1. Can my pension be reduced legally?
2. If my 401(k) loses money, do I have a case?
3. If I have a case over my retirement benefit, can I sue right away?
4. How can I afford an attorney?
5. The retirement adjuster is nice on the phone. Isn’t he supposed to be fair to me?
6. Can’t my lawyer just write a letter or two and win the case for me?

1. Can my pension be reduced legally?

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 and the Kline Miller Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 are two laws that can be used to reduce pensions. However, careful adherence to these laws is necessary in order for this to be done legally. Furthermore, a pension fund may not be solvent. Very generally this means that there are more people due to be paid, than there is money in the pension fund and solvent employers to fund the pension. When this happens the assets of a pension fund may be transferred to the PBGC, an independent agency of the United States Government. You may still receive your pension but it may be reduced by the PBGC. We help retirees with unlawful pension cutbacks. There is no substitute for experience on these matters, so you should ensure that your attorneys are well-versed in this complicated area of law.

2. If my 401(k) loses money, do I have a case?

ERISA provides that the person in control of your 401(k) must act like a fiduciary. The standard for this person or entity in control requires them to act as “… a prudent man acting in a like capacity and familiar with such matters would use in the conduct of an enterprise of a like character and with like aims … by diversifying the investments of the plan so as to minimize the risk of large losses …”. So if this standard was violated, yes you may have a case. However, there is often a problem deciphering who is actually in control. Under many plans employers are often in control even though they think an investment manager or broker is actually controlling the plan. Many employers are relying entirely on the advice of the investment manager, and do not realize the liability at stake. This is one reason for the Department of Labor fiduciary rule which expands the entity or person in control to include the investment advisor. Experienced ERISA counsel will know who the potential defendants will be and how to obtain that information.

3. If I have a case over my retirement benefit, can I sue right away?

In the 11th Circuit, which covers everyone in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, it is required that you exhaust all administrative or claim remedies provided in plan documents before you file a lawsuit. There are very few exceptions to this and so it is wise to make sure you exhaust all claim remedies. In other circuits, you may be required to exhaust administrative or claim remedies for some matters but may not have to exhaust remedies on other matters such as illegal plan changes. It is best to obtain experienced ERISA counsel, so you can avoid seeing your lawsuit dismissed and lost.

4. How can I afford an attorney?

We are here to help. We try to provide fee arrangements that are flexible and meet the needs of clients. The vast majority of our clients receive experienced quality representation on a contingency fee basis. This means that if we do not recover your benefit for you we do not get paid. If there is very little in back benefits, we can still help! We may be able to spread payment of fees out of the benefit over time. This allows us to treat the case like a big case, and invest the money and time needed to make the case strong so you can win. In some instances, a client may have reserves and may desire to pay us on an hourly fee basis. That is offered as well.

5. The retirement adjuster is nice on the phone. Isn’t he supposed to be fair to me?

Most retirement/pension claimants think that their claim will be handled fairly since the adjuster seems nice. However, that person knows it is her job to deny your claim! When your claim is denied it saves the company or plan money. In fact, some plans and companies hire people who went through law school, and they will know how to deny your claim factually and legally. Adjusters are well trained to deny claims, and they do this every day. You are no match for them. You need an experienced ERISA litigator on your side to fight for the benefit you deserve.

6. Can’t my lawyer just write a letter or two and win the case for me?

No. Most of the time that would be no different than a doctor providing a Band-Aid when you have a serious illness. Plans and insurance companies have a cadre of professionals providing the support needed to deny your claim. They have doctors, nurses, lawyers and many other well-trained individuals. In order to prepare an appeal you must obtain the full claim file and many times parts will be unlawfully withheld without you knowing it. An in-depth review of that claim file utilizing legal and medical professionals is needed. You have to thoroughly know the basis for the claim denial. And then you must articulate the truth and show why the denial is wrong, and assemble medical, vocational and legal evidence to demonstrate this. This must be done with a view toward supporting the case in litigation in the event that the claim is still denied. You should run … not walk … from any attorney who thinks a simple letter is all you need. A diligent determined and quality effort is required.
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