B.C. senior startled to be notified of her own death
VANCOUVER -- UPDATE: After this story aired, a viewer contacted McLaughlin On Your Side saying her friend, also named Judy Snaith, passed away in October, and that "There was a mix-up then, stating that Judy Snaith had a mortgage, which she didn't, and they apologized saying it was a Judy Snaith in the Interior."
Judy Snaith is very much alive. She's entering her 10th year of retirement in beautiful Osoyoos, B.C., and has been receiving a public pension of $356 each month for her work with the Liquor Distribution Branch.
"It helps. It's a small amount but it helps," she tells McLaughlin On Your Side. "I'm a senior living on a fixed income."
So Snaith was surprised on July 6 when she realized the June installment of the pension hadn't been deposited into her bank account.
"I had tried to do some banking, pay bills and what not – and I found out my deposit was not made from my pension plan," she says. "I tried to get into my account and it was suspended and blocked."
Then came a letter from Pension Services, dated June 26 and addressed to her estate.
"We are sorry to hear of the death of Judy Snaith," it said, and that no further monthly benefits would be paid. In addition, she'd have to pay back everything she had received after October of last year.
Snaith was shocked, and realized her extended medical had been cut off too.
"It just floored me," Snaith says, adding she had trouble getting it fixed. "I was very frustrated."
In an email to Pension Services on July 7 - one of her multiple attempts to have the situation rectified - she wrote: "I would love to know how and by whom you were advised of my death and would love to see my death certificate, if one was provided to you! I am 75 years old, living on my pensions, and do not understand how you can cut anyone's pension income off without even proof of death."
She contacted McLaughlin On Your Side, and we reached out to the BC Pension Corporation.
In a statement, a spokesperson acknowledged a mistake had been made.
"We are very sorry she had this experience which understandably was quite distressing for her," it says. "What we uncovered is a case of human error resulting from the Corporation receiving a death certificate of a person with a similar name and the same age that led us to believe the member had passed away. The Corporation relied on this information without properly verifying it… Once the error was identified, we contacted Judy to apologize, explained what happened, and took corrective action. We are also taking steps to reinforce our training and processes to prevent this from occurring again."
Now, Snaith's pension is back, her extended medical benefits have been reinstated, and she's hoping this doesn't happen to anyone else.
"There needs to be a safeguard put in place so this does not happen again," she says.