Updated on 16 November 2023

If you are a person with a disability who is granted international or temporary protection in Bulgaria, you have the same rights as Bulgarian citizens with disabilities. You have the right to seek social, financial and personal assistance in Bulgaria. In order to exercise your rights, however, you need to have your disability established with a decision of the competent Bulgarian authorities – the Territorial Expert Medical Commission (in Bulgarian, these commissions are called TELK) or by the National Expert Medical Commission (in Bulgarian – NELK). This article will guide you through the procedure.

What does the TELK/NELK do?

TELK and NELK establish:

  • the type and degree of disability of children under 16 years old and of retired people;

  • the permanently reduced working capacity of people above 16;

  • whether the disease is caused by your working conditions.

There are many territorial commissions in the country and only one national commission (NELK), where you go in case you complain against a TELK decision. You can go to a TELK only if you have a medical referral.

Why do you need a TELK/NELK decision?

The TELC/NELC decision will allow you to seek social, financial and personal assistance in Bulgaria during the period of its validity. If you have a kid with a disability, you can read our article on social assistance for children in Bulgaria, section “Raising a child with a disability until the age of 18 or not more than 20 years old”.

The procedure for establishing and re-establishing disability by the TELC and NELC is free of charge. 

Who can refer you to a TELK commission?

In most cases, this will be your general practitioner (GP). Your GP will examine you and if they consider that you have a disability, they will refer you to TELK. If you do not have a GP, read this article: 

Registration at the doctor/GP

If you do not have a GP but you are undergoing medical treatment, the doctor who carries out your treatment can refer you to TELK when you show signs of a permanent disability which has not been established yet. 

Important! Your doctor has to refer you to a TELK even if you have unpaid monthly health insurance instalments. However, if you are not health insured, you will have to pay the full cost of the examinations and consultations carried out for the purposes of the medical examination

 A Medical Advisory Committee (in Bulgarian it is called LKK) can also refer you to TELK if you have been on sick leave for 180 days and you show signs of a permanently reduced working capacity.

Necessary documents 

In order to have your disability established, you need to submit to TELK:

  1. an application form – you can find a sample in Bulgarian here;

  2. the medical referral issued by your doctor;

  3. medical documentation regarding your disability – e.g., hospital admission records; outpatient card from examinations by specialists in the field of your disease; recent laboratory tests and consultations with specialists documenting existing diseases and complications;

  4. the original and a copy of the birth certificate, in case you are a child under 16.

You can submit the documents on your own or through a person you have authorized by a notarized power of attorney, or through your legal representative. 

They need to be submitted to the Regional Medical Examination Registry, which will forward them to the TELK. The documents can be submitted in person at the desk, via a licensed postal operator or electronically with a qualified electronic signature.

Your doctor should attach to your medical referral certified copies of the results of consultations and examinations carried out in the last 12 months before your appointment with TELК if they are available in the medical records kept by your doctor. In this case, you do not need to go through the same examinations again. Your doctor will tell you what further examinations concerning your medical condition you need to go through and what documents you need to prepare. 

Important! Your medical documents should be issued no later than the last 12 months before your appointment with TELK. TELK can ask you to go through more examinations after you have submitted the initial documents.

Which TELK commission can you go to?

The medical referral from your doctor gives you the right to go to a TELK commission of your permanent or current address or you have an address card (for people with temporary protection). You can prove your permanent address by showing your Bulgarian ID card or your address card. 

Important! You have to be registered at the address for at least 3 months before submitting your documents for examination. 

If you have been treated for more than 30 days in a hospital or at home and your medical condition does not allow you to visit TELK, then you can be examined at home or at the hospital. In this case, your GP must state that you cannot go to  TELK either in the medical referral issued for this purpose.

Issuance of TELK decision

Your TELK decision should be ready within 3 months from the submission of all your documents. 

Usually, when your disability is established for the first time, you will be asked to appear before TELK for an examination. 

The TELK decision regarding permanently reduced working capacity contains:

  1. the degree of permanently reduced working capacity in percentage as compared to a healthy person;

  2. the need for personal assistance and its duration;

  3. the duration of the disability and the date on which the determined period of disability expires;

  4. the starting date of the permanently reduced working capacity;

  5. the link between the disability and the incapacity for work due to a work accident, occupational disease, etc.;

  6. the link between the disability and the working conditions;

  7. contraindicated working conditions;

  8. whether you are fit for the workplace and the need for workplace adjustment – in case the TELC determines that your disability is 50% or more;

  9. the nature of the disease - occupational or general.

The TELK decision regarding the type and degree of disability of children under 16 and elderly people includes:

  1. the degree of disability as a percentage compared to a healthy person;

  2. the need for personal assistance and its duration;

  3. the duration of the disability and the date on which the TELK decision expires;

  4. the date of disablement;

  5. recommendations for further monitoring and rehabilitation.

TELK can determine that you need personal assistance for the duration of your TELK decision or for a shorter period depending on the disability and its development. In any case, the duration of the personal assistance cannot be less than 6 months.

You can receive the TELК decision in several ways:

  • in person

  • through a person you have authorized to receive it by a notarized power of attorney

  • through a legal representative – e.g. a parent of a kid with a disability

  • via the post with a delivery notice

Your right to appeal against the TELК decision 

If you do not agree with the TELK decision, you can appeal it before the National Expert Medical Commission (NELK) within 14 days as of the day you received your decision. You should submit the appeal to the Regional Health Inspectorate, which will forward it to NELK. 

Important! NELK decides only on the claims raised in the appeal. Seek the help of a lawyer to help you with your appeal:

How to find a good lawyer in Bulgaria

Request assistance

 NELK can revoke entirely or partially TELK’s decision and return it to TELK with instructions for reconsideration. 

NELK does not decide on diseases that have occurred after the TELK decision was delivered.

NELK can also annul TELK’s decision and issue a new one if TELK has incorrectly determined your percentage of permanently reduced working capacity or the type and degree of impairment. 

NELK can also decide that TELK’s decision is correct.

NELK issues its decision within 3 months from the date it receives your medical documentation.

You can appeal against NELK’s decision before the administrative court in accordance with your current address within 14 days as of the moment you are notified of the decision.

Validity of TELK and NELK decisions

Normally TELK and NELK decisions are valid from 1 to 3 years depending on the nature of your disability, its development and the chances of recovery. 

The validity of the TELK/NELK decision that determines an occupational disease is 3 years.

Important! At least 3 months before the validity of your decision expires, you will need to go through the procedure for establishing your disability again. If your health condition has no prospect of improving over time, TELK/NELK should issue a decision that is valid indefinitely. A decision with indefinite duration is also issued to retired people receiving an old-age pension.