By: Sandra Wisnewski, JD
The Mid-America Pension Rights Project assists clients with pension and 401(k) issues. There are no age or income restrictions and there is never a charge for the services. The Pension Project works to find answers and solutions to your pension-related problem. Just ask Mr. P.
Mr. P and his wife lived in a mobile home. They lived on a modest income, receiving only social security. Mr. P was worried that his furnace would not make it through one more winter. Mr. P also had been holding off on other household repairs because the couple did not have any extra money.
Mr. P had just reached retirement age and was ready to receive the pension benefit he had earned from his former employer. However, Mr. P didn’t know who to contact. The company had went out of business years prior. Mr. P tried to locate the current administrator of the plan on his own, but was unsuccessful.
So, Mr. P decided to contact the Pension Project. Mr. P had heard about the Pension Project from the local senior center. As soon as Mr. P contacted the Pension Project an attorney was assigned to his case.
After some research, the attorney located the current plan administer. The attorney sent a letter to the company requesting information regarding Mr. P’s pension benefit. It wasn’t too long before Mr. P received a written response from the company. Surprisingly, they offered him a one-time lump sum payment.
Also, to sweeten the pot, the plan offered to increase his benefit by $3,656.00. This offer was just the opportunity he needed to help him and his wife. Offering such a deal was not only a benefit to Mr. P, but it also helped the plan administrator. By taking the money in a lump sum, the plan was saving future administrative costs.
The company’s only stipulation was that the completed initiation documentation had to reach the plan sometime before the end of the calendar year. If the plan did not receive the documents by then, the one-time increased lump sum offer would be gone forever.
Mr. P jumped at the chance to receive an increased lump sum benefit! As soon as Mr. P received all the necessary paperwork, he immediately began filling it out. Mr. P mailed the completed packet by certified mail to the plan. Mr. P received confirmation, from the plan, that the documents were received on time.
So, there was nothing left to do but to wait for the money to roll in. Mr. P was very excited with the thought of being able to finally replace his furnace and make the necessary home repairs before the cold weather set in. However, as we all know, life is never that easy.
In January, Mr. P received a letter from the plan indicating that his packet was late, he did not qualify for the increased benefit, and he had to start the process all over again. Mr. P could not believe his eyes, so he called the plan seeking an explanation. However, he was told the same thing by the representative. Mr. P did not understand the plan’s determination because he had proof that they had received his documents before the end of the year.
The attorney called the plan and spoke with the company representative. The representative confirmed what was told to Mr. P, adding one more very important detail. The reason Mr. P’s packet was late actually had nothing to do with when it was received by the plan. It was late because a plan representative did not get a chance to review Mr. P’s documents until sometime after the first of the year.
The attorney had never heard of a plan basing its due date on the plan representative’s job performance. The attorney referred to the plan documents she received. These documents did not mandate the extra step indicated by the plan representative.
An appeal was the next step in the process. The attorney obtained the process for the appeal and wrote a very detailed letter on Mr. P’s behalf. Within a week the company responded, informing Mr. P that he had indeed qualified for the increased lump sum. He would receive a check shortly. Mr. P was very, very happy with the outcome of his case and the Pension Project’s assistance. Mr. P was especially happy because he and his wife would be warm when winter arrived.
The Mid-America Pension Rights Project is funded by the Federal government through a grant provided by the Administration for Community Living, and is a program of Elder Law of Michigan, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit. This document was produced through grant funds, but does not represent the view of the Administration for Community Living.
Since the program began in 1998, the Pension Project has assisted over 11,000 clients and has recovered over 50 million dollars in pension benefits. The Pension Project assists clients in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. For more information, visit www.mid-americapensions.org.
If you need help with or information about your pension or 401(k) benefit, please call the Mid-America Pension Rights Project at 866-735-7737 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys.