After a year of being disabled, seriously ill, and waiting for my incompetent NJEA attorney to get with the program, my TPAF pension hearing with the Office of Administrative Law was finally docketed for this October.
As ill as I am, most recently diagnosed with thyroid tumors and lymph nodes that will be biopsied for cancer in the immediate future, and with as many treating physicians as I have, he swears he cannot get a single one to "testify in court". When I check, I find out he has only approached the youngest of the seven doctors, and, because of her youth and lack of CV, she declined. He never had any contact whatsoever with any of the specialists, including one who is with a prestigious Philadelphia-based practice based part-time in NJ, and teaches at Jefferson, with a CV as long as your arm!
Out of the blue, on May 5 I receive a letter from TPAF, telling me my pension was granted. I call NJEA nitwit lawyer; he says he hasn't heard anything, he will "keep his fingers crossed". I continue to get a barrage of paperwork for payroll deductions, direct deposit, payment options. He never lifts a finger to verify if this "change of heart" is genuine. I can't check, because TPAF will not speak to you if you have an attorney.
When I request my benefits paperwork and turn it in, the fun begins. No cards arrive, after over a week. In the meantime, a $23,100 deposit is made in my checking account. I use it to pay down my debts incurred from the year of being disabled and unemployed (I was targeted in the mass layoffs last year because of my age, health and income level, being told that the district could "hire three teachers" for what they paid me). The lawyer says he's "just holding his breath". He never challenges any of this, even knowing that the case is still docketed and he has received no notification.
The day after being diagnosed with the potentially cancerous growths in my neck, I call and ask TPAF Disability division why they have not approved my benefits yet. A surly, arrogant Doug Dingler answers the phone, then says he will call me back.
A few minutes later, he calls me, and informs me that my pension is "an error".
I call the lawyer in a panic. He calls Mary Ellen Rathbun, the Secretary of the Royal Order of TPAF Pensionhood, the anonymous organization of know-nothings who take the opinions of IMEs suspended from practicing medicine at the hospital next to their offices (and charge taxpayers $500+ for a "physical" that consists of them talking on the phone and ignoring the patient) over the medical commentaries of physicians who treat patients for decades.
She, spokesperson and diplomat that she is, begins whining that it is a "clerical error", and why didn't I call her in the first place? My stupid lawyer calls me back with this bit of news, and adds to it that I have no recourse but to literally roll over, play dead, and hand over their money, so they can sweep yet another mistake under the rug.
She wanted me to call? So, I did. I blasted her for allowing that letter with her own signature on it to get out of her office, and for the lack of oversight within the agency that was days away from depositing a monthly pension check in my account! This is just the coherent part of the conversation, when I wasn't screaming at her, calling her an incompetent imbecile, a fraud, and other names I have devised over the year in waiting to describe this unregulated bunch of baboons.
My husband, a collections supervisor for a major bank for 30 years, told me to leave the payments alone; IF it was a mistake, they would have to notify me and allow me time to return the money.
On Thursday, May 19, I returned home from an emergency doctors' appointment to find a panicked bank manager on the phone. When I accessed my accounts online, I found that TPAF had ILLEGALLY STOLEN THE $23,100 FROM MY BANK ACCOUNT!! The check had cleared on May 16th, and all of my credit card payments had already been accepted. It has cost me over $215 in bank fees thus far, hours on the phone with the credit card companies, and I have not even assessed the damage done in returned check fees (though all said they would waive them) and to my credit rating.
I receive no letter until May 21, when the snotty witch Rathbun sends me a letter basically telling me that they were "authorized" to take their money back, and she "was sorry for the inconvenience this error may have caused me".
I know that my attorney's laziness is part of the problem, so I am in desperate need of another one, hopefully one who wasn't at the bottom of his class in Law School, and who has a bark AND a bite when it comes to dealing with the TPAF.
When I caught my attorney in a blatant lie yesterday, I fired him.
Though I have filed complaints with my Senator, the NJ Department of the Attorney General, and the NJ State Comptroller; and the contact persons I have dealt with do sound sincere, it is very likely that TPAF will get off unscathed.
Please, don't blow off my story. It is worth investigating, because it reflects the new philosophy of government- gouge workers for dues and pension contributions; then run them around in circles for years if they are in need of their benefits, and hope they drop dead so you can keep the proceeds.
I have a period of time where I can file suit against the attorney, Ms Rathbun, Mr Dingler, and TPAF for fraud, theft and negligence. If the State agencies fail to hold them accountable, then I will. Perhaps someone from the media will take a break from doing cutesy fluff pieces, and give me a hand??
It could happen to YOU.