The New England Assistance Project recently helped a young widow unravel her late husband’s complicated pension situation. Suddenly widowed at the age of 52, she (we’ll call her K) contacted her husband’s past employers. Among them was a Municipal Water Pollution Control Authority, where he had worked for close to 10 years. K knew he had mentioned earning a pension from this job, so she reported his death to this municipality just a few weeks after he died. After two months of frequent trips to the municipality’s main office, she had not obtained a survivor benefit or even the promise of benefit forms.

At that point, K contacted her local United Way help line (211), which recommended she call the New England Pension Assistance Project. Although K’s husband had worked at one location for the municipality for over nine years, the path to his survivor benefits was not that simple. Within one year of starting work with the municipality, the department was privatized. To further complicate things, three years after privatizing the department, the municipality opted to go with a different private water treatment company. In addition, each of the two privatized companies was sold or acquired by other companies.

The municipality had no contacts at each company and did not appear to know that US Filter was no longer in existence and that a new company was now responsible for the pensions. In the end employees were credited with service for all time worked, even though different companies were responsible for paying the benefits. For his nine plus years of credited service, three different entities provided a portion of the benefit. The first six months of his survivor benefit were paid by the municipality.

Benefits for the next three plus years were paid by Veolia Water Systems, the successor company for Profession Service Group, which was the successor company for US Filter. Benefits for the next five plus years were paid by KGI Bridgeport, the successor company to Aquarion.

Overall, this case was quite a tangled web. Once the client began receiving benefits from each correct source, the New England Pension Assistance Project provided the municipality with a list of contact names/addresses and phone numbers so the next retiree or survivor should have an easier path to benefits.