Counseling Project Success Stories

Pension Rights Center Fellow helps widow receive pension

In addition to working with clients living in states not covered by a pension counseling project, the Pension Rights Center often provides legal advice to attorneys working with clients who have problems with their retirement plans. In this instance, we were contacted by an attorney who was working with Linda, a widow whose husband had chosen to receive a joint-and-survivor pension that would continue to be paid to Linda after he died.

Linda’s husband had worked at a company that terminated its pension plan and purchased annuities for participants from an insurance company. Unfortunately, after her husband died, Linda did not receive the survivor pension that she knew her husband had selected. Her attorney was told by the insurance company that it had no record that Linda’s husband had selected a joint-and-survivor pension. Luckily, Linda had kept a copy of her husband’s benefit election form, which specifies the type of benefit he chose to receive — a joint-and-survivor pension.

When a company terminates its pension and fails to buy an annuity for a participant (or spouse), the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) steps in to assume responsibility for providing the pension. It was vitally important that Linda had kept a copy of her husband’s benefit election form, showing that he had chosen to receive a joint-and-survivor pension. (To learn more about the types of documents you should keep, check out our Tips for Keeping Track of Your Pension fact sheet.)

We were able to connect Linda’s attorney with one of our Michael S. Gordon Pension Fellows, a group of experienced attorneys who volunteer their pension expertise to the Pension Rights Center. Using Linda’s records, the Fellow was able to prove to the PBGC that Linda was entitled to the survivor pension her husband had wanted her to receive, and the agency has agreed to start paying her monthly benefit.

People not living in a state covered by a pension counseling project can contact the Pension Rights Center for legal assistance. By working with the Michael S. Gordon Pension Fellows and our network of experts, we are able to help retirees receive the pensions that they have earned.

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