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Letter to the editor: Ohio State drags its feet in releasing pension to partner

March 18, 2014

michael.anderson955@gmail.com

Letter to the editor:

 

I am writing concerning the treatment that I received from Ohio State Human Resources while trying to collect the pension/contract monies of my partner of 10 years who was employed as an assistant professor at OSU. He was a gay African-American and died while he was employed with OSU May 20. I have removed the names of the people that I have dealt with at OSU, although I am certain if they read this, they will know who they are.

Prior to moving to Ohio, we were legally married in the state of New York March 9, 2012. Upon his hiring at Ohio State, we became Ohio residents and signed an OSU Domestic Partner agreement in September 2012.

I was the only recipient of my partner’s OSU (Minnesota Life) life insurance policy. However, the additional monies that were due from his pension/contract have not been paid — although it has been more than eight months since his death. He did not have a signed Last Will and Testament. His Ohio Department of Health Death Certificate indicated he was “Never Married.”

Within the week after my partner’s death, I talked with the chair of his department, who directed me to his department’s HR and Fiscal Officer. I was told by her that the matter was out of their hands and that I needed to continue the conversation with OSU Human Resources.

I was initially told by OSU Human Resources there would not be a problem in collecting the remaining monies on his contract. He referred me to a rather rude person in the Office of the Controller. She initially told me that “a check has been made out to him, and is on its way to him.” After carefully re-explaining to her that my partner was deceased — and could not receive or endorse a check — she continued to insist that the monies were on their way. I was referred to a Columbus attorney, who explained that our relationship is not recognized in Ohio and that the issue would probably be forwarded to Probate Court. When I searched the Probate Court online database Jan. 16, I was unable to ascertain if his case had been listed.

I was also told by the attorney that the process might go smoother if I passed the task over to his “next-of-kin,” who could legally receive the remaining monies on his contract. I contacted his mother, who lives in Hampton, Va. My partner’s mother has in her possession her son’s birth certificate, his death certificate, his OSU employee ID and her proof of identification (proving that she was his mother or, his “next-of-kin”). Unfortunately, the process has not become any easier for her, as she has contacted many people at OSU Human Resources in a futile effort to obtain assistance.

She said she also had a conversation with the same rude person at the OSU Office of the Controller who informed her that the process was taking such a long time because my partner and I had “a ‘special’ relationship” (which should have nothing to do with attempting to receive her son’s remaining contract funds). I am still trying to figure out if her comments to her meant that OSU has a special homophobic policy that its gay employees are not made aware of when they are hired. I hope she can explain if there is such a policy, although I trust that is not the case.

I know my partner’s family would like to get this matter resolved soon, as it has been a tremendously long and arduous process. In speaking for my partner’s mother; I want to add that she is an elderly lady that has limited funds and has had to deal with deteriorating health, coupled with the loss of her oldest child. She lives more than 500 miles from Columbus, and cannot make the trip to Ohio without extreme difficulty. She has sent all paperwork that was required of her, and is still having trouble getting a productive response.

The bottom line is that I believe if  we had been a heterosexual couple, this matter would have been resolved within a month after his death. I felt that I would be able to expedite the process by letting his mother collect the funds, rather than me (I still want to give the pension funds to his mother, though). She has had to endure too much abuse from the personnel at OSU and the OSU Probate Court, coupled with the death of her oldest son.

I moved to my current address in July and am now a resident of New York state (which recognizes gay marriages).

Why has this process taken more than nine months, by a school that considers itself a “liberal” institution?

Michael S. Anderson
Partner of a deceased faculty member
michael.anderson955@gmail.com


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