should report to the SSS the effective date of separation of the employee and the full amount of unpaid loan balance.

On the other hand, the separated employee should pay his/her loan balance on his/her own, or, upon employment, advise the new employer of the loan so that payments to the loan can be facilitated by the new employer.

FN: If an employer does not remit a member's contributions, what can be done about it?

AVP Luisa Sebastian: Members are enjoined to file a formal complaint against their employer if they have proven that their employer is not remitting their contributions to the SSS. The member will have to go to the nearest SSS office to do this. SSS has a rule on anonymity, which means that the SSS will not tell the employer of the complaint but instead visit the employer and do a routine check of their documents. If SSS sees that the employer is remiss from his duties, SSS will bill the employer. If the employer does not comply, SSS will issue a demand letter. If at this point, the employer will still not comply, the SSS will file a case against the employer.

An employer who fails to remit the contributions of his/her employees may be fined and imprisoned.

FN: How can you get a salary loan if you're a freelancer, and what would be the requirements to avail it?

AVP Luisa Sebastian: To avail of the salary loan, a member should have paid at least 36 monthly contributions and has at least 6 posted monthly contributions within the last 12 months before the month of filing of application. A member who has paid at least 36 months but not more than 72 monthly contributions is entitled to a one-month salary loan; those who have paid at least 72 monthly contributions are entitled to a two-month salary loan.

When filing for a salary loan, you only need to submit a filled out salary loan application form and a photocopy of your SSSID/UMID or in the absence, two valid IDs to the nearest SSS office. The salary loan application form is available in SSS offices or can be downloaded and printed from www.SSS.gov.ph.

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FN: If a member reaches retirement age, will he or she need to inform SSS about it, or will pension be automatically given?

AVP Luisa Sebastian: If a member reaches retirement age, has at least 120 monthly contributions with the SSS and has decided to retire from employment, he/she can file for his/her retirement claim in the nearest SSS office.

Members who choose to continue working after age 60 will have to wait for their retirement from work or age 65 before they can file for their retirement claim. Members who reach age 65 can file their retirement claim whether they are employed or not.

FN: If a person doesn't reach 120 monthly contributions which entitles him or her to a pension, will he or she be able to get back her contributions?

AVP Luisa Sebastian: A person who reaches age 60 but has not completed the required 120 monthly contributions for a retirement pension has the option to continue paying his/her contributions until he/she completes the requirement and file for a retirement pension.

However, if he/she opts to file for retirement benefits even if he/she has not completed the required 120 monthly contributions, he/she will be entitled to a lump sum retirement benefit equivalent to the total amount of his/her contributions plus interest.

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