New England Pension Assistance Project Recovers Lost Pension of Massachusetts Widow

October 19, 2017
Hilary Dalin, Director of the Office of Elder Justice and Adult Protective Services

This week is National Retirement Savings Week and the occasion gives us an opportunity to highlight a success story. This story is how a 65-year old widow from Massachusetts was helped to recover her lost pension.

One of our ACL grantees, The New England Pension Assistance Project helped this widow obtain her monthly benefit and retroactive lump sum from her deceased husband’s pension from the Massachusetts branch of the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) pension plan.

This was the situation: The client did not speak or read English and required assistance advocating to obtain her survivor benefit. Just the day before her husband unexpectedly and suddenly died, he had elected a single-life annuity; a single-life annuity provides payments that last for the life of just one person.

The bereaved client went to the plan provider the day following her husband’s death to revoke her consent to her late husband’s election and reclaim the survivor benefit, but the plan provider refused. The attorneys at the New England Pension Assistance Project contacted the pension plan on the client’s behalf. They argued she had the right to revoke her consent and reclaim her survivor benefit because her husband had not lived to see the start date of the annuity.

Additionally, the lawyers cited the plan’s breach of fiduciary duty in giving the client English-only forms. A breach of fiduciary duty occurs when one person or company has a duty toward another person or company, but fails to live up to that standard. As a result, the widow now will receive a monthly benefit of $300 and also received a retroactive payment of $3,802.

The New England Pension Assistance Project identified a person who was due a pension, took action to rectify the situation, and in the end helped her recover a pension that was owed to her. Financial security is critical to a high quality of life for older adults. The Pension Counseling and Information Programs have a 9:1 return on the investment ACL makes in funding them. The Administration for Community Living works to improve financial security for older Americans by funding programs such as the New England Pension Assistance Project. All older Americans should be able to live and fully participate in their communities.

Last modified on 05/07/2020

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