by Sandra Wisnewski, JD
Recently, the Mid-America Pension Rights Project helped Mr. S recover a disability pension benefit of approximately $12,000. He had been trying to get this money from his former employer for over six years.
Mr. S. worked for a company for over 10 years, and left the company because he became disabled. Before leaving the company, Mr. S. was told that he qualified for a disability pension benefit. Mr. S. did not anticipate that he would have any problems when he requested the initiation documents.
In 2007, Mr. S. started his quest when he first contacted the company requesting that his pension benefit start. The company promptly sent him a packet of forms to complete, but Mr. S. noticed that his personal information on the pre-printed forms as incorrect. He called and reported the error, and was told that he would get another packet in the mail with the information corrected.
The next packet of information was still wrong, so he called again. Another packet arrived a few days later, but the information was still wrong. This became a little game of mail a packet, make a phone call, apologize and promise to fix, and start all over again.
Even though he was tempted to just sign the forms with the incorrect information, he knew that it could potentially cause problems for him later. This was a hard decision to make because Mr. S was really struggling financially, he was disabled and could not work.
After doing this dance with the former employer for a few years, Mr. S. became ill and had to focus on his health. When he eventually felt better, he was ready to revisit the battle. Then, while flipping through the newspaper one day, he read about the services of the Mid-America Pension Rights Project.
He called the Pension Project. Mr. S explained his situation to the pension attorney who tried to contact the employer, but did not get a response after one month. The attorney advised Mr. S to take another approach.
The attorney wrote a letter for Mr. S. This letter explained all of the problems he was having and once again, asked someone to please help him fix this information. The attorney determined that this was the best way to proceed because the request was from the the former employee and pensioner, instead of from an attorney.
As the attorney explained to Mr. S., when large companies like this get letters from attorneys representing their clients, their legal departments usually get involved. After all, no one at the company was arguing that Mr. S. was wrong in his request to have the information corrected. In her years of experience, the attorney found that the best way to get this type of problem resolved is to find the right person to talk with. So, Mr. S. signed this letter drafted by the attorney.
The company representative called Mr. S. soon after the company received his letter. But this time, the person on the phone told Mr. S. something that he had never been told in any of the many conversations he had with many different people from that department. For the first time, after six years of calls, Mr. S. found out that he was actually talking to the wrong department! The department that sent out the numerous packets to Mr. S. wasn’t the department that could make a change on any of the forms.
Mr. S. was stunned by this revelation. Mr. S. took down the person’s name, the name of the department that could fix the problem, and also the name of the department supervisor. After hanging up with the employer, Mr. S. called the attorney and shared this important information with her.
Armed with a name of the supervisor, the attorney called the company. She got the supervisor on the phone and told the six-year story of Mr. S. The supervisor agreed to look into the matter.
Within a few days the supervisor requested, to the responsible department, the correction of Mr. S’s paperwork. This meant that Mr. S. could finally start his pension payments. The supervisor also agreed to the attorneys request that Mr. S. receive a retroactive payment for the six years of pension payments that he could have been receiving if he hadn’t encountered this problem. Needless to say, Mr. S. was grateful for the help and practical approach that his pension attorney took to resolve in several months what he had been fighting for several years. Here’s what Mr. S. had to say about the Pension Project,
“They protect and stand up for the disabled and poor against big corporations….”
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 Wisnewski is the Director of the Mid-America Pension Rights Project and is a contributor to this blog.
This post is part of a series featuring the Mid-America Pension Rights Project. Read other articles from this series.