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ERISA Pension Lawyer

This May Be the Biggest Monkey Wrench in Many Americans' Plans for a Comfortable Retirement

According to the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, retirees are the fastest-growing segment of our population filing for bankruptcy, and 39% of bankrupt retirees do so on account of medical expenses. This sad statistic is largely attributable to (i) a lack of awareness regarding the amount of money needed to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses in retirement; (ii) misunderstandings about Medicare coverage; and (iii) failing to consult with a certified financial planner, estate planning attorney, and/or elder care attorney well before planned retirement.

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Foot Locker Slammed for $180 Million for Misleading Pensioners About Their Pension Benefits

Playing hide-the-doughnut was fun when we were kids. However, it is totally unacceptable when explaining pension benefits to plan participants, as one large corporation recently learned the hard way. Osberg v. Foot Locker, Inc., No. 15-3602, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12041 (2nd Cir. July 6, 2017).

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Pensioner Denied $1.3 Million in Vested Pension Benefits Based on a Release He Signed; Read How the Court Ruled

In Post #84 on my Pension Justice 4 You Facebook Page, www.facebook.com/PensionJustice4You, I explained the pension risks of signing a separation agreement that includes a broad release of claims against the employer or related persons or entities. A recent case involving $1.3 million in vested pension benefits illustrates the problem. Buster v. Comp. Comm. of Bd. Of Dirs. Of Mechs. Bank, No. C 16-101146 WHA (N.D. Ca. July 14, 2017).

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So You Think You Have a Pension Claim. What Information Does Your Pension Lawyer Need From You?

I have been a pension lawyer for well over 20 years, and typically receive 5-10 calls a day from people who believe they have a pension claim and want my help. What information do I typically need in order to properly evaluate their claim?

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Plan Administrator Demands That Disabled Pensioner Repay Pension Overpayment: Is This Legal?

I frequently receive calls from pensioners who have received a notice from the pension plan administrator that they were overpaid and that they must repay the overage; otherwise, the plan will withhold all or a portion of their future pension checks until the overage has been repaid. The callers want to know whether the plan can lawfully do this. My answer? It depends. But if (i) the plan administrator did not mislead the pensioner, (ii) the over payments continued for a short period of time, and (iii) the monthly amount to be withheld will not present a hardship to the pensioner, most courts will say "yes." Key v. Unicare, No. 3:15-cv-00851, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS (W.D. Ky May 15, 2017), is illustrative of the considerations a court may apply in deciding whether a pension overpayment must be repaid.ERISA-Attorney_Payback on Check_Depositphotos_131659394_m-2015.jpg

Alcoa Cheats Pension Claimant Out of Rightful Pension Amount by Excluding Bonus From Pension Calculation; Read How the Court Ruled

Under ERISA [the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which governs most private-sector employee benefit plans], pension plans must be administered in accordance with their terms. Although this rule is well-known by plan administrators, disputes arise when parties disagree about the meaning of the plan's terms. Nonetheless, if the terms of the plan unambiguously favor your pension claim, do what the participant did in Walton v. Pension Plan, No. 2:16-cv-00397, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80440 (W.D. Pa. May 24, 2017): FIGHT BACK.

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Appellate Court Rules That Lower Court Improperly Placed Burden on Pension Claimant to Produce Documents That Should Have Been Part of the Pension Plan's Records

Pension plans are designed to be long-term such that participants steadily accrue benefits over their period of employment with the plan sponsor and any participating employer. As a result, records of participants' employment history and benefit accruals may span many years. Participants typically do not maintain these records themselves. Rather, these records are maintained (or should be maintained) by the plan administrator. But what are the consequences if the plan administrator fails to maintain such records?ERISA-Attorney_Man Carrying Large Rock on Back_Depositphotos_126376800_m-2015.jpg

ERISA's Anti-Forfeiture Rule and Good Lawyering Net Pension Plan Participant an Additional $109,000 in Pension Benefits

ERISA [the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which governs most private sector pension plans] seeks to protect pension plan participants from losing their promised pension benefits. One way ERISA does this is through an "anti-forfeiture rule" that expressly prohibits the forfeiture of a participant's vested pension benefit at normal retirement age. In a recent court decision, this rule was instrumental in netting the pension claimant an additional $109,000 in past due pension benefits plus interest and the right to seek an award of costs and attorneys' fees incurred in prosecuting the claim. Aicher v. IBEW Local Union No. 269 Joint Trust Funds Office, No. 12-1781, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83061 (D. N.J. May 31, 2017). Here are the facts:Rules Spelled on Cubes Held By Caricatures_Depositphotos_27462397_s-2015.jpg

Tragic Facts and Hard-Line Rules Result in Widow Losing $463,000 in Pension Benefits

Courts interpret pension plans in accordance with their terms and, therefore, will not deviate from them, even when the result seems harsh or unfair. Strang v. Ford Motor Co. General Retirement Plan, No. 16-2090, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8849 (6th Cir. May 19, 2017) is a recent, albeit sad, example.