‘I’m not dead’: Woman’s pension restored after Get Gephardt investigation

Feb 23, 2023, 10:43 PM | Updated: Feb 24, 2023, 6:56 am

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Way back in June 2021, Barbara Rowley’s husband, Ivan, died.

While finalizing his estate, somehow wires got crossed, and both the Social Security Administration and the Office of Personnel Management instead declared Barbara deceased, immediately halting all federal payments, including a pension from the U.S. Forest Service.

What ensued was a 20-month battle to have the money reinstated.

While Rowley was able to sort things out on her own with Social Security, she’s still waiting for her Forest Service pension.

“It’s my retirement, and I feel like they should pay me,” Rowley told KSL when we spoke with her in October.

Rowley said she spent hours trying to get the Office of Personnel Management, which distributes the pension, to reinstate the $410 monthly payments.

When she was unable to get any traction on her own, Rowley called KSL Investigates for help.

Despite multiple calls and emails to the Office of Personnel Management, we never heard back.

Our December report on Rowley’s plight caught the attention of Sen. Mitt Romney, whose staff picked up the baton and ran with it.

Though it took a couple of months, Romney’s office was able to accomplish something no one else could — getting the Office of Personnel Management to recognize that Rowley is alive and the pension she earned has been reinstated.

In addition, Romney’s office notified Rowley she would be issued “retroactive payment” from the 20 months the Office of Personnel Management erroneously stalled her pension reinstatement — an estimated $8,200.

We asked Romney’s office for insight on what caused the delay in reinstating Rowley’s pension, they said via email, “to protect the privacy of constituents our team is helping, our office cannot discuss specifics of their cases.”

It could prove likely that Romney’s office will have to intervene in situations like Rowley’s again.

According to the latest data from the Office of Personnel Management, the backlog continues to grow, with nearly 25,000 claims still awaiting processing. The average processing time in January 2023 for retirement claims was 93 days.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

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‘I’m not dead’: Woman’s pension restored after Get Gephardt investigation