ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Betty Ashley is alive and well on her 101st birthday, but she had to prove the obvious to a government agency that inexplicably stopped paying a benefit her late husband had earned.
Since around 1997, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) had sent Ashley monthly payments tied to the annuity of her late husband, who served as a postmaster in New York.
Ashley credits a report by 8 on Your Side with prompting OPM to restore the monthly allotment and the six months of benefits that were stalled.
“I could not believe it after all that time and all that fussing around,” Ashley said, when asked for her reaction to seeing the payments in her account.
The fussing around included sending a notarized picture to OPM to prove she was still alive.
Her daughter Thelma Metzger thought it would be easy to prove her mom, the 2022 Gasparilla Grand Marshal, was still full of life.
“And instead, it was, ‘Why would we think she’s alive?'” Metzger said, recalling a conversation with an OPM agent. “I was just kind of dumbfounded because I thought, ‘why do you think she’s dead?'”
Months after sending that notarized picture, her mother was still waiting for the benefit to be restored.
“I couldn’t believe it when they couldn’t understand that I was still here,” Ashley said, with a chuckle. “It is not a good feeling.”
That is when 8 on Your Side got involved, asking OPM why Ashley was thought to be dead and when her benefits would resume. No one from the agency responded.
The break came after her story was first reported in late May, according to Metzger.
She said an OPM employee out of Colorado told her she saw the news report and found a way to fast track solving the glitch.
“It made me realize that you have to have exposure to get anything done, because of having it on the news people responded,” Metzger said.
Two weeks later the benefit was restored, and the missed monthly payments were deposited into Ashley’s account.
“I think that’s what did it,” Ashley said. “I think your story is the one that helped me get my money back.”
Ashley said the back payments helped her pay a tax bill on time and avoid a penalty and interest. She and Metzger pointed out OPM did not pay anything extra despite six months of missed payments.
Metzger said during her correspondence with OPM, an employee indicate the agency is working through a back-log of payment issues.