CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) -- Talk about your tax dollars at work. If you have lost track of a pension or think your pension is shortchanging you, there is help available and it is free. It is called the Western States Pension Assistance Project (WSPA) and is administered by Legal Services of Northern California.
"We're often helping individuals who were in the workforce 30 or 40 years ago," says Jennifer Anders-Gable of the WSPA. "People at or past retirement age now, and they are trying to locate a benefit that they earned."
Joyce Shappee of Concord was in that exact situation. "There's no way I would have been able to find this on my own, because I went from different companies to different subsidiaries. Nobody knew what I was talking about, nobody knew what the company was," she said.
"It's like roadblock after roadblock and we have to keep providing new information or re-explaining things," says Anders-Gable. "Or in that case it was really connecting the dots. 'This is why you are, in fact, the one responsible for this person's benefit.'"
It took more than a year, but the pension was found and activated.
"They were very responsive and very tenacious about it," says Shappee, "which I really did appreciate, because like I said, this would have never happened, I don't think, if it if it wasn't for them. Truly. I can't say enough good about them because of that."
For Shappee's case, the WSPA tracked down corporate mergers; other times the detective work might rely on photographs or even awards for "years of service."
"We've had situations where some companies, 'Here's your pin for 10 years of service,' or 'Here's your plaque.' That doesn't necessarily show the amount of your pension that you're in, but we have the pin," Anders-Gable said. "We have the magical hats, or whatever the thing is, and we have used all the things to support our claims, and a lot of times it's helpful."
She says those who are still working should hang on to all their paystubs, retirement plan booklets and tax returns. "You want to keep all those documents because you don't know what you don't know now, and you don't know what you won't know in the future," she said.
Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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