Couple left in the lurch over unpaid pension
A desperate senior couple living overseas have been left unable to enjoy their retirement after months of unpaid pensions.
Nearing $9,000 out of pocket, Catherine and David Gregory, from Supply, North Carolina, will soon have gone eight months without Mrs Gregory’s pension payments from the Bermuda Government. “If I didn’t have him, I would be starving,” Mrs Gregory said of her husband, 67, a supervisor with a construction company who had hoped to step down this month.
“My husband is tired and has his own health issues,” Mrs Gregory explained. “He gets up at 4am to drive to work in South Carolina. He was trying to retire and now he is not even talking about it. “He said he’s got to wait until Bermuda gets this sorted out.”
The couple were told that others have been deprived of pensions, because of an unspecified payment mishap at the British company used by the Department of Social Insurance for pension payments outside of Bermuda.
A department spokeswoman confirmed that the firm, Crown Agents Bank, had “recently come under new management” and changed its procedures “drastically”.
She added: “There have been challenges, and the Department of Social Insurance has been working diligently with them to ensure pensioners are receiving the best service.”
Mrs Gregory, 68, a Bermudian with dual US citizenship, moved to the US in 1998 after a lifetime of work on the island, including the family business, Serpentine Liquors in Pembroke.
Problems with her monthly pension of about $1,100 started last May, when she switched from a Bermudian bank to an American company, State Employees’ Credit Union.
Mrs Gregory said: “I didn’t receive June or July payments.
“I visited Bermuda in August and filled out my forms to have the pension sent overseas to me.
“I was coming back to North Carolina for good. My husband has health issues and he was trying to retire this January.”
Correspondence between Mrs Gregory and the Department of Social Insurance showed instructions on August 15 to provide details to Crown Agents Bank for payments to her new bank, headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina.
According to Mrs Gregory, the department warned that getting her pension “might take a month — and I said fair enough”.
She added: “August went by and then September, and I kept calling the office in Bermuda and couldn’t get through to anybody. Eventually I did, and I was told that Crown Agents, who disburse foreign pensions for Bermuda, had been bought out by a bank, and they were having issues.”
On October 8, a department official wrote that Crown Agents “has changed their payment system and therefore their payments have been delayed”.
The e-mail added: “We will contact them and get back to you as soon as possible.”
But with no payment or correspondence, Mrs Gregory wrote to the department on November 21, saying: “I haven’t heard from you in a while and I desperately need to know when I can expect my pension.
“I still am not able to get through to your office by phone, therefore I am at a disadvantage not being able to speak to someone directly.”
She added: “I am at my wits’ end concerning this matter. Please let me know what is happening and going to happen.”
With no payments by the year’s end, Mrs Gregory wrote to the department on December 31 saying she was in “crisis mode” and that her husband had been forced to postpone retirement.
A reply that day from the Department of Social Insurance apologised for the inconvenience, but said the office was “still awaiting a response from Crown Agents”.
Mrs Gregory, who said she had received no replies after e-mailing Crown Agents, called the deadlock “ridiculous”.
“The office kept telling me they were sorry for the inconvenience and that they were working on it,” she said.
“Finally, some time before Christmas, I got someone on the phone,” Mrs Gregory added. “And she said they were so frustrated over it, that the Minister of Finance was involved and trying to solve this problem.”
Mrs Gregory said she was told “it’s not just you — it’s other people as well”.
“People are owed money and they’re not getting paid. She said they were trying to get it sorted out. I said, that’s not helping me — my credit card is maxed out and that $1,100 helps.”
She added: “It’s just been so frustrating. I told my husband I could not take any more of this. I don’t know what else to do.
“On January 15, it’s going to be eight months and nearly $9,000. I’ve been asking Social Insurance to send me information on Crown Agents. Nobody seems worried about it. I don’t know what they’re doing, but I am not getting my money, and my husband feels forced to stay working.”
The department spokeswoman said there could be “several factors affecting why a pensioner has not been paid overseas and varying circumstances that need to be investigated”.
She added: “The department looks forward to receiving more information about this pensioner to better assist and answer this query, as they are more than happy to help.”
• Are you overseas and waiting on your Bermuda pension? E-mail email@example.com
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