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Prolonged failure to fix pension problems

Pension benefits are still being paid late to seniors — four months after the problem was revealed by The Royal Gazette.

Catherine Gregory, a Bermudian retiree who lives in the United States, said her payments had become overdue again after a one-off payment in January, the day after she took her story to the media.

Another senior, 70-year-old Sandra Platt, stranded in Florida at her sister's residence since the coronavirus pandemic halted air travel, said she had suffered increasing hardship after phone calls and e-mails to the Department of Social Insurance about unpaid pension payments for April and May were not dealt with.

A third pensioner, a former expatriate worker who lives overseas, claimed she had not had a pension payment since June last year after she changed her bank account, despite repeated calls and e-mails to the social insurance department in Bermuda.

All three said they could not get responses to their complaints.

Mrs Gregory said it was “a shameful and unnecessary situation which should never, never happen”.

The 68-year-old, who lives in Supply, North Carolina, with her 67-year-old husband, David, said she was now considering legal action over arrears of more than $4,000.

Mrs Gregory said: “I am so furious I cannot put it into words.

“My husband has not worked since early March as the doctor told him to go home and stay put until it is safe to interact again.

“He is getting his US pension now and we just received a $2,400 stimulus check. I had my credit card paid off and now have been forced to use it again.”

The Gazette reported in January that the couple had to delay their retirement, with eight months of Mrs Gregory's unpaid pension adding up to nearly $9,000.

The department said at the time its payments system with its British firm, Crown Agents Bank, had faced “challenges” after a change in the agency's management.

The company handles the Bermuda Government's overseas benefits payments.

A spokesman for Crown Agents said that the company acted “in accordance with the Department of Social Insurance instructions and only under their instructions — making payments on their behalf directly to their own pension clients”.

Mrs Gregory said she had called her benefits manager at the department several times in March and highlighted an e-mail she sent in April to complain that her electronic pension payments had been overdue since well before coronavirus restrictions were imposed in Bermuda in late March.

She said this week that her family had taken over the couple's mortgage payments, which was their biggest expense.

She told the Gazette: “My adrenalin is gradually pumping stronger and stronger as I type this letter, so, basically, this issue is also affecting my health.”

Ms Platt, from Devonshire, said she had travelled to Florida in February for eye surgery.

But the Covid-19 pandemic delayed further treatment and she was stuck at her sister's because all flights were cancelled.

She said her Bermuda bank had not received her April and May pensions, which should have come direct from the Government.

Ms Platt said she was told her benefits manager was “working on it”, but her Butterfield account remained two months in arrears.

She added that her pension payments had been paused until April because of an overpayment — but claimed they had not resumed even though she repaid the money.

Ms Platt said: “They overpaid me, which was their mistake. It's been so stressful with no money in my pension account.”

The third senior, a 74-year-old expatriate widow who asked not to be identified, said she had been eligible for Bermuda pension payments after 18 years of work on the island.

Her plight was highlighted last month by a friend who lives on the island.

The woman said that she had switched payments to her HSBC account in Bermuda to a bank account at home when she visited the island last year.

She added that after the change last June she “thought that I would be getting it sent to my US account within the next month or so”.

However, she said: “It is now close to a year and I have yet to receive a payment.”

The woman said she had e-mailed, called and sent registered letters to the social insurance department, and claimed a manager had pledged in January to look into the case, but she had heard nothing further.

She added; “Nobody in the Department of Social Insurance felt it necessary to contact me and explain what the problem is.”

She wrote: “I find it quite amazing that in this day and age, when an international money transfer is done with a mouse click, the Bermuda Government is not able to sort out this situation.”

The finance ministry did not respond to a series of questions submitted last Wednesday.

Happier times: David and Catherine Gregory at their wedding in 2012. The couple's life has been upended after eight months without their Bermuda Government pension (Photograph from Facebook)

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Published June 01, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated June 01, 2020 at 7:35 am)

Prolonged failure to fix pension problems

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