When Linda Foss of Pioneer, California, tried to claim her late husband’s pension benefits, she ran into an unexpected complication.
Kenneson Foss had earned the benefits while working as a general manager for Roadlink USA Inc., but the investment firm maintaining the 401(k) retirement plan refused to release the money without an authorized signature from the employer that sponsored the plan. Unfortunately, Kenneson’s employer had gone out of business in 2012.
Because her husband’s employer was one of many subsidiaries of a larger company, each operating in different regions of the country, she found herself being passed from agency to agency, across state lines, in an effort to find an authorized signatory.
Linda and her late husband, Kenneson
“The entire experience was so frustrating,” said Linda. “With each phone call, I found myself growing impatient and angry.”
Losing confidence she would ever obtain the benefits her late husband had earned, Linda reached out to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) in May of 2016. She was connected with Investigator Manuel Moreno in EBSA’s Atlanta office, who helped restore her hope.
“I was in need of the money and he understood that,” said Linda. “Through each step of the process, he kept me informed and always had an answer for me. Nobody treated me like he did.”
Manuel started by explaining to Foss that even though the company was out of business, the retirement plan would still remain active with an investment firm handling all transactions. He wasn’t authorized to ask the investment firm to withdraw money from the plan on her behalf, but he could help track down the individual legally responsible to care for the money to sign over its release on behalf of the defunct company.
EBSA Investigator Manuel Moreno
Manuel was successful in locating the right person. Then, with guidance from Manuel, that person signed a blanket authorization allowing the investment firm to distribute payments to all of the plan participants.
For some, the payout was a few hundred dollars. For others, it was much more. Manuel couldn’t wait to call Linda with the news: More than $14,000 had been recovered for her.
Receiving the money was a tremendous relief for Linda. “I will be forever grateful for what he did for me,” she said of Manuel.
Manuel said Linda’s case isn’t unique, and he understands the urgency and frustration people feel when they reach out to EBSA. “These are peoples’ livelihoods,” said Manuel. “They’ve already earned their benefits and now they’re just trying to recover what’s owed to them.” And while some cases are more difficult than others, the mission is simple: “We ensure people’s benefits are protected.”
Editor’s note: Contact the Employee Benefits Security Administration at find addresses and telephone numbers for the EBSA Office in your area, or call toll free 866-444-3272 to speak with a benefits adviser. You can also request assistance online using this form.
The “DOL Working for You” series highlights the Labor Department’s programs in action. View other blog posts in the series here.
Eric R. Lucero is Deputy Director of the Department’s Office of Public Affairs in Atlanta.