New England Pension Assistance Project locates pension for widow
When Katherine* suddenly became a widow at the age of 52, she contacted her husband’s past employers to inform them of his death. Among her husband's employers was the public utility of a municipality where he had worked for nearly 10 years. Katherine knew that her husband had earned a pension while he was employed by the municipality’s public utility so she reported his death to the municipality a few weeks after his death.
After two months of frequent trips to the municipality’s main office, Katherine had yet to obtain survivor benefits or even the promise of the benefit forms she needed to claim her husband's pension. Not knowing where to turn for help, Katherine contacted the Rhode Island United Way help line, which recommended that she contact the New England Pension Assistance Project.
Although Katherine’s husband had worked at the municipality’s public utility for more than nine years, the path to her husband's pension was not simple.
Through its detailed casework, the New England Pension Assistance Project discovered that while her husband had worked for the municipality’s public utility, the municipality privatized and later replaced the public utility with another company. To further complicate matters, those two companies were bought and sold by other companies during the time Katherine’s husband worked for the municipality.
After exhaustive research, the New England Pension Assistance Project found that, for the more than nine years Katherine's husband was employed by the municipality’s public utility, three entities were responsible for a portion of his pension benefit.
When Katherine made her claim for benefits, the municipality did not have contacts at any of the three companies. Moreover, the municipality did not appear to know that one of the companies for which Katherine's husband worked was no longer in existence and that a new company was now responsible for his pension.
Overall, this case was quite a tangled web, but, through its diligent work, the staff of the New England Pension Assistant Project was able to help Katherine obtain a monthly survivor’s benefit ultimately valued at more than $100,000.
The work of the New England Pension Assistance Project didn’t end once Katherine began receiving benefits. The New England Pension Assistance Project provided the public utility with a list of contact names, addresses, and phone numbers to help ensure that the next retiree or survivor would have an easier path to benefits.
*For privacy reasons, the name of the person featured in this story has been changed.
Learn about the New England Pension Assistance Project.
Learn about the Pension Counseling and Information Program.
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Each state retirement system has its own rules relating to the division of state employees' pensions in divorce proceedings. Learn the rules for each state by reading our fact sheet, State Retirement Plans and Divorce.