One woman realised she could have had a bigger pension when her husband retired, however, when she contacted the Department for Work and Pensions, they said it was too late and nothing could be done.
She reached state pension age in 2001, but due to gaps in her national insurance record, she only qualified for just over half of the full rate.
Her husband retired a few years later but there were no changes to her pension. Sadly, her husband died in 2019 and she started to receive a widow’s pension.
After reading about married women’s pensions years later, she realised that she could have had a bigger pension when her husband retired, however, the DWP explained that it was too late and nothing could be done.
The pensioner wrote into This is Money to get some expert advice from Steve Webb, partner at LCP.
The pensions expert stated that she was one of tens of thousands of women who missed out on a better state pension because of the complexity of the rules and proceeded to explain how pensions work.
Under the old state pension system (for those who reached pension age before 6 April 2016) there were different categories of pension.
Although people claim a pension and there is nothing on the claim form to indicate what category of pension they are claiming, DWP actually assesses them for a range of different types of pension:
- Category A pension, claimed in your own right and based purely on the basis of your own record of National insurance contributions.
- Category B pension, claimed in whole or in part on the basis of someone else’s contributions – for example, by a widow after the death of her husband. This can be worth up to 100 per cent of the full basic pension rate.
- Category BL pension, which is a lower rate Category B pension available to married women once their husband has retired. This is paid at 60 per cent of the basic pension rate being paid to the husband.
- Category D pension, which is only available to the over 80s, and does not depend on your National Insurance record. This is also worth 60 per cent of the standard basic pension rate.
When the pensioner first retired she was in Category A, however when her husband passed away she could have received a pension at the Category BL (married woman’s) rate, in principle. This would have lifted her pension to 60 percent of the full rate.
However, Mr Webb warned of a catch. As her husband reached pension age before the cut-off date of March 17, 2008, the uplift to a Category BL pension could only have happened if she put in a second claim – which she may have not. It is not an automatic transfer.
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So when her husband passed away in 2019, she notified the DWP and they moved her to a Category B (widow’s) pension without a claim
Mr Webb said: “In their minds, you had still not made a further state pension claim, so they did not assess you for a backdated married woman’s pension because you had still not ‘claimed’ it. I think this is outrageous.
“To the ordinary person, you simply claim your pension and expect to be paid whatever is the relevant rate. They don’t tell you on the claim form or even on the award notice that you are getting a Category A or Category B pension. So how are you supposed to know?
“And when someone has just been bereaved, DWP should be going out of their way to make sure you got everything you were entitled to, by making sure that you filled in the right paperwork.”
Unfortunately, when the pensioner realised she could have had a bigger pension, it was too late to claim as Britons are only allowed to backdate a second claim to a married woman’s pension for 12 months, but more than 12 months had elapsed since her husband died.
Mr Webb concluded: “Unfortunately at this point it seems that there is little that can be done in law, as technically, DWP were within their rights to act as they did. But a humane organisation would have had processes in place to make sure that widows got their due, even if they had missed out before.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “As upheld by a court last year, married women, whose husbands claimed state pension after them but before 17 March 2008, are required by law to make a separate claim for an uplift to their state pension.
“Our priority is ensuring pensioners receive the financial support to which they are entitled and the action we are taking now will correct historical underpayments made by successive governments.”
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