Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Pension error could cost New Port Richey widow nearly $27,000

NEW PORT RICHEY — Shirley Findel lives in a two-bedroom house in Gulf Harbors that her husband, Harry, inherited from his father. With 1 1/2 baths and pink shutters, it was built in 1972.

She drives a 2004 Mercury.

"I only drive it to Publix and church," said Mrs. Findel, whose accent is a mix of Southern belle and New York beat cop.

She and Harry, a hazel-eyed Marine she married in 1954 after they met at a dance in her native North Carolina, lived frugally as he worked 23 years as an engineer for the Long Island Railroad and she raised their two kids. He opted for a pension plan that had a lower payout but would allow his bride to be supported after his death.

When her husband died, the 79-year-old widow mailed a copy of his death certificate to the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The checks that arrived were for a different amount from what they had previously received. When she called about the discrepancy, the agency followed up with a letter.

After reviewing the records, the letter said, "it came to our attention that Mr. Findel's monthly pension was processed incorrectly."

The result? A $26,707 overpayment that the agency says Mrs. Findel must repay.

If she can't pay the amount in full, the letter said, she can choose a payment plan. If she doesn't pay up or formally dispute the findings in 30 days, it said, she could lose the entire pension.

"I got bad news and more bad news," Mrs. Findel said.

The letter explained that when Harry Findel turned 65 in 1995 and the pension took effect, the couple was overpaid $124.80 for 214 months. That's nearly 18 years.

Mrs. Findel said she was offered a plan to have $240 a month deducted from her check for the next nine years.

"I'm 79," she said. "Am I going to live to be 90? I don't know. Will they then try to take it from my family?"

Mrs. Findel, whose only other source of income is her husband's Social Security benefits, said she might have to sell her house if she loses the pension.

Her blood pressure has skyrocketed since the letter came last month.

"The stress has been horrible," she said.

Her daughter, Linda Box, who lives in Brentwood, N.Y., was outraged.

"When she got the letter she was hysterical," said Box, who contacted reporter after reporter in hopes someone would pick up the story.

"I thought it should be out there," Box said.

Newsday jumped on the tip. It ran a front page article Wednesday detailing Mrs. Findel's plight. It went viral.

Since then, the phones haven't stopped ringing.

"Someone called from Canada," Box said. She said she also called elected officials, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. An attorney told her the MTA's actions were likely legal, she said, but "is it the morally right thing do?"

No, Box said.

"It was their mistake," Box said. "My parents weren't rich. These are middle-class people."

Salvatore Arena, a spokesman for MTA, said in a statement that the pension has a "fiduciary duty to the participants and beneficiaries of the trust to recover funds that are improperly paid to a beneficiary, even if it is the result of an inadvertent error."

The statement went on to say that the agency would work with Mrs. Findel to reach "a fair and equitable solution."

Mrs. Findel said the agency should own up to its error.

"I was taught and I taught my children to take responsibility for their mistakes," she said. "I should not have to pay for (the MTA's) mistake."

Comments

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Thurs., May 24, midday:173952098e_SRit83991Thurs., May 24, evening:146065414e_SRit29962Mega MillionsToda...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies: Newborn baby found abandoned in north Tampa

Deputies: Newborn baby found abandoned in north Tampa

TAMPA — Someone abandoned a newborn baby in the University area on Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.A passerby found the baby near the intersection of N 18th Street and E 143rd Avenue at about 5:30 p.m., deputies said.T...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student who was critically injured last weekend during an accidental fall on campus shortly before she was to graduate died today, the school announced.Rebecca Ryan "Becca" Lavin-Burgher would have graduated with a ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police: Toddler injured in Bayshore racing incident has died

Police: Toddler injured in Bayshore racing incident has died

TAMPA — The 21-month-old toddler who was critically injured Wednesday when she and her mother were struck by a car racing on Bayshore Boulevard has died.The child, Lillia Raubenolt, was pronounced dead at the hospital on Thursday, police said.PREVIOU...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bayshore race claims two lives: child dies day after mother’s death

Bayshore race claims two lives: child dies day after mother’s death

TAMPA — Jessica Raubenolt seized on the sunshine and blue sky at midday Wednesday to take her daughter out in the stroller for a walk along scenic Bayshore Boulevard. Visiting from Ohio, the family had been cursed by rain all week.At the same time, C...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Fight off the frustration, Lightning, and don’t panic

Fight off the frustration, Lightning, and don’t panic

TAMPA — Don't change a thing.Don't blow it up. Don't fire anyone. Don't overreact.Thursday was not an easy day in Lightning Land. It was the day after the end of a season that ended much too soon. It was a day when bags were packed, questions w...
Updated: 1 hour ago
One day after fatal accident, Tampa moves to lower speed limit on Bayshore Blvd

One day after fatal accident, Tampa moves to lower speed limit on Bayshore Blvd

TAMPA — City officials announced Thursday they are reducing the speed limit on Bayshore Boulevard, one day after a mother and her 21-month-old daughter were struck and fatally injured by a speeding car as they crossed the street.Starting today , city...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs’ Ali Marpet: NFL flip-flopping on anthem policy ‘a little bit odd’

Bucs’ Ali Marpet: NFL flip-flopping on anthem policy ‘a little bit odd’

TAMPA — This much is clear: the National Football League is focused on getting rid of kneeling players.That was the league's announcement Wednesday that requires players to stand during the national anthem or become subject to their team being ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
In the Caribbean, a storm is brewing that could wash out Memorial Day

In the Caribbean, a storm is brewing that could wash out Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a holiday that draws people outside. It was created to honor those who have died while serving in the nation’s armed forces and also marks the unofficial start of summer.This year, though, the family cookouts, beach excursions and roa...
Updated: 2 hours ago
When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

TAMPA — Disbelief will eventually give way to acceptance.The Lightning isn't there yet.It isn't there yet in a lot of ways.Will it ever be?Just wondering.Really, what guarantees are there?Late Wednesday night, Washington Capitals captain A...
Updated: 2 hours ago