'Why Is There Nothing Left?' Pension Funds Failing At Catholic Hospitals

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Support for NPR and the following message come from Almond Board of California. Did you know almond farmers and processors are dedicated to continuous improvement like putting everything an almond tree grows to good use more about their zero waste goal at almondsustainability dot org in upstate. New York hundreds of former complexities of a Catholic hospital have lost their pensions after their pension fund collapsed now. Their situation illustrates a problem. That is pretty widespread. Many many religious organizations are not covered by federal program that protects most other employees pensions. NPR's Chris Arnold brought us this report the people who worked at Saint Clair as hospital in Schenectady New York say it was like being part of a big family for some especially. My Dad worked there as a pharmacist when when I was a young kid and I you know I remember I was always there. It seemed like always part of that community of people care and Bradley followed her dad's lead and worked at the hospital for twenty four years and she's a nurse. She's fifty six now. Bradley says the pay wasn't great at Saint Clair's but it was a good hospital. I enjoyed what they did there and believed in the promises that were made about the pension but the hospital which was founded by the Catholic Church ran into financial problems command in two thousand and eight it was folded into a larger hospital system workers were told though at that time that the pension would still be there for them but then a year ago they got letters in the mail. Bradley was told essentially her twenty four years at the hospital didn't matter her pageant was gone. She stands to get nothing. Why is there nothing laughed who screwed up you know who did what to. Who and how come this happen Jr and who's accountable the AARP foundation is asking the same questions. It's it suing the Catholic diocese of Albany on behalf of the workers. The lawsuit says more than six hundred people lost their entire pensions. Bradley says her husband has been has some retirement savings but the couple's not sure that it's going to be enough. We have a daughter who has special needs so we have to worry about her future to now now most people in the US do not have pensions but those that do the vast majority are protected by government insurance program employers with tensions have to pay into it but religious religious organizations such as Catholic hospitals they can opt out and both avoid that expense and the cost of complying with other federal pageant rules. That's what the people managing managing. St Clair's hospital dead so there is no guarantee and many workers really are left with nothing dare. Smith is an attorney with the Aarp Foundation Russian. It's incredibly devastating I mean these folks were relying on this money for their retirement and they were promised over and over there about one million people people with pensions from religious organizations that have no federal backstop. That's an estimate from lawyers in a related case. That's not to say that all those pension plans are in trouble but some are and there is a growing number of lawsuits. The Saint Clair's case argues that even though the hospital had an exemption from the federal rules. It's still violated violated state law by failing to provide the pensions that were promised so dare. Smith says religious groups can't just abandon their workers. This is really a new wave colosseum. It's finding a way to make sure that they can be held accountable sixty nine year old Mary Hart Sean is also affected. She worked in radiology at the hospital and she's he's actually had to sell her house because of this pension debacle and it's still pretty hard for her to talk about it. Now House was going to be the place I retired retired who was just a little house but it sat on a little lake and it was so pretty peaceful and it just wasn't it wasn't gonNA work out. I knew knew it was in an I'm okay. I'm GonNa you know you get through it but it does take its toll on your heart and soul and to actually harsher and says she's better off than most. She's in a smaller class of older workers who were offered seventy percent of their pensions going forward but she says she couldn't trust that the money he would be there so she took a lump sum payout instead which she says wasn't very much money for its part the diocese declined and interview due to the litigation but said in a statement that it knows that people are suffering but that the diocese quote never managed the Saint Clair's pageant find Saint Clair's as a separate corporation and quote Victoria Esposito is a local legal-aid attorney working with the AARP on the case. She says it's not true that the Diaz has no responsibility. This hospital was run by the Catholic Church more specifically diocese of Albany and the diocese of Albany is responsible for making these people whole and paying their pensions like many diocese icees. Albany is facing costs related to the church sex abuse scandal but the lawyers for the workers say the diocese is not bankrupt. There's money there so esposito. Zito hopes the lawsuit can succeed so the people who worked at Saint Clair's hospital can get their pants back Chris Arnold N._p._R. News.

Coming up next