by Sandra Wisnewski, J.D., 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. N.*
Ms. N worked for a company for many years. Sometime after she left employment, Ms. N was told by the plan that she was not eligible for a pension benefit. The reason they gave was that she did not work enough years to vest in the pension plan. However, Ms. N believed she was at least entitled to a refund of her contributions.
When Ms. N was ready to retire, she contacted the plan several times. Ms. N never received a response to her refund request. Also, by this time Ms. N had relocated outside the U.S. To add insult to injury, this meant that she could only correspond to the plan by letter because of the cost.
That’s when Ms. N contacted, by letter, the Pension Project. Even though Ms. N was not a U.S. resident, the Pension Project was able to assist Ms. N. As soon as the Pension Project received Ms. N’s letter, an attorney began working on her case.
The attorney sent an inquiry letter to the plan on Ms. N’s behalf. When the plan did not respond, within a reasonable amount of time, the attorney contacted the plan by phone. The plan confirmed the fact that they had received the attorney’s letter and explained that they were working on Ms. N’s case. At that time, the plan told the attorney that Ms. N had already received a refund of her contributions years prior to the Pension Project’s involvement. However, the plan agreed to research the matter further.
A few weeks later, the attorney was contacted by the plan. This time the plan had good news; Ms. N was indeed owed a pension benefit! The plan had made a mistake years prior by not calculating her earned service credit correctly. Even though Ms. N had already received a refund of her contribution, the company still owed her a back payment, plus a monthly benefit going forward.
The attorney was unable to contact Ms. N right away about the great news; all correspondence with Ms. N was done by mail. The attorney sent a letter to Ms. N telling her about the company’s error. A month later, the attorney received a response from the client. Ms. N was thrilled with the Pension Project’s assistance and had this to say:
“It has given me . . . psychological relief as I will use this benefit to pay off debts.”
*Ms. N is a former Pension Project client and her picture and story were used with her express, written permission.
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 54 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.