By Christine Steinmetz, Pension Attorney at the Mid-America Pension Rights Project at Elder Law of Michigan
The Mid-America Pension Rights Project (MAPRP) assists clients with pension and 401(k) issues.
Ms. M worked for a company for over 16 years and was told that she had a pension benefit when she left. After she left the company, Ms. M married and divorced. Her judgment of divorce stated that her ex-husband was not entitled to any of her pension benefits. Five years ago, Ms. M retired and was told by the company that they had to deduct a Qualified Preretirement Survivor Annuity (QPSA) because she married after she left employment and divorced before she applied for her pension benefit. Ms. M promptly contacted the company because her judgment of divorce stated that her ex-husband was not entitled to any of her pension benefits and submitted the judgment of divorce to the company. The company responded to Ms. M stating that it was required to collect this QPSA fee. Ms. M persisted and continued to call the company over the course of 5 years. Each time she called the company, Ms. M was told that the company was required to charge the QPSA fee. Ms. M was very frustrated. Would she ever get her full pension benefit and have the QPSA fee stopped?
That is when Ms. M decided to contact the MAPRP. The case was assigned to an MAPRP attorney. The attorney reviewed the judgment of divorce and the law. The attorney determined that Ms. M was clearly entitled to her full pension benefit and the plan was not mandated by law to collect the QPSA fee. The attorney sent a written inquiry to the company.
Several months passed and Ms. M did not hear back from the company. The attorney made several phone calls to the company, but no one could assist the attorney. The attorney decided to send a certified letter to the company’s CEO and legal department. The attorney received a prompt response from their legal department stating that they were working on the inquiry. Finally, the company’s attorney contacted the MAPRP attorney stating that Ms. M was entitled to her full pension benefit, and they should not be deducting the QPSA fee. In addition, Ms. M received a lump sum payment for all the fees that had been deducted from her pension benefit for the last 5 years.
The MAPRP attorney’s hard work paid off! Ms. M was ecstatic! She would receive her full pension benefit. Although the company was deducting a small amount from her pension benefit, Ms. M knew this was an error and was glad to have this corrected.
If you have questions about your 401(k) or defined benefit pensions, please call the Mid-America Pension Rights Project. 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 organization.
Since the program began in 1998, the Pension Project has assisted over 16,000 clients and recovered over 83 million dollars in pension benefits. The Pension Project assists clients that either worked in or are currently living in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. For more information, visit http://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.
The information in this article is general and not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. In any legal matter you should always consider consulting with an attorney for specific advice.
Christine Steinmetz is a part-time Attorney at Elder Law of Michigan and has been a member of the Elder Law team since 2011. As an attorney at Elder Law, Christine advises clients on pension issues.