The 'benefit' of good detective work

August 9, 2016

Finely honed detective skill is not something you would normally associate with 3sHealth Benefits Administration.

But there are times when the folks in Benefits Administration take on the role of Sherlock Holmes or Sam Spade to tracking people down even though they have little or no information. It’s all for good though because they’re looking for individuals or family members who may be owed a benefit.

Detective Work

Benefits Administration Manager Alana Shearer-Kleefeld says back in the summer of 2014 they decided to begin contacting retired plan members who were past the age of 85.

“We sent them letters asking if we have their correct contact information. These retired plan members hold a paid-up life insurance certificate meaning the benefit is in place for the rest of their life. The face value may only be $1,500, but it’s their money.”

After sending out about 2,000 of these letters in 2014 and 2015, Benefits Administration noticed a significant number coming back undelivered. In some cases they can work together with the Saskatchewan Healthcare Employees Pension Plan (SHEPP) in tracking people down, but pooling resources isn’t always enough. And not everyone they’re looking for is in SHEPP to begin with. Shearer-Kleefeld says this is when the detective work really begins.

“We start looking through the obituaries. If family members are identified in the obituary, we start looking for contact information for them. People don’t always have obituaries, so sometimes we end up using”

Shearer-Kleefeld says if all else fails they may end up using Google, which occasionally can be helpful. But all we may know is that they have a relative named John Smith from Alberta.

“If there are 900 John Smiths in Alberta, that doesn’t do us a whole lot of good. At this point we may end up going back to, which might give us the birthday of the John Smith we’re looking for. That can really help us narrow it down.”

Even If they find out the person is deceased and they track down the beneficiary, sometimes the beneficiary has passed away as well and then the detective work starts all over again.
Shearer-Kleefeld says the work of finding beneficiaries is very unpredictable. Sometimes everything clicks and they find the right person in 15 or 20 minutes, and sometimes it can take months. If they’re completely stumped, they may set the name aside in a cold case file. She says coming back to it at a later date with a fresh perspective can help them crack the case.

“One of the wonderful things about this benefit, the money is there forever. So if a family member or other beneficiary discovers this benefit many years later, it’s still there for them to collect.”

As of January 2015 the benefit was increased from $1,500 to $5,000. And as of 2016, letters are being sent to people over 80 instead of 85 years of age. Anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 of these letters go out each year, usually in July and August. Shearer-Kleefeld says this endeavor does not involve a huge amount of money, but everyone at EBP feels very strongly that this is a worthwhile effort.

“Even if people haven’t been in our workforce for a long time, we’re still trying to take care of them. Some sweet grandma may want to divide the benefit among a dozen grandkids.”

Beneficiaries sometimes aren’t even aware they’re eligible for such a benefit, and are usually surprised and grateful to receive it. Shearer-Kleefeld says whether it takes many months or mere minutes, it’s very rewarding work. And of course it can add some extra fun to compare themselves to world famous detectives.

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