Are you having difficulty getting the pension or 401(k) plan funds you worked years to earn? Five pension counseling projects, funded through the U.S. Administration on Aging and serving plan participants and their beneficiaries in 22 states, can help.
The retirement system's complexity and unresponsiveness can overwhelm the most tenacious retirees when they try to obtain the pensions they have earned. Companies change their names, merge or go bankrupt. They terminate, freeze and under-fund pensions. In some instances companies deny that employees worked for them, or they miscalculate pension benefits. Death or divorce can add difficulty in securing pension benefits. Solving these problems is the work of the pension counseling projects.
Since their inception in 1992, the pension counseling projects have obtained pension benefits valued at more than $75 million for workers and retirees who have earned them.
In most cases pension counseling projects confront a seemingly never-ending succession of brick walls to obtain what a retiree clearly appears to be entitled to. For example, a 62-year-old man from Connecticut worked for a large communications company for nearly 21 years, more than enough time to meet the legal requirements for vesting. He called the Pension Action Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston, utterly frustrated that after trying for more than a year, he was unable to get his pension.
First, company officials told him that they had no record of his employment. After he provided proof of his employment, they told him he must have worked in a position that was not covered by the pension plan. When he asked what that position was and why it was not covered, they said that they didn't know because they had no records. The same baffling statements were initially repeated to the Pension Action Center.
Obtaining the legal documents that governed the plan proved that there was no basis for the statements. The documents specifically provided that "all employees" were pension plan participants and would accrue benefits under the plan. The Action Center filed a formal claim on the man's behalf, pointing out the plan provisions and documenting his lengthy employment. After months of follow-up phone calls and letters, a favorable decision was received. The man received a monthly pension of more than $600 for his lifetime with an estimated value of more than $144,000.
Helping this man to get the benefits he had earned was gratifying, but the effort it took would anger and frustrate anyone who did not have the knowledge and persistence to finally win. That is what the pension counseling projects provide.
The pension counseling projects offer a unique and confidential service that is free of charge for individuals who need help. If either you, your company or pension plan is within a project's service area, you may contact your project for help. Here are the pension counseling projects and the states they cover:
Mid-America Pension Rights Project
Michigan Pension Rights Office -- (866) 735-7737
Serving Michigan, Tennessee and parts of Pennsylvania
Ohio Pension Rights Office -- (866) 735-7737
Serving Ohio, Kentucky and parts of Pennsylvania
Mid-Atlantic Pension Rights Project
New York Pension Rights Office -- (800) 355-7714
Serving New York and New Jersey
New England Pension Rights Project
Pension Action Center -- (888) 425-6067
Serving Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont
Upper Mid-West Pension Rights Project
Minnesota Pension Rights Office -- (866) 783-5021
Serving Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota
Iowa Pension Rights Office -- (800) 992-8161
Western States Pension Rights Project
California Pension Rights Project -- (916) 551-2140
Serving California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii