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Disability Pensions and Allowances

Getting sick is always annoying and a little worrying — even more so if you are working in another country. Fortunately, expats in France are usually entitled to paid sick leave until they’re back on their feet. This guide has all you need to know about benefits in case of sickness or disability.

Unfortunately, not every illness or accident is something you can easily or fully recover from. If your condition or injuries mean you’re incapable of working for longer than the arrêt maladie permits, there’s still a safety net to fall back on.

If your disability was caused by an accident at work or an occupational illness, you can apply for a rente d’incapacité permanente (permanent disability pension). However, if it isn’t connected to your job, you may still be entitled to the pension d’invalidité de la Securité sociale (social security disability pension).

Who is entitled to a disability pension?

To receive a pension d’invalidité, you need to meet the following conditions:

  • Your ability to work is reduced by at least 67%, as officially attested by a doctor on behalf of your Caisse primaire d’assurance maladie (healthcare and social security provider).
  • You must have paid social security contributions for at least twelve months before the first day of either the month when you became unable to work or the month when you were officially diagnosed.
  • Your former social security contributions were based on at least 600 hours of employment in a twelve-month period or on gross earnings equal to 2,030 times the minimum hourly wage (9.76 EUR in 2017). 

If you meet these criteria, your healthcare provider may automatically apply for disability benefits on your behalf. However, you can also start the application process with the CPAM yourself if your doctor thinks this is justified.

You will normally be informed of the decision within two months. If you haven’t heard anything from the CPAM after two months, it usually means that the application has been rejected. However, if this happens, you can apply for a second time within the next two months or officially contest the rejection.

What are the disability categories?

How much you will receive in disability benefits generally depends on two factors: your salary before you became unable to work and your assigned disability category. This category is based on an evaluation by a doctor working for your healthcare and social security provider. It involves a thorough check of your medical condition, your job and daily tasks, your general working conditions, and other factors.

  • Category 1 is for people with disabilities who are still capable of doing (some) paid work.
  • Category 2 is for people who can no longer work in any paid job due to their disabilities.
  • Category 3 means that someone needs regular assistance with everyday tasks, such as getting dressed, preparing and eating a meal, leaving their home, etc.

How much do you receive in benefits?

People in category one or two generally get between 30% and 50% of their previous annual salary in disability benefits, at least 282.77 EUR per month. In category one, the benefits for a single person without dependents are capped at 980.70 EUR a month, while those in category two may receive up to 1,634.50 EUR in benefits (2017 figures).

If someone with a major disability (category 3) needs help at home, they also get a majoration pour tierce personne (increase for third-party assistance) — a lump-sum payment of 1,107.49 EUR a month (2017 figure).

The disability pension can be increased if the recipient’s health gets worse. However, it can also be decreased or even cancelled if their health changes for the better or they are able to return to work. If the recipient never makes a full recovery, the benefits will usually be paid until the minimum retirement age of 62 years.

Just like the indemnités journalières for paid sick leave, a disability pension is subject to certain social security contributions and income tax. Only the majoration pour tierce personne for people with severe disabilities is exempt from taxation.

A disability pension can also be combined with other kinds of disability benefits.

What’s the allowance for adults with disabilities?

In addition to the pension d’invalidité, people with severe disabilities and low incomes often receive an additional allowance called the allocation aux adultes handicapés (AAH).

Recipients usually need to prove that they currently have a degree of disability of at least 80%. In some cases, the allowance is also granted for people whose degree of disability ranges from 50% to 79%: this applies if they suffer from serious restrictions as far access to work and the labor market is concerned.

Apart from this fundamental condition, there are several others you need to fulfill to be eligible for the AAH:

  • You need to be over 20 years old.
  • If you are a national of France or an EU/EEA member state, you need to be residing in France permanently.
  • If you are a foreign national from outside the EU/EEA, you need to be residing in France permanently and with a valid residence permit.

The AAH is also a means-tested allowance. You won’t receive it if your other income exceeds a certain amount. For example, in 2017, a single disabled person without children was only entitled to the AAH if the rest of their income was lower than 9,730.68 EUR per year.

To apply for this allowance, contact the nearest Maison Départmentale des personnes handicapées (MDPH). They will help you with the application process. It can take up to four months until the benefits are granted.

The maximum amount a recipient is entitled to is 810.69 EUR per month. If they are hospitalized for a longer period or have to move to a care home, this is reduced to 243.27 EUR a month.

These benefits are usually paid for up to five years. If the recipient’s health doesn’t improve, this period can be extended to 20 years.

AAH recipients with a degree of disability that’s higher than 80% and an official capacity to work that’s lower than 5% can also receive a complément de ressources (payment for additional resources). In 2017, this was a lump sum of 179.31 EUR a month.

Low-income earners with disabilities might also be entitled to allocations logement (housing benefits) and the majoration pour la vie autonome (increase for independent living). The latter is supposed to offer some financial support for living in their own accommodation rather than a care home or an assisted-living facility. 


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