The New England Pension Assistance Project (NEPAP) recently obtained a significant benefit increase for a 60-year old Massachusetts resident!
Our client (whom we’ll call M) received a booklet from his pension plan saying that the plan was “frozen” back in 2002. When a company “freezes” its pension plan, benefits stop accruing and are calculated as of the date when the plan was frozen. M had never been officially notified of the pension freeze and was understandably concerned about the effect this would have on his pension. When he contacted his former employer, a large medical equipment company, M was told that his pension would be $346.65 per month — considerably less than he expected! M tried unsuccessfully for months to get more information from his employer. He then contacted NEPAP after finding our website.
NEPAP uncovered an obscure provision in the federal pension law which requires employers to notify workers of a pension freeze. This meant that M should have received a notice back in 2002 when his pension plan was frozen. If an employer fails to send this notice, benefits continue to accrue. M’s former employer had overlooked this rule and frozen M’s benefit in 2002 despite giving him no notice! NEPAP brought this to the attention of M’s employer. We argued that M’s benefits had to continue accruing until the employer notified M of the pension freeze. We also requested that they recalculate M’s pension.
Fortunately, M’s employer agreed with us and finally sent M a notice of the pension freeze in 2011. They also recalculated his pension. M was credited with additional benefits through 2011, which increased his monthly pension by $420.31. As a result of NEPAP’s efforts, M will be receiving $766.96 per month when he retires!