by Sandra Wisnewski, Director of the Mid-America Pension Rights Project
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 Ms. B.
Ms. B’s husband, of 57 years, had recently passed away. During their marriage, Ms. B never worried about their finances; Mr. B had always been a good provider for the family. Mr. B earned a pension benefit from his former employer and added Ms. B as his surviving spouse. Ms. B remembered that when Mr. B retired, he elected the option that would give Ms. B a surviving spouse benefit upon Mr. B’s death.
Therefore, Ms. B contacted the plan about her husband’s passing. She asked the representative when she could expect to receive her surviving spouse benefit. To her surprise, the representative told her that she was not eligible, that her late husband chose not to elect a benefit for her.
Ms. B could not believe her ears. Now, she was not only heartbroken over the loss of her husband, she was also worried about how she was going to make ends meet. What could she do? That’s when Ms. B contacted the Mid-America Pension Rights Project.
Ms. B told the Pension Project that she lived on a very tight budget. So tight that she had to turn her heat down very low in order to save propane, she had difficulties paying her taxes and insurance, and was worried that she would not be able to stay in her home. Also, Ms. B said that she no longer went to the stores anymore because she couldn’t afford to spend any money on extras.
An attorney was assigned to Ms. B’s case. The attorney sent an inquiry letter to the plan. The letter informed the plan of Ms. B’s legal rights and requested written proof that Ms. B was not entitled to a surviving spouse benefit.
It wasn’t long before the plan contacted Ms. B directly. Not only did the plan acknowledge their mistake, but the plan sent Ms. B the required documentation to start her benefit. Ms. B was going to receive $934.00 a month for the rest of her life! Ms. B was grateful for the assistance of the Pension Project, this money would allow her to stay in her home and maintain a modest lifestyle.
The Pension 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.
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.
Sandra A. Wisnewski is the Director of Legal Services, and has been a staff member of Elder Law since 2010. Sandra earned her Bachelor of Arts from Siena Heights University in applied science in electronic engineering technology, and graduated with her Juris Doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan.
Before coming to Elder Law, Sandra devoted her time as a volunteer at the Legal Services of South Central Michigan. As a volunteer, she answered hotline questions and advised clients on various legal issues. In 2009, Sandra started her own general practice, Wisnewski Law Firm, P.L.L.C. in Stockbridge, Michigan where she focused on family law, wills and trusts, and criminal law.