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Pension Problems and Questions

Adequate pensions are important for older persons to maintain financial security and independence. The U. S. Administration on Aging funds six regional Pension Counseling Projects which help workers, retirees and their families with pension problems.

Elder Law of Michigan and Pro Seniors operate the Mid-American Pension Rights Project (the Project) for residents of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Since 2001, the Ohio office has helped people obtain more than $20 million in pension and other retirement benefits. Any Ohio resident can contact the Project for assistance at no charge.

The Project handles pension benefits issues such as eligibility and vesting, military pensions, union pensions, 401(k) plans, survivor, divorce and common-law marriage pension benefits. The Project answers pension questions and handles cases at the administrative level. If necessary, the Project will help find a pension attorney to bring a case to court.

Lost pensions are a common problem. Individuals who worked for a company prior to a merger or before it went out of business often have no idea how to apply for pension benefits because the company has moved, changed names or closed down. The Project maintains a database of pension plan administrators and plans and also has contacts and expertise to help former employees find their lost pensions.

Surviving and divorced spouses may not know what pension benefits they are entitled to or how to get them. In one case, a widow was told by her deceased husband's employer that she would get nothing from her late husband's pension. She contacted the Project and learned that she was in fact entitled to survivor's benefits. The Project requested the benefits from the company on her behalf and she recovered what she was entitled to.

Anyone with questions about a pension or other retirement benefit can call the Project at 1.800.488.6070 or visit the Project's web site at http://www.proseniors.org/oh_pension.html or http://www.elderlawofmi.org/pension_rights_project.

This article was written by Gail W. Webb, Esq., the Managing Attorney for the Mid-American Pension Rights Project, and adapted for The Alert by Jennifer Becker, Esq., a staff attorney with The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. It is reprinted with permission from The Alert, a publication of The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

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