Restarting a pension becomes a family matter
When Emma, a widow living in a nursing home, suddenly stopped receiving her monthly pension payments in May 2013, she turned to Lily, her granddaughter, for help. Emma had been receiving a survivor pension since her husband’s death in 1959 and didn’t know why her monthly pension payments had stopped. Because Lily’s grandfather had worked for more than 20 years at the post office, Lily contacted the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the pension plan administrator. Unfortunately, Lily’s grandfather didn’t have a Social Security Number, which prevented OPM from finding a record for him in its database.
Not knowing what to do next, Lily heard a radio public service announcement promoting the free services of the Mid-America Pension Rights Project. Hoping the counseling project would have better results, Lily called the counseling project and was connected with Jean Spring, a pension attorney for the counseling project. Jean was able to reach an attorney in OPM’s Customer Information Branch and eventually learned that Emma’s pension had stopped because OPM needed Emma to complete a form. Apparently, OPM had mailed the form to Emma’s home address, not knowing she had moved to a nursing home. Because OPM never received the form, it stopped Emma’s pension payments pending a response from Emma. Jean was able to get OPM to send Emma another form and, after Emma completed and returned the form to OPM, Emma’s pension was restarted in May 2014. Emma also received a retroactive payment of more than $7,100 to compensate for the more than a year of pension payments she hadn't received.
The Mid-America Pension Rights Project provides free legal services in Indiana, Kentucky Michigan, Ohio and, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. To date, the Mid-America Pension Rights Project has recovered more than $50 million in benefits for more than 11,000 clients.
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Did You Know?
A defined benefit plan is a pension plan, usually funded entirely by employer contributions, that pays benefits according to a formula. The formula is typically based on the participant's wages or salary and length of time spent working for an employer or group of employers. Defined benefit plans are also known as traditional or guaranteed pensions.