By Jack Cohen
I have a folder in my home, which I have morbidly named: “Death Instructions.” I suspect many of you have a similar file filled with important papers and instructions for use by your spouse or children in your absence.
I am going to recommend that after reading this article, you make a copy of it and include it with your file. Your spouse should read it too because it provides examples of what to do when confronted by the Verizon benefits office that denies a benefit that rightfully belongs to your spouse. Here is a real life example from one surviving spouse.
An Oct. 28, 2015 letter, signed by the benefits group, enumerates the Benefits, including the Retiree Dental Plan. A separate letter, provided information about a COBRA continuation coverage and indicated that if elected by the surviving spouse, these would begin on Nov. 1, 2015. The instructions guide that enrollment which takes place by calling the Verizon Benefits Center.
As this was just a few days after the spouse’s husband’s death and she was in-mourning, her adult son acted on her behalf and enrolled her in the COBRA Dental Plan. He did this in her presence, while speaking with a representative and both the widow and her son were assured that the enrollment was activated.
Jan 6, 2016 – Spouse calls Verizon Benefits to inquire why she had not gotten a bill for the dental plan and was informed that the computer had mistakenly dropped her enrollment, but it would be reinstated. The benefits representative assured the spouse that she should be receiving an invoice shortly.
Feb 10, 2016 – Called again on Feb. 10, 2016 and spoke to two representatives, one who assured the widow that he would look into the matter and have someone call her.
Feb. 12, 2016 – The spouse received a call to advise that she was no longer eligible for the dental plan because they couldn’t find a record of her enrollment.
Feb. 17, 2016 – She calls again and asks for a supervisor. She appealed her case, and for a review past phone calls and a case # was opened.
Feb. 19, 2016 – The spouse was told although there were several phone calls from the son in October 2015, there was “no clear evidence that an enrollment was requested.”
In the two weeks following this call (late February 2016) the widow left several follow up messages on the supervisor’s direct line with additional phone numbers to review, but was met with silence.
Aware that the benefit center information was inaccurate, she and her son continued their appeal, now via the Association of BellTel Retirees.
What was evident to the Association was the detailed documentation kept by the surviving spouse and her son about their efforts. They paid very close attention to details, including documentation of dates and times of calls and to whom they spoke with in the benefits office. They had notations of statements and commitments made by benefits center personnel. Most important is they would not blindly accept that the person in the benefits office was absolutely correct. They were not.
Your Association pushed this appeal through our senior liaison contacts with the Benefits Office hierarchy and shortly thereafter the surviving spouse received a personal call from what she identified as, “a very kind Verizon Benefits Resolution Team member who verified my son’s call of November 5th and indeed confirmed that I am eligible to receive the Cobra Dental Plan and back dated the account to that date.”
While this instance resulted in a happy ending, not all cases are as lucky. The positive result and preservation of and this and every surviving spouses earned benefit was critical. Her attention to detail, the persistence and expertise of our Association’s office personnel and the cooperation of the Verizon Benefits Resolution Team are the stars of this story.