Finding help with pension problems
March 2, 2021
Joan Hatem-Roy Chief Executive Officer

Question:  My sister’s husband died several months ago. When she applied for the survivor benefit from his pension, she was told she wasn’t eligible to receive further funds because her husband had chosen a higher payout when he first retired. This is not what he had explained to her, and she hasn’t seen any forms he signed. I have tried making calls on her behalf, but no one would talk to me. Can anyone at your agency help her out? 

Answer: Retirement benefits can be very complex. This is outside our area of expertise, but we know of a resource that may be able to advocate for your sister. The Pension Action Center at UMass Boston’s Gerontology Institute deals with issues like this all the time. Their pension lawyers and counselors assist residents of the six New England states and Illinois free of charge.  

Retirees or their surviving spouses may encounter roadblocks in receiving benefits for countless reasons, such as when a company declares bankruptcy or abandons its 401 (k), preventing employees from accessing their money.

The Pension Action Center’s focus is to claim any benefits a worker has rightfully earned.  It has represented retirees who worked for private companies and municipalities, as well as members of unions. You can contact PAC at 1-888-425-6067. The Center emphasizes that people should verify their retirement benefits before they retire and investigate anything that seems problematic. The Center recommends keeping all tax returns indefinitely and carefully storing any paperwork relevant to retirement plans.  

Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at for more information. You can also call us at 1-800-892-0890 or email Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore. 

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