Counseling Project Success Stories

Mid-Atlantic Pension Counseling Project Jumps Hurdles to Get Widow Survivor’s Benefits

Sylvia is the widow of a Mr. L, a member of a municipal retirement system, who died in 2020. Although separated, Sylvia and her husband continued to have an amicable relationship, and he named her as the beneficiary of his pension.  

But before disbursing any payments to her, the municipal pension plan insisted she surmount a series of unnecessary hurdles.  

For example, the pension plan informed her that it would not process her application because of a discrepancy between the middle name appearing on Mr. L’s birth certificate (Arnaldo) and the middle name on the marriage transcript (Arnold).  

In another instance, the fund refused to process the application because the Office of Vital Statistics of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene refused, without a court order, to correct Mr. L’s death certificate to list his marital status as “married but separated” rather than “divorced.”  

The Mid-Atlantic Pension Counseling Project (MAPCP) advised Sylvia to submit documentation to allay concerns about fraud that the retirement fund might have. MAPCP sent multiple letters to the pension plan, emphasizing that their stated reasons for delaying payments bore no legal relevance, as well as the plan’s obligation to commence benefit payments to Sylvia retroactive to the date of death of her husband.  

MAPCP also guided Sylvia through filing an action against the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, challenging their refusal to amend her husband’s death certificate. The judge decided in Sylvia’s favor, and the pension plan finally approved her application. 

Thanks to the diligence of the Mid-Atlantic Pension Counseling project, the pension plan finally disbursed the benefits after a three-and-a-half year wait. Sylvia received a lump-sum payment as well as a monthly benefit. As Sylvia is disabled, these benefits will make a substantial difference to her financial wellbeing. 

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